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.
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)
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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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