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December 17, 2004

Hooked on Phailure

Good post by Luskin on the educational establishment's unending fascination with the failed pedogogy of "look-say" reading.

Phonics works, and worked for a hundred years. But now we're using something that doesn't work and kids can't read. But the educrats won't change.

More on the "Reading Wars."

This debate illuminates a problem I have with Bush's bullet-point style of persuasion. For years -- especially when campaigning in 2000 and then shortly after the election-- he praised phonics and argued we needed to return to that pedagogy.

A smart person who's pretty politically savvy told me that was one part of Bush's agenda she didn't agree with. "I don't like this phonics thing," she told me. "Why can't kids keep learning to read they way we did when we were kids?"

But, of course, phonics was the way she learned to read as a kid. "Look-say" or "whole-word" teaching didn't come fully into vogue until later. I know I learned to read through phonics (at least in class).

But Bush has this tendency to speak in shorthand, and it gets him into trouble. This person actually supported Bush's call to return to older, more effective ways of teaching children to read, but because he didn't make a very strong effort to explain what phonics was, this person thought he was calling for some newfangled and untested pedagogy. When in fact he was doing the opposite: calling for a rejection of the newfangled pedagogy, now tested and found wanting, and calling for a return to the old ways of teaching reading, the exact methods she favored.

Bush is the Great Miscommunicator, alas.

More links here.


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posted by Ace at 01:19 PM

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