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Can Public Schools Make Your Child Illiterate?

Bernie Sanders, our friendly, radical-left candidate for President, wants a “Thurgood Marshall  Plan For Public Education” ( ). What are some of the elements of this plan?

  • End the unaccountable profit-motive of charter schools (end school choice for parents)
  • Provide ‘equitable funding’ for public schools (higher real-estate taxes for parents)
  • Give teachers a much-deserved raise, expand their collective bargaining rights and teacher tenure (they get paid way too much already, and making sure we can’t fire them is not very smart)
  • Rebuild, modernize, and green our nation’s schools (these schools won’t get better because we put in LED lighting)

Bernie’s plan would “invest” more billions of dollars into congenitally-incompetent public schools, which is like throwing money down the drain. That is because most public schools have abandoned teaching children to read with phonics, so these schools turn tens of millions of children into functional illiterates and can wreck our children’s lives. How do public schools wreck our kids’ ability to read?

To teach children how to play the piano, you have to teach them the basics of music – keys, notes, chords, melody, and harmony. With these tools learned, your kids can experience the joy and sense of accomplishment from playing their favorite songs on the piano.

To most of us, driving a car seems effortless. Our eyes, hands, and feet work together seamlessly, automatically, without conscious thought. But we first had to learn the basics of driving when we were young. Remember back to your father’s driving lessons? He taught you how to turn the steering wheel, where the gas and brake pedal was, how to stay in your lane, turn signals and stop signs, use of mirrors, keeping to speed limits, looking ahead. All these basics took time and practice to learn. Now, those of us who have been driving for many years, take these basics for granted. We drive “automatically” and with skill.

The same process applies to another skill-reading. Read a book or a newspaper and it seems effortless. Yet such skill comes from constant use, from constant practice of basic skills learned at an early age.

What are these skills? To read, you have to recognize words on a printed page, yet there are millions of them. Enter the wonder of the alphabet and phonics. It is by recognizing letters and their sounds that a child puts letter-sounds together to form words. Since all words are built from only twenty-six letters, the huge task becomes greatly simplified. The child need not memorize the word, only sound it out, read it, and find its meaning in a dictionary.

As in driving a car, reading is difficult at first. But, once learned, the skill becomes automatic, unconscious, effortless, and we read quickly without sounding-out every letter of every word. In the end, with practice, we read effortlessly, and all the knowledge of the world is open to us. Without learning the basic skills, however, reading is not possible.

Enter educrat “experts” who think otherwise. “Don’t adults read without sounding out every letter of every word,” they ask? “So why teach children phonics? Why put children through the boredom, drudgery, and hard work of phonics and spelling drills? How can reading be “joyful” if literature becomes “drills,” they say. “Why wound children’s self-esteem and self-expression with tests and standards and high expectations?”

“If we have children memorize whole words instead of drilling on the alphabet and letter sounds, all this pain is gone,” they chime. “Do not teach them to sound out M-O-T-H-E-R. Have them memorize what the whole word looks like-teach them word-pictures, teach them hieroglyphics, so they “recognize” the word in a book. Have the child read “Dick and Jane” learning books that repeat each word a hundred times, so the child comes to “recognize” it. Do this for each word.”

“If the child can’t grasp a new word because he cannot sound it out, teach him “pre-reading” strategies,” they expound. “These “strategies” will help him “guess” what the word is. Have him look at the title of the story. Have the child look at pictures, look for “clues,” look for “patterns” in the story that make sense. Or skip the word and come back to it. Or ask a friend who also cannot read it. Or finally, when all else fails, ask the teacher. Anything,” say the learned educrats, “except actually sounding out and reading the word.”

This, the educrats say, is the “centered,” “self-esteem-enhancing” way to teach reading. Meaning and context-not basics. Group discussions-not letters, sounds, drills, and independence.

This is your whole-language method (now called “balanced literacy” or some other deceptive name). This is the hieroglyphics of Egypt transported to your children’s classroom. This is our educrats’ pet “reading” theory, foisted on 45 million public-school children-victims across the country.

The results were inevitable-half the nation’s high-school grads cannot read a bus schedule. Businesses lose $40 billion a year for remedial reading classes for new employees fresh from high school. Thirty percent of Americans are functionally illiterate. The child who is taught phonics is able to read thousands of words in a few semesters. The “whole-word” child-victim is able to “recognize” only a few hundred words. Thus we have the crash in reading skills, the dumbing-down of our kids, the millions of frustrated teens who drop out of school, turn to crime, and end up in prison because they can’t get a decent job.

