Academic journal article Phi Delta Kappan

Room for Reason

Academic journal article Phi Delta Kappan

Room for Reason

Article excerpt

LAST September a friend sent me what she described as "an incredible little book from the far, far right." That volume -- Why Not Teach Intensive Phonics? -- written by James Chapman, author of grammar and composition textbooks for Christian schools and a teacher of freshman English at Pensacola Christian College, castigates Kenneth Goodman and others for arguing that, in the teaching of reading, meaning should take precedence over the correct calling of individual words.

Chapman states in his book that "the emphasis upon individual words has always been of paramount importance to Christian educators, who believe in the verbal inspiration of the Scriptures and in quality education." He then goes on to quote Samuel Blumenfeld, author of NEA: Trojan Horse in American Education, who maintains that educators who replaced traditional phonics with whole-word, look-say methods did so knowing that the outcome would be a lower literacy rate -- an outcome that would help them reach their goal of making America "into a socialist society."

It's enough to drive most mainstream educators crazy. A relatively small, but highly vocal, segment of the population is making accusations that often absolutely confound us.

As students of American history are well aware, the U.S. was founded on the premise of religious freedom. And like all government institutions, public schools are secular institutions. Of late, however, the schools have become sites of divisive battles over religious differences.

And that's okay. As the bedrock of democratic society, the public schools need to learn to deal effectively with competing views. …

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