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Monday, February 6, 2023

Sold a story

 I read an article in the NYRB about a podcast about reading instruction.  Then, I listened to the podcast all in one day. That's the kind of rabbit hole I fall into on some weekends.  

It is about how certain ideas about reading derived from so-called "progressive" education lead children to fail to learn to read. The idea is that you should teach children to guess about what a word is rather than to decipher it phonetically.  But this ends up being a strategy used by people who don't know how to read very well. There is a whole industry devoted to promoting these guessing, or "cueing" strategies.  

The rhetoric of the kind of progressive approach is cloaked in "holistic" language that makes it seem nice. Whole word and whole language, etc... But the key take-away is that this approach ignores the brain science itself. Professors of education are not neuro-scientists, but perhaps they should be. 

The whole podcast is quite devastating.  The response by those who continue to promote this approach as been extremely lame.   

Phonics is associated with conservatives, and whole language with more "progressive" approaches. It made me think, too, of composition studies. A lot of the stuff in that discipline seems motivated by ideological considerations. 

Also, I'm thinking that language acquisition begins with prosody, and so little children are very good already at sound.  


Phaedrus said...

An utterly alarming article. "Listening to Sold a Story [the podcast], one can only conclude that a kind of crime has been committed, a vast impoverishment."

Leslie B. said...

Yes. It definitely is why students cannot read.

Phaedrus said...

I found that wonderful old poem of yours, "Ode to Dr. Seuss," which starts ...

The earnestness of early Spring afternoons
when Art must be revived! Today
The Cat in the Hat, tomorrow
Green Eggs and Ham --
must rhyme with fox, now,
boat with goat, train
with rain. Sleepers drift
down tunnels or hang from branches'
boys scramble zebra-striped
eggs and "Hop on Pop."
I am awake
(sometimes) glimpsing the end of rhyme
around the corner of
Summer. ...

Phaedrus said...

[please pardon the spacing!]

Jonathan said...

Man, I haven't thought of that poem for years, nor do even have a copy of complete text. It was rejected by about 10 journals in a row and I never published it. You and I go way back.