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  1. Phonics resistance persists

    January 20, 2018 by Tunya

    Resistance Persists

    I am not of the teaching profession, just a dismayed grandmother who is very annoyed with the long-standing Reading War. The casualties are numerous. I’ve always stood up for parents who wanted to know if their children were at grade-level in reading but were put off by teachers who dismissed their concerns.

    The best book I’ve read on the topic of the Reading War is “Phonics and the Resistance to Reading” by Mike Lloyd-Jones, 2013. It tells the history of the issue and the current state in the United Kingdom. From my estimation I would say the history regarding the continuing Reading War closely approximates that in Canada, the US, Australia and New Zealand. What is not equivalent, however, is the remedy. The UK has by legislation (2014) and financial support made systematic, synthetic phonics the standard for teaching reading in government schools and reinforced that with the Phonics Screening Check to identify, at an early age, students needing help to attain competency.

    The book does infer that pockets of resistance remain in the UK but that was 3 years ago. What is clear, however, is that the commitment to raise literacy is there via both legislation and compliance with overwhelming research on the issue.

    In my opinion, laggard jurisdictions and well-meaning reformers could gain considerable insight from this book about some of the dynamics of the opposition. These are some of the problems: phonicsphobia, opposition by the teaching unions, ideologically motivated teacher training, lazy media, myths & misrepresentations, teachers clinging to mixed methods, word guessing, etc. Even “partial phonics” is a problem as systematic, synthetic phonics is now seen as the settled method.

    It’s a short and quickly paced book. I would recommend it. It also provides neat arguments against those who persist in saying that children can learn to read best without phonics. The resistance is well discussed. What remains for us to find is the strategy used in the UK to bring in the legislation and supports.

    [comment to Filling the Pail blog — topic Phonics is like a vaccine, Jan 20, 2018]


  2. Pasi Sahlberg to Australia

    January 10, 2018 by Tunya

    From GERM to FERM

    On page 149 of Pasi Sahlberg’s Second Edition of Finnish Lessons 2.0 is a 5-point chart differentiating between GERM and FERM — Global Education Reform Movement and Finnish Education Reform Model.

    Since the Gonski Institute, in its hire of Sahlberg, seems dedicated to education equity then this chart will be a handy road-map to follow if this shift is indeed part of the reason for the hire:

    – From competition between schools to collaboration among schools
    – From standardized learning to personalized learning
    – From focus on literacy and numeracy to focus on the whole child
    – From test-based accountability to trust-based responsibility
    – From school choice to equity of outcomes

    Now, when we talk about equity of outcomes, let’s remember that that is not equality of opportunity. Equity could very well result in reducing levels of accomplishment (the Finnish slides in international test scores) while student achievement gaps are narrowed.

    The book is extremely interesting in that a lot of content deals with the conscious political development of Finland toward a high level welfare state.

    About education we learn how teaching has become a hallowed profession under “pedagogical conservatism . . . learning from the past and teaching for the future”. This does not mean that research and evidence-based knowledge leads education development but rather socialization policies and practices prevail. Thus, we already see Sahlberg downplaying the phonics check, a highly research endorsed move to improve student reading capacity.

    And, let’s not forget, Sahlberg’s visit coincides with New South Wales recent axing of Reading Recovery, a 30-year program now shown to be ineffective and, in the eyes of at least one reading expert, as “harmful” and not holding up to “scientific scrutiny”.

    Will the rising interest of Australia’s educators in evidence-based reform be in collision with Sahlberg/Gonski equity drive? Certainly bears watching. I’m from Canada and am very intrigued with this move.

    Tunya Audain
    January 10, 2018 at 5:34 pm
    Pasi Sahlberg’s Second Edition of his book, Finnish Lessons, is much more instructive, even prescriptive, about their education system and how it builds, supports and embeds the modern welfare state. He is a great fan of John Dewey. In his latest book, 2015, Forewords are by Diane Ravitch and Andy Hargreaves of GELP (Global Education Leaders Partnership) and with an Afterword by Sir Ken Robinson. Robinson emphasizes that Finnish education “is embedded in the numerous economic, social, and cultural changes that are affecting Finland’s overall way of life.”

    [sent to Greg Ashman post on Pasi Sahlberg, today 10 Jan, 2018 – site is Filling th Pail ]

  3. Betrayal of enlightenment purpose

    July 28, 2017 by Tunya

    What betrayal is this? Those who are to assist the enlightenment of the masses are in actual alliance to thwart and undermine the cause. Teacher education faculties are actually anti-enlightenment champions? Who would have thought?

    Professor Mark Bauerlein in a book review (The Long Crusade: Profiles in Education Reform—1967-2014, by Raymond Wolters) is appalled how E D Hirsch was shunned after his book “Cultural Literacy” proved to be a phenomenal best-seller — “ed school faculty had urged all the students to stay away” from his class.

    Deliberate dumbing down is real, folks! And faculties of education in the United States and Canada endorse it!

    And it’s not just literature and culture that are attacked. Math doesn’t make sense — see the Math Petitions that parents are mounting. What about reading?

    Marilyn Jager Adams in a new foreword to the paperback edition of Jeanne Chall’s book, “The Academic Achievement Challenge “‘ says: “ . . . 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 . . . “

    What about Science? Here is a scientist, Michael R Matthews, who wrote — Reflections on 25 Years of Journal Editorship. It’s about how constructivism was injected into the teaching of science to the point that the search for truth through science became decidedly “anti-enlightenment”! I can’t find a link for free reading (as I had earlier). I wrote and asked in 2015 whether his article “ruffled any feathers”. Basically, he said: “No. Silence”.

