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February, 2015

  1. Education — Coercive? Totalitarian? Fascist?

    February 25, 2015 by Tunya

    [People familiar with the field of education know that among the leading lights speaking up for less coercive styles was John Holt. His books in the 70s showed intense sympathy for students — How Children Fail, How Children Learn, etc. I talked with Holt in ’72 and wrote up this meeting here:
    As I keep updating information, and finding old files, I recognize there are dark sides to this industry that need focus. This update about John Holt’s fears will be included in a book I’m working on. TA]

    John Holt’s Prophetic Voice

    It’s 2015 and in most of the Western World — particularly UK, US, Can, Aus & NZ — the education field seems to be infected with something called “transformation to 21st Century Learning”. In the US it’s called Common Core with similarities shared with other countries — shift to competencies such as collaboration, critical thinking, enquiry learning, constructivism, etc. — generally away from skills and content. Part of this move is because of technology — why teach knowledge when it’s just a mouse click away?

    Whatever is indeed happening — few really know because so much is untested — yet being implemented in wholesale ways. Some critics express the opinion that these “paradigm shifts” are being imposed by stealth and without common consent. Fads come and go in education but this time there’s a coercive streak that’s just beginning to be talked about.

    In all the writing about John Holt and his mission to help parents and students toward meaningful learning it was rarely mentioned that he had an underlying concern about totalitarianism. Sure, he promoted non-compulsory education, learning centers, home education, alternatives, etc. But for their own sake, not as escapes from fascism!

    But Ron Miller, in his book — Free Schools, Free People, 2002 — mentions that “Holt explicitly suggested that the alienation bred by authoritarian education could well ‘prepare the ground for some native American brand of Fascism’ “.

    Noting that so much of Common Core and the rest of 21st Century Learning depends so much on central control it is enlightening to read Miller’s impression of Holt’s “prophetic voice” in forecasting ”an efficient social machine managed by a privileged elite. Holt foresaw the coming of the New World Order, and he did not like what he saw.” (pg 89)

    Without getting the book, you might be able to get a 6 page magazine article off the Internet or from a research group that is entitled — John Holt: His Prophetic Voice, Education Revolution, Autumn 2002, pg 28-33.

    Today, I truly intended to just update information on this thread, but felt that this aspect of Holt’s mission should be brought forward because I also perceive this cultural hazard. In the article I wrote in 1987 that I provided a link to in the above story I warned about the “predatory state”.

    The link to my article — Home Education – The Third Option doesn’t work, but can be obtained at:

    To get Parent Rights and Their Children’s Education (1977) —

  2. Phonics Issue Revisited

    February 18, 2015 by Tunya

    [For people absolutely green to the issue discussed here — there are basically two main styles of reading methods being used in schools today;  PHONICS which is sounding out letters approach (decoding) and building a vocabulary & WHOLE WORD which is memorizing lists of words and finding meaning in the context of the written material.]

    Revisiting The Phonics Issue

    There’s been a renewal of interest in phonics as an effective method to teach reading. Actually, it goes way beyond interest — TWO national governments, UK and Australia, are bringing in mandates to ensure that reading is truly taught, not “caught” as some educators are wont to say. After the latest curriculum review in Australia one news headline read: “Education minister orders universities to teach phonics or face losing accreditation.”

    After all — most people do agree — without reading confidence a student’s academic career is essentially stuck.

    It’s important to understand the phonics issue because the education field itself has been stuck due to this standoff. About reading methods, two camps have emerged — phonics and whole word — and we have seen hundreds of books and articles and many decades of fierce arguments. However, parallel to the reading division, there is also the division in philosophy of education — splitting into traditional and progressive camps. Therefore, in political polarized terms — it’s RIGHT vs LEFT — settling more-or-less into a phonics/traditional/right vs whole word/progressive/left dichotomy.

    Unlike other fields such as medicine or science such disagreements would quickly be resolved by evidence and proofs of practice and not sink to ideological quarrels that disrupt standard practice.

