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November, 2015

  1. Adult education and the teaching of reading

    November 30, 2015 by Tunya

    [ Submitted, but not published. ]

    Vancouver Sun
    Letters to the Editor

    November 30, 2015

    Dear Sir:

    Re: Refugee students will have a steep learning curve, 27 November 2015

    Obviously, as part of their induction into Canadian society, Syrian refugees will be offered English classes. As well as writing, speaking and listening in English, they will be learning to decode the alphabetic English language in order to read fluently. This is where we should pause to look at the methods of teaching reading in this province.

    From what I can gather there is really a mixed bag of approaches. The long Reading Wars issue still continues, though not in the high profile way when “Why Johnny Can’t Read” was published in 1955 and again in the 80s with “Why Johnny Still Can’t Read”.

    In my brief survey of methods and professional development programs for teachers I see that there is still a wide range of styles, even with empirical research demonstrating superior results from a phonics approach compared to the sight-word or whole-language methods.

    My concern is that new refugees should not be subjected to even more confusion in adapting by having language courses that are not the most effective.

    Though seemingly unrelated (I would say it’s not) I bring forward the recent findings of the Auditor General who characterizes the education of BC Aboriginal children as “racism of low expectations”. Her report shows that in 10 years the government’s promise to bring parity of educational outcomes did not happen for our Aboriginal students. I believe that if strong programs to systematically teach reading were in place for all children this would not be happening. Experts tell us that Aboriginals are overrepresented in prison populations and that over half are considered functionally illiterate.

    Given this glaring fact about BC’s failure to address the educational needs of First Nations students I’m concerned. I hope the teachers in the schools and adult classes helping Syrian refugees are well equipped to teach the alphabetic principles of the English language.

    Sincerely, Tunya Audain

  2. Guilt-ridden Ed Inc — very defensive

    November 27, 2015 by Tunya

    The Degree Of Defensiveness In Education Is Telling

    More critics of our education systems in the English-speaking Western World — US, UK, NZ, Australia, Canada — have received pressures to stop exposing the harms being done. This defensiveness itself is growing which indicates that exposing truth is having an effect.

    In Canada our latest relevant headline says: “Aboriginal students face ‘racism of low expectations’ in BC schools.” (Nov 25, ’15)

    The very act of teaching, or should it be more accurate to say “misteaching”, is under scrutiny and those who protect shabby practice are also under the glass.

    Increasingly it is the teaching of reading and the unresolved issues of the 100 years Reading Wars that bedevil us still. The READING FIRST movements of the past need to be revived as never before. Our children and increasing populations of refugees need the tools of insight by which to lead capable lives in our democracies.

    There is definitely a viewpoint that is now crystallizing about the unacceptable gap between research and truth and the public’s knowledge about the ills and incongruities in our education systems.

    It’s significant that even in the successful KIPP charter school locales the parents will use private phonics tutoring services for their children in order to keep up.

    It is important to keep educating the public about what “teaching” should be and what it’s not. The recent article by Bruce Deitrick Price (Why Kids Can’t Read) in The American Thinker has generated 100s of comments worth reading and passing on. To paraphrase Shakespeare, we must be able to withstand the “slings and arrows” as we take up arms “against a sea of troubles”.

    Those threats of being sued for libel and “cease and desist” letters are indeed badges of honor in our current education wars.

    [pub ECC on Why Kids Can’t Read thread, 27 Nov, 2016]

  3. why do teachers refuse to teach reading ?

    November 26, 2015 by Tunya

    WHY do Teachers REFUSE To Teach Reading

    Resistance To, And Sabotage Of, Teaching Reading — Sinister And Foreboding

    Today’s mail is deeply disturbing. First the article on Why Kids Can’t Read from Bruce Deitrick Price (200+comments), Then the news column by Deb on Black Lives DON’T Matter in Education.

    Then Will’s comment: “Jeanne Chall’s book: The Academic Achievement Challenge is an almost heartbreaking but sober account of a century’s successful efforts by educators to prevent reading.” ***

    There is something very perverse if not pathological for people in the human service of education to deny assistance or willfully use teaching methods that seriously harm some of their subjects. ***

    Equally diabolical is some of the treatment received by those in the field who speak up against poor practice. Here is an anecdote by Marilyn Jager Adams in the above book mentioned by Will:

    “ . . . 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 . . . “

    Yes, it’s over a century — these complaints. We’ve used the media for our complaints but these absurd inconsistencies seem entrenched in the culture. Reading Deb’s piece, with the facts and figures all laid out, how can anyone not come to the conclusion that some grave disservice to a visible minority AND mankind is being deliberately perpetrated? ***

    How can the incoming refugees to our countries not be dismayed by these incongruities? BTW, I see a lot of the adult learning books that are to teach English to ESL students and adults heavily lean on whole-language principles and techniques. Is this how we integrate newcomers —by dumbing-down?

