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Phonics vs Whole Language Instruction

It’s sickening how the GOP has made climate a partisan issue. It’s weird and disorienting. Science and the eve of destruction isn’t really a matter of opinion.

The democrats have a similar skeleton in their own closet. Nowhere near in terms of magnitude (the destruction of planet Earth is pretty hard to beat which is why you have senators like Manchin thinking “can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em”) but a pretty fundamental issue:

It’s about how to teach kids how to read—or sometimes even whether to.

We all know that competent readers don’t sound out words one piece at a time. They just see the whole word and know it. Some teachers in US and NZ came up with a method and curriculum to skip the sounding-out (a.k.a. phonics) step. This “absolutely no phonics allowed” is called cueing, multi-cueing, or Whole Language Instruction.

That was a huge mistake.

Honest mistake in the best interest of the kids, but in hindsight there’s a ton of data saying this was a ginormous mistake.

Instead, learning through phonics is a good stepping stone towards later in life not using phonics. Avoiding phonics from the start, on the other hand, gets you nowhere fast. Phonics a.k.a. direct instruction makes it easier.

This became a political fight in ‘07 in the US congress.

Y’all know I’m in favor of voting for the Democrats as long as there’s this horrible FPTP election system. So this isn’t meant as a message to voters. But to democrats (and political media): you’ve got to do better! Look at what’s actually true and not what color the hockey jersey is.

This is also something we can learn from. It’s sometimes difficult to understand why and how the other side can be so willfully obstinate (well, the “why”, probably better known as money, isn’t that hard to figure out), but thinking back at those days and how everything coming from Bush or Limbaugh was pure poison, I can kinda see how they would start to doubt climate science or gender studies or CRT etc. Because it’s coming from us, their enemy. I don’t trust a word they are saying and that distrust is mutual. And the version of those things they are told about are often deliberately misrepresented.

I was right there with ya, if you have the same reaction. “The Pet Goat” was my enemy’s friend and not to be trusted.

Obviously the truth isn’t somewhere in the middle. They are flat out wrong about this climate stuff. I’m not talking about both-sides-ism or compromise. Instead, trying to understand the psychology of partisan-based denialism in ourselves as a way to understand—and change—them, when they are wrong. And practice awareness so we’re not fooled again.

Getting in early on a topic can be a way for politicians to try to “own” a topic leaving the other side to either play catch-up or to take a deliberately contrarian view.