Back in 1987, 25 years ago, it was reported by the California State Department of Education, that one in six adults in California was “functionally illiterate.” Even more shocking was the report that most of those who could not read were native English-speakers who went to public school in the United States. More than half of these illiterates were U.S.-born. The report said that 3 million Californians could not read well enough to understand advertising in newspapers, simple recipes, or job applications.
The reason for this disaster was all explained in 1955 in the landmark book by Rudolf Flesch called Why Johnny Can’t Read. The explanation was that California had eliminated the teaching of phonics, which is a method of teaching kids the sounds and syllables of the English language, so he can put syllables together and read big words. California replaced this with the so-called Whole Language method of teaching reading.
Whole language is a method of teaching kids to memorize a few frequently-used one-syllable words and then figure out the meaning of the book, probably referring to the pictures on the page. Whole language looks upon reading as a process of having the kid create the meaning of the stories, whereas phonics is a process of reading and understanding what the author wrote. Millions of dollars were spent to accomplish this changeover in method, and it ended up a total disaster.
The Whole Language method is a fraud. With Whole Language, kids never learn how to read words of more than one syllable, and that’s why, when they get to the 4th grade, American children fall behind on all the international tests. You would think that California educators would wise up after turning out 25 years of functional illiterates, but they haven’t. They are as determined as ever not to teach phonics, which is the key to all successful reading.
Contributing Editor, Phyllis Schlafly, is the Founder and President of Eagle Forum, a national radio show host, and best-selling author.
Used with the permission of Eagle Forum.