Monday, April 02, 2012

Should We Expect Teachers To Be Able To Read?

I have every reason to expect that the teachers unions and US Attorney General Eric Holder will oppose this.
Imagine a physics program that won’t teach the theory of relativity. Or an English department that shuns Shakespeare. That would be equivalent to how U.S. schools of education treat the most effective method for teaching beginning reading. 

That method is called decoding, the shorthand word for the scientifically tested techniques for teaching children the relationships between symbols and sounds, often just called phonics. Reformers have fought for generations to have decoding skills taught systematically and directly, but schools of education will have none of it. 

Instead, the education establishment prefers to teach beginning readers to guess at the identification of a written word using its context -- the so-called whole-language approach. The people who run education schools hate the “code” because they say it requires a repetition of boring exercises -- “drill and kill” -- turning children off and discouraging them from “reading with meaning.” There has never been evidence for this view, however. 

The whole-language advocates pitch their approach as being on the side of “meaning,” not the “code.” Similarly, math educators have long used the goal of “deep conceptual understanding” to justify requiring children to invent their own methods for performing basic arithmetical operations instead of teaching them to understand and use the standard algorithms, which mathematicians note are more efficient, effective and general.


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