American Heroes: Students Who Learn

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This method teaches children to look at the whole word, to recognize its shape, to examine the context in which it is deployed, and, if necessary, to guess.

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The theory was: Students need only master a core group of commonly used words and then employ context cues to decipher the rest. The children cannot be overloaded with thousands of new word shapes at a time.


Therefore, the look-say method, starting in the first grade, entails introducing children to only several hundred new words per school year, which are then relentlessly repeated. They looked and looked for it. But they did not find it. However, even advocates of look-say highlight its overriding, intractable problem.

As one advocate put it, children. Of course, countless sentences have multiple words that might satisfy the context cues. A reader unable to sound them out can only guess. Indeed, proponents of this method acknowledge the undeniable role of guessing in the process. How would you like to see, at the head of our army, a general with this kind of schooling? So, in place of this, they endorse a system that requires readers to memorize the shape of every word in the language.

Memorize not twenty-six letters and forty-four sounds that enable readers to decode untold thousands of words in the English language—but memorize the shape of every word in the entire language.

Teachers Are Role Models

Phonics is a superb time and mental space saver: a simple method, once mastered, to decipher the vast preponderance of words. The whole word method, on the other hand, is akin to a gigantic warehouse containing millions and millions of items, randomly stored, with no letter-by-letter classification, requiring searchers to memorize the shape of each, later to recall that shape and its meaning as needed.

It is no mystery that one method is vastly superior to the other. But by the s, the professional curriculum designers had rejected phonics in favor of look-say. For example, Dr. The infamous Dick and Jane readers became the dominant textbooks in teaching reading to American children starting in the s and continuing for many years. Come home. It was serialized in newspapers and magazines and quickly became a best seller. It just as quickly became anathema to the educational establishment.

For millions of parents and thoughtful Americans, it was eye-opening, and it galvanized them to crusade for phonics. Flesch devoted an entire chapter to pitting systematic phonics against the whole word method and examining their respective results in every relevant test conducted up to that time. In every test, students trained in phonics read better than students trained using variants of the whole word method.

Nonetheless, the educational establishment clung to the whole word method; and, by the s, in a new form, it made a sweeping comeback. Some advocates of this approach, to their credit, recognize that children introduced to great literary works are impelled by their natural curiosity to read interesting stories. Unfortunately for California children, the state became a testing ground for whole language during the late s and early s. In , after the whole language method had been the modus operandi in schools for several years, the National Assessment of Educational Progress NAEP conducted statewide reading tests.

A jaw-dropping 52 percent of California fourth graders were reading below the baseline established for that grade. When the same test was conducted again in , the number of semiliterate children in California had risen to 56 percent. One teacher in the Los Angeles area gave a heartbreaking report of first graders asked to read.

When some schools course-corrected and reintroduced phonics, the results were telling. After students taught with whole language repeatedly tested poorly, their elementary school in Texas switched to intensive phonics training. On a subsequent statewide reading test, 98 percent of students from the school scored at or above grade level. The continued commitment to the whole word method on the part of education professionals would be unfathomable without a grasp of their basic motives.

If you want children to read well, you embrace phonics. If you do not want children to read well—or at all—you reject it. If you want students to master academic subjects, you embrace phonics. If you do not want students to master academic subjects, you reject it. This same horrific tale has been replicated across the entire academic curriculum.

In keeping with the principles of the curriculum designers, less and less attention is given to academic subjects. Regarding science, the story is the same. Although 93 percent of high school students study biology, only 54 percent take a chemistry course, and a mere 24 percent study physics. Related, because reading abilities have been severely curtailed, literature classes are severely dumbed down as well. The war rages on, and advocates of a proper curriculum and corresponding intellectual training have many difficult battles ahead.

As Richard Mitchell wrote in ,. After sober and judicious consideration, and weighing one thing against another in the interest of reasonable compromise, H.