    In education, this toxic soup harms its clientele. The fallout is the high rate of illiterates in our communities and prisons and the embarrassing reading remediation classes in universities.

    Illiteracy is still a scandal in developed countries, which should not by any account be tolerating such sabotage of essential services. With medical malpractice clients die and their relatives sue. With education malpractice crippled clients have no legal standing.

    Without going into the long tedious background of the reading wars one slice of history alone will suffice to distill the issue.

    In 1990 in the UK a cognitive psychologist, Martin Turner, issued a pamphlet — Sponsored Reading Failure — setting off a “brouhaha” about declining reading scores. Government, academics, the media and public were fully engaged and enraged.

    A year later without any substantial resolution or promise of good intent, Turner lamented the lack of uptake. A journal, Support For Learning, published Turner’s article, “Finding Out” (Vol6#3,1991) and in the preface to Turner’s article gave a brief summary of the “national controversy”, saying, “The accompanying publicity, and indeed hysteria . . . prompted . . . two investigations.”

    Turner basically enlarged on his earlier claims:

    – “. . . the decline has surpassed the most pessimistic expectations . . . The machinery of cover-up has creaked and groaned but the main point has been conceded”
    – “. . . one tragic insight is the extent to which what individuals think and say privately differs from what they feel free, against the prevailing orthodoxy to say in public. There is the ever-present and oppressive sense of threat.”
    – “the fourfold increase in the number of pupils with the significant underfunctioning in reading was . . . most apparent in the more affluent area, not as one normally expects, in a socially deprived area”.
    – “. . . there has been an undeniable de-emphasis throughout the 1980s on the actual skills of learning to read. A ‘progressive’ movement has attempted to influence teacher behavior away from phonic instruction and toward learning through ‘real books’”
    – “The rise of the new orthodoxy parallels exactly the decline in reading achievement.”
    – “. . . with all the publicity, little or no real curiosity has been evinced about what is really going on . . . Does nobody care to find out? “

    The next issue of Support for Learning (Vol6#4,1991) produced a response from another academic, David Wray — “A chapter of errors: A response to Martin Turner”. Again, the journal in its abstract to the article did some editorializing:

    [Martin Turner asserted that declining reading levels in primary school children were directly linked] “. . . to the widespread use of ‘psycholinguistic’ approaches. Readers were challenged to give an alternative explanation of the research findings. David Wray accepts the challenge. He is clearly angry . . . [Wray’s] investigations lead him to the conclusion that there is no relationship between teaching method and achievement. Indeed, poor levels of reading may well be due to matters largely beyond teacher control . . . Wray finally condemns Turner and others for their simplistic explanations . . . “

    Wray brought forth these responses:

    – “I have many times over the past months felt extremely angry at Mr Turner for sparking off such a wave of teacher-bashing . . . Demoralised personnel in an under-funded and over-extended service . . . need nurture and support, not gratuitous attacks.”
    – “ . . .the profession is under-valued, over-scrutinised and, particularly, under-paid.”
    – “ A second area which has come back into the headlines is social background . . . increase in poverty, unemployment, homelessness and a decrease in welfare provision . . . “
    – “But what about these teaching methods? . . . Turner, and other phonics apologists, continually make the claim that ‘the weight of research findings’ supports their position.”
    – “It should be fairly clear that approaches to the teaching of reading . . . demonstrate anything but ‘a narrow, impoverished view of reading’ in Turner’s words. Indeed, in the face of this, it would be a phonics-first approach which would be in greater danger of being narrow and impoverished.”
    – “Whole language programmes are clearly not built upon a ‘narrow, impoverished view of reading’. They are in fact, far more in tune with the findings of a whole range of research than are the methods seemingly proposed by Turner.”
    – “The teaching of reading is far too important and far too complex for simplistic analyses such as that of Martin Turner to be of any use whatsoever . . . “

    As a parent and grandparent, active in education reform efforts, I see no resolution to these two divergent claims to certainty in reading methodology. If I had a “say” I would wish to have a clear choice between approaches. I would expect that the teacher of any of my primary-aged future great grandchildren would be well-prepared to enable skilled, confident reading. I am reminded of William James’ observation of the infant’s start on this marvelous journey of deciphering the world and the need for discerning, guiding parents and teachers on that quest:

    “The baby, assailed by eyes, ears, nose, skin, and entrails at once, feels it all as one great blooming, buzzing confusion… (The Principles of Psychology, p. 462.)