  4. Gramsci/hirsch versus Dewey/Freire

    November 25, 2015 by Tunya

    Counterproductive Progressivism Takes Another Twist
    “It is odd that a country with a good track record, that has the answers to the problems that it wishes to solve in its own history, is so keen to strike out along a century-old, ideologically-driven dead-end. It’s a tragedy.” — Greg Ashman, 2015, on Finland’s decision to adopt ”phenomenon-based learning”, a derivative of the family of Dewey-eyed “learning by doing” speculative education experiments, aka as “project method”, “inquiry learning”, “discovery learning”, “constructivism”, “meaning-making”, “developmentally appropriate practice”, etc.

    “This book is dedicated to the teachers and principals of Core Knowledge Schools and to the memory of two prophets, William C Bagley and Antonio Gramsci, who explained in the 1930s why the New Educational Ideas would lead to greater social injustice.” — E D Hirsch, 1996, in his book “The Schools We Need and Why We Don’t Have Them” explains the standoff between the “two most distinguished educational theorists of the political Left—Gramsci and Freire”, contending that Gramsci’s suggestion to master the “tools of power and authority—read, write, and communicate”—would lead to greater social mobility and fairness.(p6,7)

    “School has become the world religion of a modernized proletariat, and makes futile promises of salvation to the poor of the technological age.” ― Ivan Illich, Deschooling Society, 1971
    “I am compelled to dissent from his [Dewey’s] substitution of ‘inquiry’ for ‘truth’ as the fundamental concept of logic and theory of knowledge . . . a further step is taken on the road towards a certain kind of madness—the intoxication of power . . . this intoxication is the greatest danger of our time, and that any philosophy which, however unintentionally, contributes to it is increasing the danger of vast social disaster.” — Bertrand Russell, 1945, chapter on John Dewey, in “A History of Western Philosophy” (p820,828).

    I don’t know the ideological compass point for Ashman, but these three — Hirsch, Illich and Russell — are all lefties deploring the direction of progressive schooling and its failure to address the educational needs of the disadvantaged. Ashman joins them with his jeremiad (bitter lament or righteous prophecy of doom) about the new Finnish path in education.

    Thank you Greg for the alert. I am not a socialist, but if Finland wanted to sincerely help its citizens it would be better off following the Gramsci/Hirsch way instead of the Dewey/Freire way.
    Myself? Being a granny I would counsel parents to avoid the socialist public school systems altogether. Either go private, or home educate, or find a charter without all that socialist baggage.


    [pub on Filling the Pail on Finnish article by Greg Ashman]

  5. Public Education is an Absurdity — what parents need to know

    November 15, 2015 by Tunya


    [ ABSURDITY — illogicality, ridiculousness, nonsense, folly, stupidity, foolishness, silliness, idiocy, irrationality, incongruity, meaninglessness, anomaly, daftness, senselessness, ludicrousness, unreasonableness, joke, preposterousness, farcicality, counter productivity, craziness ]

    Finally, after 50 years in the pits of education reform, I’m writing a book (I think). Always wondering what title or theme would be best. Today, it kind of came together. This video of a recent graduate of our North American high schools is significant. Demands for free college, forgiveness of student loan debt and $15 hr wage for campus workers . . . makes one wonder just what public schooling/college is hatching.

    Combine this presentation with a growing interest in home education and we can see where an impatience is growing about the dubious legacy we are leaving future generations. Costly absurdities — economic, psychological and psychic illogicalities — are becoming intolerable.

    Eventually, with helpful input, I hope to get 101 absurdities. Today, I’ll note just 5 to start:

    1 Of course, the foremost absurdity is thinking that parents can do something about our public schools. We’re supposed to have local control. But, we all know “the system” has it’s own agendas and is not very responsive to parents and the needs of children. See my list of books that promise parent effectiveness in school matters —

    2 Compulsory attendance at public schools as state mandate is under increasing dispute. Yes, private schools are an option, but for many it is not economically feasible. The titles of two recent books are telling: “International Perspectives on Home Education – Do We Still Need Schools?”, and “Education Without Schools”. See a review of the second book here: Note chapter five comment — how a “conversion” from institutional schooling provided a parent tremendous relief and “an eureka moment”.

    3 Experimentation is always open season with no restraints or protocols in public schools. Why, even the education literature has much to say about public schools being vulnerable to a “lunatic fringe”. This is something about which a whole book can be written, but just go to Google Scholar and put in the term “lunatic fringe progressive education”.

    4 21st Century Learning is the latest fad to enter school systems. Here is one recent video that captures the absurdity of Modern Educayshun — (Read the publisher’s comment about his intent and how this production has struck a chord all over the world. If this is happening everywhere, is it any wonder that Education Savings Accounts is an appealing alternative? More on ESAs later.)

    5 It is heartbreaking to hear teachers say how much they like children, like to teach, and how they see their work as “a calling”. Yet, because of the progressive ideology that has been embedded in most of the systems teachers willingly persist, or submit to coercion, to avoid teaching all children to read by proven methods (phonetically). Especially where there is proof of causality: The school to prison pipeline shows that at least half of prisoners lack proficiency in reading. This is willful harm. Professional teachers need to commit, sincerely and with training, to the principle: “First, do no harm.”


    [pubnlished on SQE, 20151115]