Having relentlessly pushed Whole Word for 60 years, the Education Establishment abruptly staged a strategic retreat in 1999. They claimed that they always loved phonics but it had to be part of so-called Balanced Literacy.

 

Even as they misrepresented the past, the experts insisted that in the future all children should start their education by memorizing at least 100 sight-words, Dolch words, or high-frequency words (all the same thing).

Here’s the bad news. This project can take a year or two. At the end, instead of being liberated for better reading (as promised), the child is often finished as a fluent reader. A holistic reflex--that is, the child sees words as whole units--has been created in the child’s brain. Each new word on the page presents a conflict: should the word be read holistically or phonetically?? Cognitively, the child is a bit schizophrenic. Next--this happens a lot--the school labels him “dyslexic.”

Almost nobody had heard of sight-words until 1930. They do nothing but retard reading instruction. Getting rid of them should be the #1 priority in American education. Why are these trouble-makers allowed to hang around in the classroom?

Some suspect a “progressive” plan to dumb-down the country in preparation for a shift to a more socialistic society. Others say money is the big factor. If children are labeled poor readers, this opens up a geyser of funds for assessment and tutoring. (Remediation is big business. Tragically, the remediation is often worse than the initial instruction, just more sight-words rubbed into old wounds.)

Norfolk has low literacy rates and high drop-out rates. That’s two sides of the same phenomenon: sight-words. Where’s the School Board on the single most important school issue, literacy?

 

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