Friday, August 28, 2009

Reading Well Is The Most Democratic Art...

Which, of course, is why Arne Duncan and the CorpoRat/Militarist/Authoritarian mafia he represents--the skill/drill and accountability nazis--are so ardently endeavoring to seeing it rendered useless and despised. A truly literate polity would be the bane of the techno-tyrants who reach for the reins of law and custom by restricting 'meaning' and how it is constructed. Phonics and spelling do not prepare the reader to think critically about the text, its context, and its authority.

They don't have to control what you read if they control HOW you read (or don't, in the optimal case).

Another step along that path was taken today, when the producers of "Reading Rainbow," an honored and long-lasting childrens' tv show which promoted reading for its own sake, for entertainment, and for fun, announced they were being forced to cancel the show for lack of funding. Think Progress has a piece up today describing the situation, with an episode:

Decision to end ‘Reading Rainbow’ traced to a ‘shift’ in priorities during the Bush administration.

“Reading Rainbow,” of the most beloved and long-running children’s education shows, is airings its last episode today. The show, hosted by actor LeVar Burton, started in 1983. John Grant, who is in charge of programming at Reading Rainbow’s home station, explains that part of the reason the show is ending is because no one — including PBS and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) — wants to continue funding it. The other reason can be traced back to a “shift” in priorities during the Bush administration:

Grant says the funding crunch is partially to blame, but the decision to end Reading Rainbow can also be traced to a shift in the philosophy of educational television programming. The change started with the Department of Education under the Bush administration, he explains, which wanted to see a much heavier focus on the basic tools of reading — like phonics and spelling.

Grant says that PBS, CPB and the Department of Education put significant funding toward programming that would teach kids how to read — but that’s not what Reading Rainbow was trying to do.

“Reading Rainbow taught kids why to read,” Grant says. “You know, the love of reading — [the show] encouraged kids to pick up a book and to read.”
Love a book? Love literature? That's Fahrenheit 451-territory. Subversive, anti-authoritarianism. Obviously, that kind of seditious behavior cannot be practiced under the imprimatur of the State.
"The Bush DoE...wanted to see a much heavier focus on the basic tools of reading — like phonics and spelling."
That's not even correct. Phonics and spelling are not the basic tools of reading. They are the basic tools of CONTROLLING reading, of SCORING reading, of ROBBING reading of meaning and usefulness, and rendering it an odious chore...

The reason that "what" books one reads in school matters is that the fundamental national curriculum discourse basically assumes those books will be the only books students will EVER read.

There's a woman named Susan Ohanian who blogs relentlessly on this subject. I taught her books when I was professing reading pedagogy a decade and more ago, and I seldom saw and do not in any case recall anyone with a better grasp of the issues and arts of reading and teaching it effectively. Sign up for her daily newsletter/link page.


One Fly said...

Had phonics in 1st and 2nd grade as well as spelling exercises. What I learned then I use everyday. It was a perfect learning enviroment - I was the perfect student. 7 and 8 was a disaster with catholics and I was unprepared and corrupted by high school and the whole time what I learned early was the most important. Just the way it was for me. It's a longer story than this too.

Woody (Tokin Librul/Rogue Scholar/ Helluvafella!) said...

I am glad that that's what worked for you, brother.

but that is no excuse to make those particular skills--which fitted YOUR needs--the ONLY acceptable way to guide kids into reading.

And that's what hasta happen. This will ALWAYS be a structurally "literate" culture, and critical literacy--literacy as a means of thought--is the most important 'skill' we can teach.

Phonics and spelling can be a part of a comprehensive approach, using the 'whole language,' not just the structural parts.


One Fly said...

Woody-I'm unclear about what exactly is being done wrong in the schools.

The young people I interact with from here are pretty sharp but they have extra dollars- 3mil a year to throw at it from a local tax.

I have asked several people young and older these last few days because of the people in town if they knew it and if they knew who Reagan,Norquist and Bachmann are.

Pretty much the answer was no-OH MY!

Mr. Pelican said...

I've spent 23 years being forced to teach phonics and spelling, and I've learned something. Nothing teaches reading better than( wait for it) READING!
Spelling is one of those things that one is either good at or not. Phonics is useful up to about 3rd grade, but after that, it's pretty pointless. You want an example? Look to your right, on woodrow's list of blogs, third one from the top.. pronounce it... that's phonics. Read it..... not unless you know what it means. Reading is extracting meaning from words, whether you can say them or not. Saying helps, but it is not essential. I know what A-n-o-s-o-g-n-o-s-i-a is, because I looked it up. I STILL can't say it without going slowly, but when I READ it I recognize it and know what woody's trying to tell me! THAT"S reading. All these millions spent on phonics is phuqen waisted. (that's phonics)

Mr. Pelican said...

And that's another thing,
education will improve in this country when PEOPLE WHO KNOW ABSOLUTELY NOFUCKINGTHING ABOUT it stop telling those of us who do who to do it. I've had a vasectomy. Does that make me an expert on performing one? If you believe that, step right up!