Mencken concluded that a startling and dramatic improvement in American education required only that we hang all the professors and burn down the schools. His uncharacteristically moderate proposal was not adopted. Those who actually knew more about education than Mencken did could see that his plan was nothing more than cosmetic and would in fact provide only an outward appearance of improvement. Those who knew less, on the other hand, had somewhat more elaborate plans of their own, and they just happened to be in charge of the schools. The educational establishment is, in the words of E.

But under new names, they support essentially the same anti-subject-matter policies. One striking example of this shameless obstinacy was displayed when Glenn Seaborg, a Nobel laureate in chemistry, two other Nobel laureates, and thirty other scientists offered to design—free of charge—a K—12 science curriculum for the state of California.

The educational establishment is a monolith that cannot easily be defeated. But it can be circumvented. There are numerous signs of this possibility in American education, trends that Americans can build on to vastly upgrade the quality of education in this country.

HERO: Learner Centric Education System and Curriculum

One is the resurgence of interest in Montessori training. Progressive schools eclipsed Montessori schools in America between the world wars. But in the s, as the deleterious effects of Progressive education became glaringly apparent, Montessori schooling regained support, albeit limited. Today, approximately four thousand certified Montessori schools dot the nation.

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Creative minds such as Larry Page and Sergey Brin of Google, Jeff Bezos of Amazon, and numerous others credit a part of their success to early and effective Montessori schooling. So, one thing we can do is advocate Montessori training and support Montessori schools. Further, homeschooling is once again legal in every state. In , approximately 1,, American students were being homeschooled; by , the number had swelled to 1,,, approximately 3. Another thing we can do is advocate and support homeschooling initiatives. As for reading, many parents now realize that phonics opens up the rich world of books to their children, and companies such as Hooked on Phonics offer products that make it easier than ever for parents to teach their children at home.

Generally, these graduate students know their field better than many if not most teachers. Many do not yet have full-time jobs, so they tend to need money.

Parents can use social media and other online sources to find such graduate students in their area and, at reasonable hourly rates, hire them as tutors for their children. Even if a graduate student is not local, he can conference with students anywhere in the world using Skype, Google Hangouts, FaceTime, and similar free tools.

  • Ethan Frome (Oxford Worlds Classics);
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At the college level, the influence of Hutchins and Adler has been revived at a few schools. For example, the Great Books program at St. There is even a Great Books program dedicated to promoting the foundations of freedom and capitalism—the Lyceum program at the Clemson Institute for the Study of Capitalism. Although opportunities for and outposts of intellectual training still exist, the dominance of the same failed educational theories remains a travesty. To fight it, we must speak out at whatever level is open to us, public or private, among friends or among strangers, in person or online, via Twitter or letters to congressmen.

We must champion the mind, intellectual training, and a rigorous academic curriculum. For the sake of justice on behalf of the countless minds already stunted, and to protect countless more, we must tell the bitter truth about the American educational establishment. If we can save even one priceless mind, it will be worth it. With a concerted effort, we can save many. Cited at www. I repeat it here because it sets the context necessary for this article. Hans Sennholz, ed. Sennholz, Public Education , 22—23, 26, 38—39, Ravitch, Left Back , ; Thomas Snyder, ed.

The proportion of five- to seventeen-year-olds in the country was 28 percent in and gradually declined to 20 percent in School enrollment rates for this age group were 51 percent in and rose steadily to 75 percent in If roughly four million students were IQ tested each year during the s, simple arithmetic tells us that this represents a huge proportion of the student population. Ravitch, Left Back , ; interior quotes from William H. Kilpatrick, Montessori System Examined , 59— Quoted in Ravitch, Left Back , Gross, Conspiracy of Ignorance , — Italics added.

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Quoted in Gross, Conspiracy of Ignorance , — Gross, Conspiracy of Ignorance , 46 italics in the original. The company offers various apps, games, workbooks, and so forth that help children master the alphabet and sound out words. See hookedonphonics. Print and Premium subscriptions mailed to addresses in the United States include free shipping.