“Hey, Cleveland? Why Do You Hate Your Children??” — Part 2

More discussion of our illiteracy problem.

Most memorable paragraph:

“Probably the most revealing event in American education occurred in 1928. That’s when Dr. Samuel Orton, a neurologist working with a Rockefeller grant, concluded that Whole Word (often called sight-words) did not work. He got the grant because his sponsors assumed he would endorse Sight-words. Instead, he trashed this method, adding that it would damage children’s minds for a lifetime. But our Education Establishment, convinced by the stock market crash of ’29 that Karl Marx was right after all, moved aggressively to expel phonics from all American schools. This expulsion has been quietly but ruthlessly sustained to this day. Point is, all the top people in the field of education always knew, thanks to Dr. Orton, that they were selling snake oil.”

Concluding paragraph:

“When the schools don’t do a good job, parents and community leaders must step up their game. Oppose the bad stuff. When feasible, create alternatives. Millions of young Americans have been effectively kept from reaching their potential. This is a national scandal. Children don’t under-educate themselves. You need adults to do the dirty work.”


9 thoughts on ““Hey, Cleveland? Why Do You Hate Your Children??” — Part 2

  1. RE: “Millions of young Americans have been effectively kept from reaching their potential.”

    The thing about assembly-line education is that once you commit to a process, it is very easy to mass produce a lot of failure before you realize the damage you have done. Then, once the failure becomes indisputable, all sorts of psycho/social pressure mounts to avoid dealing with it.

    With learning, however, there is a positive option. That is, it is relatively easy to teach a person to read, and once a person can read he can self-educate. In other words, we don’t need factory schools to produce a literate population.

    We’d probably be better off without the factory model of government run schools.


  2. The claim that “sight words don’t wok” is horse hockey. My granddaughter was able to read, without practice, the Four Questions for our Sedar. She was able to accomplish this because she was taught using sight words in pre-school AND at home by her ENGLISH TEACHER MOTHER.

    I ask you again, Mr. DP. Why do you hate America?


    1. RE: “The claim that ‘sight words don’t work’ is horse hockey.”

      I can tell an anecdote about sight words, too. I was a volunteer with an adult literacy program many years ago. The patented teaching materials we used were based on phonics because the creator of the program had found by experience that teaching reading by sight words was ineffective for most adults.

      In my training as a technical writer I learned that experienced readers determine the words on the page by their shapes, but for this very reason problems arise when the words on the page are unfamiliar to the reader. Unfamiliar or unexpected words have to be decoded. Most readers naturally do this by stopping and sounding them out.

      You can see the kind of chicken-and-egg problems that teaching reading by sight words can lead to.


      1. Maybe you just weren’t a very good teacher.

        Making up stories to back one’s narratives, or to use limited studies, which is often the case with Libertarians and right-wing pundits and politically motivated analysts, says more then your anecdote. Going out and LOOKING for ONLY the failing students is an issue with most of these anti-education studies. I question the veracity of the data developed. Some people learn differently as others. In your vat experience as a technical writer, you have to know that not everyone reading your work is going to “get it” in the same way.

        And writing word salads, as you also often do, doesn’t make you any more correct than you want to believe.

        Basically, BDP is anti-public education, as are you. I wonder of either of you are products of the same system you run down so cavalierly.


        1. RE: “Making up stories to back one’s narratives, or to use limited studies, which is often the case with Libertarians and right-wing pundits and politically motivated analysts, says more then your anecdote.”

          Why do you assume that your anecdote tells better truth than mine?

          Apart from that, why do you waste time in this forum criticizing other posters in personal ways instead of addressing their statements and ideas? Here, for example, you accuse me of writing “word salads,” but how was my comment a word salad in any way?

          Liked by 1 person

  3. All children learn differently, that’s a common assertion in education. Another safe generalization is that smart children can often outwit dumb instruction. In the matter of reading, smarter children with good visual memories can sometimes master enough sight-words to do quite well. The problems show up as the years go by. it’s rare that a child can reach high school using sight-words. Increasingly, the child is trapped inside a limited vocabulary even as the typical textbook is filled with more complex words. College is almost out of the question.

    Probably my favorite story illustrating all of this is from Why Johnny STILL Can’t Read, 1981. A woman graduated from Barnard College with a degree in comparative literature. She could read Russian, German and French novels with pleasure. Novels in English made her tense and unhappy. She had no idea why. When her son age eight was having trouble in school, she consulted a doctor who mentioned that English could be read phonetically, like the other languages. She read Flesch’s book and started research on his ideas, as she explained later in a long letter to Flesch:

    “I knew all about phonics and how to sound out in French, Latin, Spanish, German, and Russian..That’s why reading in those languages came so easy. But it was news of the most startling and illuminating sort that phonics could work in English. A detailed reading of the word list at the back of the book convinced me that English phonics was only slightly more complicated than French, and French is no problem at all when you know the French letter-sounds….I was fascinated by English phonics, and began to play with it in every spare moment….”

    Soon she was reading twice as fast and understanding much more. She loved reading in English, which brings us back to the punchline of this story: news of the most startling and illuminating sort that phonics could work in English. Imagine that!. Imagine that the school system, so wrong and perverse and determined to be in control, kept this super-smart student and her parents from understanding what was happening all around them.

    This is the great tragedy scripted by our Education Establishment for almost 50,000,000 people.


    Liked by 1 person

    1. Mr. Price, when I was in sixth grade there was a machine the teacher used to teach us to read faster. It consisted of a projector that showed a line of text on a screen at the front of the classroom. The projector was so designed as to illuminate each word in a sliding rectangular frame that shot from left to right across the line of text.The speed of the scan was adjustable, but you could never see more than one word at a time.

      Do you happen to know the name of this device? I used to know, but I have forgotten and wish I could remember.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. This is some strange synchronicity here.

        I do not have knowledge of that machine, but close. Ten years ago I contacted a guy in Hawaii who was the leading proponent of Same Language Subtitles. I told him, if you can do that, then you can do the bouncing ball, right??? That’s an idea I’ve been in love with for decades. I’ve never met this guy but we are on the same wavelength, helping kids learn to read no matter how. Finally he was able to do it at a fairly high-level and I created a site called the Bouncing Ball Project—http://bouncingball.weebly.com

        And just last night, a guy in Hollywood contacted me because he wanted information on how we had done the bouncing ball. What a surprise!! He is starting a big site for kids and maybe his efforts with the bouncing ball weren’t successful. Anyway he was very eager to find everything that might belong on his site. It was a pleasure to talk to someone who is smart and open to new ideas.

        When we launched the bouncing-ball site almost 10 years ago, we hoped that many people would understand how the bouncing ball and same language subtitles might help in lots of situations. We were wrong. The Education Establishment has such a stranglehold on the public school system, no new thoughts are allowed into the discussion. Only ideas that don’t work.

        (As for your machine, I can imagine the experts saying, this will make the kids anxious and unhappy. Too much stress., especially for children. If the students were somewhat more grown-up then they could handle the pressure better. The cool thing about the bouncing ball and the same language subtitles is that these are gentle assists. Depending on the song or movie you start with, you can end up with the degree of urgency you want. I think both of these ideas should be used routinely when children are not learning to read in a timely way.)

        Liked by 1 person

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