(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)
Another widely held belief bites the dust when put to the test.
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Who Will Do A TED Presentation On Phonics?
Credibility seems to rise if a topic gets the TED treatment. Remember — HOW SCHOOLS KILL CREATIVITY by Ken Robinson — 32,254,249 views, 59 languages sub-titled, 9 years ago?
Well, today I viewed a new spiel demolishing LEARNING STYLES. Learning Styles has been completely discredited — no evidence. Forget all those experts who will now limply try to defend their theories or try and find “research” to back them up.
NOW, who will do a piece on PHONICS or the READING WARS? How this dispute is wasting energy, time and childhoods? How there is money at stake and how programs with TM attached require contracts, “certified” teachers, etc. Here are just two sites for explicit systematic synthetic phonics, both proprietary programs:
http://www.remediationplus.com/remediation-plus-online-ordering/ Remediation Plus
Of course, costs of programs need to be recovered. But here is one, familiar in Canada — Reading Recovery™ — that depends on a predictable percentage of poor readers resulting from the WHOLE LANGUAGE method. Talk about a system that oils itself — frequently on the menu for teacher PD days!
Then, there is the FREE phonics program — http://www.phonics4free.org/mona-mcnee-biog
But at age 91 we’re not likely to see Mona McNee hopping around on a TED stage telling people how her program works, how dyslexics and mentally challenged (including her own son) become reading enabled with simple steps.
But, READING is a poisoned topic. Here is a story about Jeanne Chall, eminent phonics expert, and what transpired when she was interviewed for an article:
“ . . .reviewing the research on phonics, Chall told me that if I wrote the truth, I would lose old friends and make new enemies. She warned me that I would never again be fully accepted by my academic colleagues . . . Sadly, however, as the evidence in favor of systematic, explicit phonics instruction for beginners increased, so too did the vehemence and nastiness of the backlash. The goal became one of discrediting not just the research, but the integrity and character of those who had conducted it. Chall was treated most shabbily . . . “ (pg vi , The Academic Achievement Challenge)
I think it was John Dewey’s embracing of radical changes to society that started the whole polarized, political battle that remains with us today with his essay — The Primary School Fetish, 1898. He branded the phonetic teaching of reading in primary years as “endless drill” and a “perversion” and went on to enunciate his famous alternative of projects and learning by doing.
Now, who would dare touch the critical READING ISSUE that cries out for a resolution? Too many can’t read and far too many go to prisons because they were abandoned without the #1 skill of reading. Who will Walk the Walk and Talk the Talk on TED on behalf of desperate Reading Reform?
I can’t speak for other states, but during my credential program here in California I cannot recall that many instructors citing scientific research that supported their instruction. The edu-bureaucratic complex will throw out the term “research says” and expect teachers to genuflect and be silent, but when you actually take the time to read this ‘research’ you realize it isn’t.
My even simpler debunking of learning styles: Even if you claim to be kinesthetic or tactile learner, you cannot learn a new dance move or how to throw a back-shoulder fade pass if I put blindfolds and earplugs on you.
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