By Bruce Deitrick Price — December 17, 2014
It’s one of the most bizarre and destructive events in American history.
Circa 1931, public schools started using Whole Word to teach reading. (This method has many other names, such as Look-say, Whole Language, Dolch Words, and Sight Words.) Almost immediately, children started having psychological problems – i.e., mental health issues.
The typical pattern is that a boy will reach the second or third grade and realize that his teachers and family think he is, in effect, retarded because he can’t do this simple thing that most other kids can do. In fourth grade he will be labeled dyslexic. In fifth grade he will be declared to have ADHD and be in need of Ritalin. This story, in endless variations, has descended upon millions of Americans, on males more than females (so it is a component of the War on Boys).
Long story short, millions of Americans think they have a serious disability called dyslexia. All phonics experts say that these victims do not have “dyslexia”; they merely have the side-effects of being taught by misguided teachers. It’s those side-effects that have caused so much suffering and educational decline since 1931.
Siegfried Engelmann, one of America’s great educators, pointed out: “But the assumption of the label dyslexia is that the kid is at fault – not that the kid has been the victim of academic child abuse. We have worked with thousands of kids and never seen one who failed to learn to read when the teaching and management details are in place. We worked with several hundred kids whose IQ was below 80 and every one was able to read by the end of first grade.”
Mona McNee, the phonics expert, insisted that reading failure is usually due to faulty methods. People, she said, “should use the word dysteachia, not dyslexia.”
The younger a person is, the easier it is to correct “dysteachia” simply by teaching phonics. It’s more difficult for older people, just as it would be difficult for a two-finger typist to become a real typist. Bad habits have been learned; they must be unlearned. Indeed, Whole Word is best described as a cluster of bad habits.
Now, think about these millions of crippled children, and the psychiatric attention they need, the drugs they consume, the extra remediation they need, and you see multi-billion-dollar industries based on a lie. Rudolf Flesch tried to answer the question 40 years ago of whether children ever have dyslexia. He and his experts decided that it happens, just as insanity, schizophrenia, blindness, and other major problems do happen. But it’s seen in fewer than 1% of children. However, for the last 40 years, our public schools have almost proudly announced that 20% of their students have dyslexia! Note that this diagnosis serves as a cover-up of bad methods. Of course, our kids could read if only they didn’t have dyslexia!
Dyslexia is a controversial area. But consider the facts we know. Virtually all phonics experts say that, based on their professional experience, when systematic phonics is taught, nearly all children learn to read by the end of first grade. However, when Whole Word is taught, two thirds of the children are still below “proficient” in fourth and eighth grade, as all the NEAP scores reveal.
If a child is taught with intensive phonics and still has a problem that can be called dyslexia, then you know the child does have a genetic or inborn condition. But this is rare.
Here is another fact we know for sure about this weird story. Dr. Samuel Orton all the way back in 1927, conducted research showing that Whole Word not only prevented children from reading, but also caused serious mental problems. This result was published in the Journal of Educational Psychology. Everything his article asserts was already known before Whole Word was even introduced into the schools. Orton concluded:
It’s a complex, almost garbled paragraph, but Orton’s message is shockingly clear: Whole Word will both cripple a child’s education and cause “far-reaching damage,” which we today call mental health issues.
Thanks to Orton’s research, the professors of education knew ahead of time that they were going to harm children and create lots of mental health problems. Our Education Establishment, “progressives” all, did not care. They apparently considered this damage acceptable or even desirable.
The goal seems to have been a more socialist society. Advanced literacy was deemed an obstacle to that goal. Whole Word was a proven antidote for too much literacy. So the strategy become obvious: demonize phonics while imposing Whole Word on every public school student. Some may have trouble calling this a criminal conspiracy; but it seems obvious that that’s what it is.