Monday, November 28, 2011

The Kids Can't Read

So I came across this article from the American Spectator about the poor state of reading skills we have today.  The numbers were staggering...

The low levels of literacy also aren't confined to the Peach State: Twenty-six percent of America's eighth-graders and one in three fourth-graders are functionally illiterate. 

the part that caught my eye was this

This is a problem with nearly every race, age, and social class

then this particular statement

A four-decade war over whether reading instruction should emphasize phonics and spelling or Whole Language (a system by which students should learn the meaning behind sentences) has also fueled the literacy crisis. During the 1970s and 1980s, states embraced Whole Language and ignored phonics, forgetting that kids need to know how to also sound words. Only after states saw reading scores decline did they reverse course. Most reading experts argue that phonics and Whole Language are both needed in order to learn reading. But schools aren't doing a good job instructing in either area.

I was unfamiliar with the Whole Language approach, then after a little digging... apparently academics noticed that readers consumed entire words at a time, so they thought hey, we should teach kids to read whole words at a time (vs constructing them phonetically piece by piece)....   this link on has a colorful description.
(as a hyperbolic example, if you learn by whole language you basically have to rote memorize all the words in the english language.... if you come to a word you 'don't' already and you didn't learn how to get hooked on phonics... you are probably fucked... lol)   

then I came across this interesting article on the new american, about how the soviets originally tried the 'whole language method' back during the early years of Communism... then they ditched it in the 1930's because it sucked...... check that article out here.

Oddly enough, the Russians used the whole-word method back in the early days of the communist regime, but replaced it with phonics in the 1930s when it became obvious that look-say didn’t produce the kind of high literacy the communist leaders wanted. The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (Vol. 4, p. 423) describes what happened in its article on Primers:

In the end our epic fail in reading may be caused by something totally different.... however... this is pretty interesting nonetheless

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