    [posted on Webs of Substance blog 20150218 —, EDUCAN and Education Consumers Clearinghouse.]

  3. UN to change economic order ?

    February 15, 2015 by Tunya

    Settled Science Or Fraud, AGW Is Still Just A Tool To Change The World Order

    I came across a twitter reminder by Patrick Moore, former Greenpeace activist now an Anthropogenic Global Warming skeptic — “in case you had forgotten the IPCC wants to smash capitalism” — “intentionally transform economic development model”, Feb 12, 2015.  The link provided is

    (ISC readers please note that Robin mentions Christiana Figueres in her Jan 19, 2015 post.)

    Quotes from the article:

    – U.N. Official Reveals Real Reason Behind Warming Scare

    – the goal of environmental activists is not to save the world from ecological calamity but to destroy capitalism

    – “This is the first time in the history of mankind that we are setting ourselves the task of intentionally, within a defined period of time, to change the economic development model that has been reigning for at least 150 years, since the Industrial Revolution," says Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of U.N.'s Framework Convention on Climate Change.


    Questions arising:


    1. Just WHO is this “we”?  Are these people already in our communities?
    2. WHAT is the “defined period of time”?  Has this shift already started?
    3. WHAT is to replace the current “economic development model” (capitalism, free-market system, spontaneous natural order or whatever other names apply to the present state of affairs)?
    4. From WHOM do these UN officials get their authority to start imposing this new order?
    5. WHAT are the signals we can see to warn us that this is happening in our communities without our general knowledge or consent?
    6. WHICH means of persuasion will be used to pretend this is democracy in action?
    7. Could the shift — already noticed in our education systems — from traditional learning to 21st Century Learning Paradigm Shift be part of this overarching plan, again without general knowledge or consent?



  4. parents betrayed by schools

    February 11, 2015 by Tunya





    Tunya Audain

    HEADLINE — My son's school taught him to cook and I was left with the maths

    HEADLINE — The Trouble in our Schools

    [ After 45 years of pursuing the seemingly “lost cause” of active parent involvement in the education of their children I’ve now decided to write a book. As I Spring Clean a rather cluttered house I’m amazed at the history I’m uncovering from long shelved materials. ]

  5. Dumbing down & Dehumanizing

    February 4, 2015 by Tunya

    Dumbing Down & Dehumanizing

    As a grandparent I have seen “modern-day” education systems depart from the basics. Why? It’s obvious that children’s feelings of self-worth are truly damaged when they can’t even get on the ramp to active learning. Their first steps need to be solid before taking leaps into exploring and discovering new paths. Primary/Elementary years in school, by definition, are for that purpose — laying the foundation for future growth.

    Now, the reality of individual differences says that people learn differently. Indeed, using a variety of methods from the pedagogical toolkit is a good approach. Too bad, however, that under the sway of 21st Century Learning gurus, teachers are abandoning tried and true traditional methods that work well for some (and maybe most) of the students in a class.

    These practical methods should continue to be part of every Primary teacher’s toolkit. I refer to phonics for Reading and mastery of the four basic algorithms in Math. So many Math problems are written out — so the two abilities go together.

    This “caught— not taught” mantra, applied wholesale to all children, does damage to children and society! Forward to the basics!

    [BC is seeing parent concerns about Math curriculum deviating from the basics.  A petition is now circulating and media has taken notice and giving coverage.  Today I signed the petition with the above comment.]