K–12: Ten Lies Teachers Tell You

Hopefully, no one will forget our debt to Rudolf Flesch.  He was a great man with a great mind.

Almost forty years ago, Flesch published Why Johnny STILL Can't Read, wherein he continued his crusade against Whole Word (AKA Whole Language, Sight-Words, and other aliases).  In this book, Flesch attacked the Education Establishment and its counterfeit merchandise in a unique way.  He pointed out that all the things the professors assert most loudly and proudly are nothing but alibis — a polite way of saying lies.

Has there ever been a field, in all of human history, that could be best defined by its alibis and lies?  And not just a few of them.  There are ten big ones.  Identifying and illuminating them are where Flesch's genius shone.

Our Education Establishment, in its dedication to falsity, is almost superhuman.  After all these years, these people are still pushing the same inferior theories and methods.  Their gimmicks are disproven by almost all research and experience.  These faux reading experts can do nothing but build a case on lies.

The Education Establishment tells these lies because its partisans know that the public wants desperately to believe they are true.  The educrats are happy to let you have your illusions, as these are the intellectual basis for their dumbing down of America.

The first lie is "Everything Is Hunky-Dory."  Isn't that comforting and reassuring?  Parents with kids who can hardly read a word are naturally worried and nervous.  Teachers, in many different ways, are trained to say everything is perfect, your child is on track to be a lifelong reader, don't worry.

The next lie is "We Do Teach Phonics."  The context here is that parents hear how other schools teach reading and ask teachers, What about phonics?  Sometimes the teachers will claim that phonics doesn't work.  But the parents might know more than the teachers.  Then it's simpler to say, Of course we teach phonics.  The professors might concoct debased versions of phonics (e.g., intrinsic or analytic), or they cripple phonics with counterproductive details, so children get phonics in name only.

Another way to undermine the claimed superiority of phonics is to say, "No One Method Is Best."  Probably this lie has been uttered billions of times because it's handy in so many situations.  If parents have a good argument for anything, the teacher dismisses it by creating a promiscuous justification for everything else.

The next lie is used like a flamethrower throughout the reading wars.  Professors of education disdainfully sneer that phonics is a moot point, as "English Isn't Phonetic."  Flesch did his own calculations and concluded that English is about 97% phonetic.  Other experts suggest similar or higher numbers.  But every English word, even if irregular, is still phonetic.  You would need a word like XY4Z, pronounced "sailboat," to have genuinely non-phonetic language.  English has nothing like that, and the professors know it.

Notice, by the way, how simple and comforting these ten lies are.  They are all in the great tradition of "the check is in the mail" and "I'll still love you in the morning."  There's no way to look at the verbiage and know whether it's a lie.  You have to depend on the speaker's honesty.  Good luck in K–12.

This next one is sick: "Word Calling Isn't Reading."  A version of this claims that when children read successfully what's on the page, it's not reading; it's only "barking at print."  In other words, your kid, the best reader in his class, is only a dog.  Reading words quickly off the page is precisely the first step toward real literacy.  That's why the professors try to stop it with this silly sophistry.  Note that if adults read a paragraph by Hegel or Heidegger, they might not be able to explain precisely what the gnarly philosophers mean.  Don't make a sophistry out of less than perfect comprehension.

"Your Child Isn't Ready" is what school officials tell parents if a child is less than literate.  This tricks the parents into backing off and waiting a few years.  A simple lie buys time, maybe several years during which the child might learn nothing at all.

"Your Child Is Disabled" means there is some problem in the kid's brain, not in the school's approach.  Again, this lie buys time, provides an endless alibi for malpractice, and takes everyone's mind off the real instructional problems in our elementary schools.  For example, a diagnosis of dyslexia is the all-purpose explanation for bad readers.  As the Church Lady says, "How convenient."

"It's the Parents' Fault."  As soon as Sight-Words were introduced and children began to falter, psychiatrists came up with convoluted ways to blame the parents — obviously, they were irresponsible, alcoholic, fighting in the home, abusing the children, not preparing a wholesome home environment, not treating the medical problems which children most likely have, ad nauseam.

"Too Much TV" is a common excuse.  Flesch decided that many kids are watching TV not because they really want to, but because nobody taught them how to read. 

"We Now Teach All Children" suggested a racist explanation for schools failing.  School officials point out that lots of minorities are in the schools now, and they can't handle real literacy, so averages will fall. 

The ten alibis/lies are still the essence of how the Education Establishment created an artificial reading crisis.  Happily, it's easy to fix.  Get rid of Sight-Words.  Make phonics the default method for reading instruction.

Bruce Deitrick Price's new book is Saving K–12: What happened to our public schools? How do we fix them?  Price deconstructs educational methods at Improve-Education.org.

If you experience technical problems, please write to helpdesk@americanthinker.com