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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. Betraying a whole generation

    January 10, 2018 by Tunya

    Betrayal of a Whole Generation? A professor of Education Policy at the University of Edinburgh says that the decline in Scotland’s education achievement is likely connected to their adoption of “constructivism” as an education method. He says the basis of the new curriculum is “the standard ideology of the academic left”. The method avoids teaching knowledge as it “goes quickly out of date.” This “Curriculum for Excellence is now so deeply embedded that removing it would cause enormous upheaval.” Canadians should be aware that “constructivism” is a dominant shift in much of Canadian education. Simply defined — It says that people construct their own understanding and knowledge of the world, through experiencing things and reflecting on those experiences.


  3. 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 ]

  4. faculty-driven student protests ? ? ?

    December 23, 2017 by Tunya

    “The whole issue was faculty-driven!” so says Michael Campbell, Financial Analyst and host of Money Talks. He was referring to the scandalous experience at Wilfred Laurier University where a Teaching Assistant was brought before a tribunal to answer for showing a TVclip of JBPeterson in her class. You may be aware that Peterson is NOT loved by many faculty because he challenges political correctness and it was even inferred — during her inquisition — that showing Peterson without disapproval was like showing Hitler in class without condemnation.

    Michael Campbell had chosen Lindsay Shepherd as The Person of the Year, 2017, on his show and praised her character and courage for taking on the anti free-speech and anti-open discussion advocates in both Canada and the US. He found it astonishing that the independent fact-finder found that indeed there was NO student or formal complaint about this TA. Only because she had taped the session was she afforded scrutiny and an independent fact-finder into this incident when she was cleared of contributing to a “toxic” environment!

  5. Critical Thinking & Critical Theory

    December 17, 2017 by Tunya

    Question asked:  Is critical thinking for logical pursuits or activist behavior? 

    Annie Holmquist from Intellectual Takeout did a very fine and interesting interpretation of Uri Harris’s article on Critical Theory (the last of his 3-part series). It was published with the title: The Historical Origins of ‘Critical Thinking’ Theory, Dec 13, 2017. It ran for a short time, enough time to garner 5 comments. Then it was pulled, with anyone trying to read it getting the message: Access denied – You are not authorized to access this page.
    I wanted to read the comments and participate, at least to praise Annie for the insight she passes on to parents. I am a parent and now grandparent and have been really troubled by what seems to transpire as “critical thinking” in school curriculum but which can become an opportunity for encouraging social justice topics and discussions of “oppression”. You can imagine my gratitude to see someone articulate this so well. Here are some excerpts: “ . . . critical theory appears to do away with solid, factual evidence, and instead exerts itself as a feelings-oriented agenda . . . the average individual believes that instruction in critical thinking is a good thing . . . But given the above definition of “critical,” is it possible that the average parent has been misled about the topic? Instead of teaching children to thoughtfully and logically evaluate objective facts, has instruction in critical thinking been teaching them to abandon objective truth and instead follow after activist ideas?”
    In a list of topics for the day, Intellectual Takeout had this descriptor for this article by Annie Holmquist: America has a love affair with critical thinking… but is critical thinking based on rational thought, or an activist agenda?
    Yes, I think parents and public are being misled when they are told “critical thinking” is a big emphasis in schools today. I think much of that activist slant on the topic comes from professional development and the tons of books on the topic, books that have the word “critical” in the title. I think even teachers may be misled as they might reach for a book with critical in the title and it turns out to be Critical Literacy in the Early Childhood Classroom: Unpacking histories, unlearning privilege, C R Kuby, 2013, Teachers College Press.
    There are a lot of books of that nature for teachers. I’m glad I was able to read Annie’s article before it disappeared. This insight is indeed significant. Plus she provided links, one of which led to this series of articles by Uri Harris — very illuminating plus the comments are enlightening as well. If this insight gets out to parents they will be more skeptical about all this hype regarding “critical thinking” in the schools!

    [ my comment to Quillette — “White Women Tears”—Critical Theory on Lindsay Shepherd written by Uri Harris , Dec 9, 2017 ]