Phonics Claimd To Be Pushed By Feds

Dennis R. Preston preston at PILOT.MSU.EDU
Wed Sep 11 00:05:59 UTC 2002

This is a very interesting controversy (politics aside and inside).
Apparently, a number of well-respected theoretical linguists, with
some good ammunition supporting "phonics" approaches to reading (but
little or no research of their own) got sneetered into signing off on
a "this-is-the-true-path" kind of statement a few years ago in
Massachusetts,  only to find that their political bedfellows were
ones they would not even like to be in the same hotel with.

A little like Cal Thomas' use of Pinker in his most recent column,
although one might also fault Pinker, like the theoretical types
mentioned above, for straying from his field more than a little bit.
It could be that organizational patterns lie behind other aspects of
human behavior which are quite distinct from those which underlie
language. You would have thought that modularity might have even
encouraged speculation in this direction, rather than a simplistic
notion that all our modes are constructed in the same way.


PS: I am aware of the limited relevance of this to many who care most
about the origins of the Windy City, but, when I suspect I among
linguists, I find it hard to retrain myself.

>The Bush support of phonics as the only way to reading proficiency is an old
>story.  As governor he spoke out strongly, insisting that phonics is the
>only scientifically valid approach to the teaching of reading.  His
>comprehension of what scientific validity might be is worth questioning, but
>it's another case of his ability to making a thing so by saying it.
>Herb Stahlke
>>  From the Washington Post:
>>  The Bush administration is making a concerted effort to promote the
>>  teaching of phonics in America's classrooms, and in the process, some
>>  educators charge, advancing specific commercial reading products.
>>  Administration officials say they want to end a national crisis in
>>  which almost 70 percent of low-income fourth-grade students cannot read
>>  at a basic level, and they deny usurping local authority by telling
>>  schools what specific programs to use.
>>    "We can't do that nor would we want to," said Susan B. Neuman,
>>  assistant secretary for elementary and secondary education at the
>>  Education Department. "What we want is a proliferation of excellence.
>>  We want more programs out there that are doing wonderful things. And we
>>  would be crazy to narrow the field."
>>  Some educators, however, charge that the Education Department is so
>>  narrowly prescribing what states can do with new federal reading funds
>>  that the federal government is violating the clause in the country's
>>  new K-12 education law that bars federal authorities from involvement
>>  in local curriculum and instructional content.
>>  --
>>  Grant Barrett
>>  gbarrett at
>>  Small Business Apple Macintosh Support in New York City

Dennis R. Preston
Professor of Linguistics
Department of Linguistics and Languages
740 Wells Hall A
Michigan State University
East Lansing, MI 48824-1027 USA
Office - (517) 353-0740
Fax - (517) 432-2736

More information about the Ads-l mailing list