Yet, in the face of such failure, such disaster for our children, the educrats turn a blind eye and a deaf ear. In the face of reality – massive denial and rationalization.

But why? What do they gain? There is always a reason for irrational behavior, and the educrats have many.

Educrats think phonics believers are extremist Christian Rightists or educational simpletons unable to understand the “complexity” of the educrats’ so-called learning theories. Yet, let reality be the judge. The children who learn phonics read far quicker and better than the “whole-word” readers. And the “complexity” educrats proclaim is a self-serving fantasy of their making, designed to ward off competition. Educrats think they are gurus with special skills no parent can possess. Rather, they are education buffoons who don’t know how to teach phonics to your kids any longer or don’t want to bother.

Educrats claim that phonics and rules will turn kids off to the joy of reading. Just the opposite is true – when a “whole-language” victim-child tries to read the many words he was not taught to “recognize,” he will give up in frustration. His frustration will end his reading and his ‘joy” in reading. The phonics-trained child can read any word and any book, and the joy of reading follows from his skills.

This learning of basic skills need not be a struggle. What turns kids off? The insufferable boredom, the mediocrity of the educrats’ teaching methods, unchanged for 60 years.

Children learn the alphabet and letter sounds with delight at home. Sesame Street, “Hooked on Phonics,” the Internet, learning channels on cable TV, creative reading books especially made for kids by learning entrepreneurs can make learning letters and sounds a delight.

Phonics and drills are a drudge in government schools because educrats don’t have the time, skill, desire, or imagination to make them otherwise. Rather than blame themselves or their government-run system for failure, they blame everyone else. They now claim it is the child’s fault (he has attention-deficit disorder!), the parents’ fault (they don’t get “involved!”), or “society’s” fault (racism or “not enough money for the schools!”).

Educrats also say that drills and basics, tests and standards, are “unfair” to kids, cause them stress, and threaten their self-esteem. Just the opposite is true-real self-esteem comes from achievement, not from a teacher’s hot-air, feel-good compliments. Achievement needs tasks, content, ever-increasing complex skills children learn with guided effort. Joy, not stress, is the result of achievement. And what is more important than for children to learn that rewards come from effort and perseverance?

Educrats hate phonics and true reading skills because their teacher colleges don’t train them in the phonics method. Teachers who are not taught the phonics method will naturally feel inadequate to teach phonics to children. It is not the teachers’ fault. Rather, the fault lies with educrats, teacher colleges, and educational theorists who have contempt for phonics.

Phonics and drills require a “teacher-centered” approach in the classroom. This approach requires greater effort and responsibility on teachers and schools to create lesson plans that show real progress in reading skills. The teacher-centered approach requires teachers and educrats to constantly test and evaluate both students and themselves.

The “whole-language” reading method, in contrast, is allegedly “student-centered,” meaning that kids get to sit around in circles and talk about their feelings rather than learn to actually read. With “whole-language” reading, educrats can claim there are no standards, no way to test reading skills and achievement. There are few rigorous tests, low standards, and no failing grades.

“Whole-language” reading, therefore, achieves the educrats’ ultimate goal – if there are no standards or objectivity, no one can blame them, no one can question them, no one can hold them accountable for their failure to teach our children to read. The educrats don’t want to grade their students’ performance because it allegedly hurts the kids’ “self-esteem.” I believe this attitude is merely a projection of the educrats’ primal fears — they do not want parents judging their performance and holding them accountable for teaching their kids to read. The educrats don’t want their fragile self-esteem threatened by angry parents who expect public schools to do one simple thing-teach their kids to read.

Government schools are designed to assuage the educrats’ terror at being judged by parents, and being forced to compete in a free-market education system. Government (public) schools’ ultimate purpose is to be a full-employment program for educrats-to give them guaranteed jobs without accountability to parents. It is to placate these fearful educrats that our government schools dumb-down our children and turn them into illiterates with bleak futures.

So what can you, as a concerned parent, do to protect your child? As long as public schools are run by the government and their educrats, they will never change. In my book, “Public Schools, Public Menace,” I tell parents about wonderful new education alternatives to public schools, such as accredited, low-cost internet private schools. Parents, I urge you to look into these alternatives, before your children are irreparably harmed by public-school whole-language, anti-phonics, “reading” instruction.

About Joel Turtel

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