    When will there be a full-scale investigation into how faculties of education are undermining our civilization? When will there be a Bill Gates who really believes in education to help fund such a study?

    Thanks Will Fitzhugh for the post alerting us to this treachery. What can be done?

    [Published to listserve, ECC, Educ Consumers Clearinghouse, re excerpt from a two page review of Wolter's book, which I've ordered.)


    …Those are all reasons sufficient in themselves to have students and young scholars read the book [The Long Crusade: Profiles in Education Reform—1967-2014, by Raymond Wolters]. But there is something about education training that makes it especially valuable. A moment in the career of E.D. Hirsch, Jr. demonstrates it (Wolters mentions it and Hirsch has recalled it several times in his writings). When Hirsch’s Cultural Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know became a surprise bestseller after it was published in 1987 [The year The Concord Review was founded—WF], Hirsch approached the Curry School of Education at the University of Virginia (UVA) to offer a course to their students. Hirsch was a longtime member of UVA’s English department  and a renowned literary theorist. (When I was in graduate school in the 1980s, everyone read his essay on literary interpretation.)

    With Cultural Literacy standing as the most phenomenal education book of the time, Hirsch expected education students to flood his class. Even if they disagreed with his ideas, they could argue with him, not to mention enjoy the opportunity to engage with one of the most influential thinkers of the moment.

    But that’s not what happened. To his surprise, few students showed up. Hirsch learned why when one of them revealed that the ed school faculty had urged all the students to stay away. Their professors didn’t encourage students to join the class and challenge Hirsch—they told them to avoid him altogether.

    It brought a dismaying realization: education theory and practice had become so hardened that ed schools simply didn’t want to hear anything contrary. Students receive the idea and principles taught in ed school as if they are the received wisdom of the profession. If other opinions slip into the training, they do so in caricatured form, such as the allegation that Hirsch simply wanted to reinstate a Eurocentric dead-white-male curriculum…

    Professor Mark Bauerlein, book review in Academic Questions  National Association of Scholars, Spring 2017, pp. 108-109


  4. Trending: confessions from educators

    July 16, 2017 by Tunya

    1001 Complaints About Schools — Title Of A Future Book?

    Bruce Deitrick Price could easily compile such a book because there are 1000s of similar comments people have made to his articles. These few we see here are just some about reading. One place to read more of his articles and the countless comments is here —

    Such compilation, in my opinion, should be done ASAP and presented to Betsy DeVos, current US Education Secretary as she struggles, against considerable bullying, to bring common sense to the education industry.

    I have been a fan of BDP since I came across his excellent little book, The Education Enigma, which I am glad to report is still available on Amazon for a very decent price. Such a report as I recommend would not be just Bruce talking, but the thousands of parents, citizens and even teachers who have been betrayed by our education systems.

    Are we seeing a growing trend in confessions about education systems? Yes. See items like: Keeping the Proles Down (Joanne Jacobs); Why Are Schools Still Peddling the Self-Esteem Hoax? (Chester Finn), etc.

    I remember when there was more sharp criticism in the 70s about the failures of schools. Remember Nat Hentoff? He was a regular ed reporter (now deceased) who wrote in 1977 — the article, The Greatest Consumer Fraud Of All and the book, Does Anybody Give A Damn?

    It’s time to give a damn and people at the highest levels should be made to hear these complaints from people in the trenches and be prepared to do something about the issues!

    [comment to Education Views – – A Shocking Tour of K-12 Today by Bruce Deitrick Price] 


  5. “Stealthy” Education Shifts ?

    May 31, 2017 by Tunya

    21st Century Education “Shifts” ?

    Hopefully, the book “The Case for Contention” will help resolve some nagging questions parents have about education reforms sweeping into schools without their awareness. “Knowledge’ and academic pursuits are being shifted to competencies and “soft skills” as collaboration, creativity, critical thinking and a whole host of other unmeasurables. How do you measure empathy?

    Also, age-appropriateness is a concern to parents — what degree of controversy is appropriate at what age?

    Additionally, are teachers able to lead balanced discussions or do they lean on popular texts for their own background learning? A quick search of the Internet yields, for example, in the primary grades books on Math and Social Justice; for secondary history Zinn’s “A People’s History of the United States”; and in college/university “Pedagogy of the Oppressed” is frequently assigned reading in the social sciences — all rather biased points-of-view!

    Now, since the authors of “The Case for Contention” do say, “parents may legitimately ask that the schools represent their side of the issue” when and how can parents be “legitimately” involved? So much that transpires in schools today is unknown to parents and public. If the aim of public education is indeed enlightenment — “to advance truth and strengthen democracy” — then we need more information about the content of 21st C Learning.

    commenbt sent to Joanne Jacobs blog,  The review by Steiner is important to read: .. He quotes the significant quote by James Madison:  

    A people who mean to be their own Governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.

    —James Madison (1822)  and lead one to pursue how Dewey viewed Madison's point of view.  Book — Reinhold Niebuhr and John Dewey: An American Odyssey gives some discussion of Dewey (communitarian) and Niebuhr (libertarian?) ]