Look-say, introduced around 1930, was one of the great magic acts of the world.
It was like one of those things that David Copperfield does, when he makes an airplane appear and disappear. The entire world seems to be caught up in this magic.
Our Education Establishment performed exactly that level of magic. They converted one sort of language to an entirely different kind of language. Specifically, they converted a phonetic language to a hieroglyphic language.
But guess what? It's even better than that. Everything had changed. But nobody could see any difference.
Everything had changed. But nothing had changed. How is that possible?
Behold the genius. Nothing had changed for adults or educated people. The language they had gone to school with and learned to read with, it was right there on the page in front of them. What's the big deal? There it was. Hickory dickory dock, the mouse runs up the clock. Any kid that has trouble with this simple thing called English must be a dunce. That's why, quite often, you see so little sympathy for kids who are struggling. The adults do not know what the kids are struggling with.
For children, there was a different reality. What they saw on the page was a hieroglyphic language. Why? Because their teachers told them to learn it the way all children had learned hieroglyphic languages through history.
Chinese, Egyptian hieroglyphics, and Sumerian hieroglyphics-- it's the same challenge in every respect. You look at diagrams or designs on the page and you commit them to memory, one by one, over a long grueling period of years. It's precisely this approach to learning the language that makes it hieroglyphics. You could turn French into hieroglyphics, you could turn Spanish into hieroglyphics. You can turn any language to hieroglyphics if you tell the child, "Look at this design and memorize it."
The child, of course, cannot explain or understand any of this. He is six years old. What does he know? He tries to do what his teachers tell him to do.
Meanwhile, the teachers carefully withhold any information about letters or sounds. In the golden early days of Look-say, teachers were forbidden to teach the alphabet. Try to grasp the enormity of that.
If you're looking at a word and you don't know any letters, all you see is a design. So there, by simple sleight-of-hand and abracadabra, English words are converted to English hieroglyphics.
English Hieroglyphics sounds paradoxical, oxymoronic, impossible, anything you want to say. All of those things are true. English cannot be hieroglyphics if anyone intends to learn to read it. But our Education Establishment pulled this off and, the amazing thing is, the scam goes on.
Rudolf Flesch, in his famous 1955 book, talked about how bizarre it was that education officials wanted to throw away all the advantages of phonetic language. They wanted to teach English as if it were hieroglyphics. In fact, I don't think Flesch ever gets around to talking about English Hieroglyphics. He was always speaking of a metaphor. And many people sort of missed the point. I coined the phrase English Hieroglyphics to dramatize just how crazy our reading theory has been for 75 years.
Here is a longer presentation of this idea, with some good links: "English Hieroglyphics are fun and easy to read."
1) Main site is Improve-Education.org. Articles there are scholarly in a lively way, and intended to last for years. This blog is for short newsy bits. 2) This site is pro-education, pro-teacher, and anti-Education Establishment.
This title is not original. It’s most often used to discuss pedophilia and the silence of the victims.
Another take occurred 20 years ago when the exquisitely liberal Linda Darling-Hammond attacked Wendy Kopp’s Teach for America. A belligerent and reckless attack which argued that Kopp’s program was probably destroying children. Who, Darling- Hammond wanted to know, will speak for those children? (The funniest part of the attack was the claim that Kopp was “deprofessionalizing teaching.” The ed schools did that long ago.)
My own “Who will speak for the children?” has more in common with the pedophilia angle but minus the sex. Public schools are abusing children educationally. Who will speak for these intellectually abused children?
The teachers don’t always know their methods are dysfunctional. School officials may be equally oblivious, or corrupted. Parents aren’t likely to crack the code and be able to tell a teacher, “Here’s what you’re doing wrong.”
The children know they’re failing. They know that school is an unhappy, difficult environment. Whatever is supposed to happen there is not happening in their case. But they don’t know why.
Reading? Can’t do it. Arithmetic? It’s really difficult and doesn’t make sense. Everything else is just an unpleasant swirl that doesn’t seem to be going anywhere.
So who’ll speak for the children? You, ideally. Everybody in the society has to be more sophisticated about public education.
First rule, you cannot trust the people in charge. Look at their track record. It’s abysmal.
Second rule, you need to find out for yourself what's going on in the schools. You’ll be amazed.
Third rule, the Internet is full of information on every subject. Use Google to search for answers to the mysteries as you encounter them.
One easy way to start the search is Improve-Education.org, my site. I try to explain all the weird things going on in the schools. Why can’t they teach reading and simple arithmetic? Why does every educational activity seem to be done in the least efficient way?
Go to Improve-Education.org. Halfway down the homepage, you’ll find a SEARCH SITE box. Enter topics you’re interested in.
Here’s a second easy way to find answers. Go to Google and enter a topic and the name Bruce Price. Google will find every page where all the words occur. (I have 100 articles on sites other than my own.)
"College professor should be more involved in K-12 education" is the actual title of a very important article, if I do say so myself.
The basic idea is that college and university people think they can hide up in the clouds. Meanwhile K-12 is stuck in second gear. Students reach college but don't have college-level skills. These poorly prepared teenagers will destroy college as traditionally envisioned.
The big concept in this article is this: all levels of education are connected. Anything bad that happens at one level will hurt all the other levels. College professors need to take sides before it gets worse.
The National Association of Scholars (NAS) could help in this situation. Maybe you know of other groups. I've urged the Chronicle of Higher Education to get involved. SchoolLeadership2.0 might help.
If you are working at the college level or know people who are, please check out the article. Pass it on.
The big suggestion in his article is that people in higher education need to understand the failed theories and methods used in K-12. Then our academics could explain to their communities what has gone wrong in the public schools. (The main culprits are Whole Word, Reform Math, Constructivism, Cooperative Learning, Prior Knowledge, Learning Styles, Self-Esteem and many other sophistries that actually work to undercut education. Professors are the best people to explain these things. After all, they were all concocted by professors, professors of education.)
The article is built around the story of Arthur Bestor's 1953 book "Educational Wastelands – the Retreat from Learning in our Public Schools." Bestor was a world-class visionary and a gutsy guy. Everything I'm saying in this article he was fighting-mad about 60 years ago. Coming back today, he would probably have a heart attack from seeing how far the schools have sunk at all levels. Obama talks about college-ready and career-ready. All these kids are being socially promoted from the lowest grades onward and then suddenly they are up in college and they don't know a damn thing. It's just a sick joke to use the phrase "college ready" in this context.
If college professors really believe in the life of the mind, they have to become much more proactive in defending the values of higher education.
First the bad news. Common Core, propelled by grants which had a suspicious resemblance to bribes, spread across the country like kudzu in North Carolina. All but a few states surrendered coherent thoughts, like tipsy journalists meeting Obama for the first time.
This was a really big issue. People needed to understand that none of the ideas had been tested or proven. None of the people working on this were asked to do so. Who were these people? Really, the people behind Common Core were pseudo-experts like the National Council of Teachers of English, National Council of Teachers of Math, and so many others in education. They pretend to be independent. But really they seem to be puppets run by the people who have been running schools all along (i.e. the Education Establishment).
Anyway, this thing was pushed through with unseemly haste. The state governments should be embarrassed and disgraced.
Now, there is some good news. As many as 20 states are reconsidering. Some states have looked at the economic consequences and don’t like them. Some are hearing a lot of complaints from parents. Some legislators are actually looking at what the Common Core Commissars want to do.
One small example: I’m working on a piece now about “close reading,” which is just nonsense. We have second graders who don’t know how to read but now we’re going to insist that they do “close reading.”
Here is a short statement giving eight reasons why Common Core must be rolled back:
PS: The main reason Common Core should be pushed back, if we have to pick one, is very simply that the people who have been screwing up education for the last 50 years are asking for much more power. Why would any rational person give them more power???
Fun on YouTube...I have 50+ graphic videos on YouTube. Educational and entertaining, often. Many deal with reading and educational strategies. Many have good music and need some volume. (Channel is: YouTube.com/BruceDeitrickPrice)
COMMENTS don't seem to work on this design. Here's a link to CONTACT page on Improve-Education.org
Bruce Deitrick Price
- Remain a novelist, artist, poet, and art director. But main activity is writing about education reform.. The schools, now bad due to ideology and laziness, could be easily improved. That claim is clearly explained in new book "Saving K-12--What happened to our public schools. How do we fix them?"I invite everyone to join my crusade or start your own. The worst thing is letting the Education Establishment continue its reign of incompetence.Visit Improve-Education.org. (Or Google Bruce Deitrick Price and any education topic; you'll find some interesting articles. I have 400 ed articles, videos, and book reviews on web. Please use them in your own battles.)
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