For more than 40 years, Mona McNee has been fighting the good fight on behalf of intelligent reading instruction. She is the author of "Step By Step" (a phonics program) and "The Great Reading Disaster" (with Alice Coleman, 2007, 335 pages), which chronicles the incompetence of the UK's Education Establishment. I always think of Mona McNee as the Patron Saint of Reading.
Mona has recently prepared a booklet called "Why Billy can't read," which sums up her message in 30 pages. You can find a pdf of this booklet, and as well her free phonics program, on phonics4free.org (link below).
Mona is a hard campaigner. The kind of person who has gone to endless meetings, sent lots of letters, and tried to call up the Minister of Education to tell him what he should be doing if he had any sense. Here are a few characteristic quotes from her new booklet:
"In 1931 the Hadow Report said that 'The curriculum is to be thought of in terms of activity and experience rather than of knowledge to be acquired and facts to be stored.'... This simply cancels out the whole purpose of education! Utterly mad, but official wisdom, never challenged and still around."
"All I want is an end to this terrible scourge of needless failure in reading. It has been and is a major factor in the collapse of our culture and high government spending....This is the worst scandal ever, 1000 times worse than the News of the World hacking, and it still goes on, still protected by the establishment."
"Is this confusion at the top based on honest ignorance or (worse) is it deliberate? Government will not even discuss it with me, and the meddling goes on and on."
"Keeping these strategies is part of the idea that because 'all children are different,' they can expect to be taught different ways, and this is not so. There is one alphabet, and one way to teach all children, of any age, adults and dyslexics."
"Doctors take the Hippocratic Oath: 'First do no harm.' Untold, uncountable harm has been done to millions for life by many thousands of hard-working, well-meaning teachers under the thumb of the establishment."
"In 40 years I have found a total absence of genuine professional curiosity, at all levels."
"The lost potential for half a century is a tragedy beyond our grasp.... Today teachers still get the blame, and the guilty teacher-trainers are never challenged. It has crippled millions and still there is nowhere to turn."In short, Mona McNee preaches that children must learn to read with synthetic phonics. This process is so easy that kids will typically be reading by age seven and soon thereafter selecting their own books.
I believe that for people in the USA, observing the UK situation can be instructive. It's a smaller country with a more centralized government authority. Sadly, we may become more like the UK, because Common Core Curriculum will permit greater federal control. First, this background:
All the bad ideas found here during the last 75 years also appeared in the UK but in more virulent doses. Labour (i.e., Socialist) Governments did brazenly what American schemers had to do on the sly. But why, in the first place, did the UK embrace such an array of bogus theories?
Here's my take on the years after the Russian Revolution. The USSR wanted to destroy the USA most of all, but England was second on the hit list. It was closer and easier to sabotage. Simply fill the government with Fabian Socialists and "useful idiots" ready to advance their careers at the expense of kids and country. There is no satisfying explanation for idiotic reading policy unless you factor in that the people at the top wanted to sabotage the country. Education statistics tell us that Whole Word never worked. Everybody at the top had to know this.
As the great Samuel Blumenfeld noted in a recent article about the US experience: "We have known for quite some time that there is a socialist political agenda behind the movement to do away with systematic phonics and replace it with Whole Language and other similar sight-reading programs."
The thing that has saved American public schools from the worst ravages of our own far-left Education Establishment is our history of local control. As noted, I'm afraid that Common Core Curriculum will move our schools closer to the UK situation. In practice, what this means is that one bureaucrat in Washington, D.C. can persuade an obscure committee that Plan X should be adopted. Suddenly this clunker appears in every local school, for years and years, and you can't do anything about it. An incurable disease. (Reform Math, introduced around 1980, is still with us, a perennial example of incurable disease.)
What we saw in the recent Race to the Top campaign is the Obama administration using taxpayer money to bribe taxpayers, pretending all the while it was a friendly takeover. Not so, I predict. Hostile is as hostile does.The astonishing thing about this story, in my part of Virginia, is how many newspapers, leading citizens, foundations, and retired military officers were willing to jump on the bandwagon. All of them should have enough sense to recognize a Ponzi scheme when they see one.
At this time, Americans can still communicate with their school officials in their city or state capitol. If you want to see what the future might look like, consider the world described in Mona McNee's booklet. The real power is further away and less accessible. Aloof politicians maneuver and dissemble. The basic gimmick is to continually diminish content, make tests easier, inflate grades, and proudly announce: look, achievement is rising!!! Of course, it's not. Achievement is less each year.
Meanwhile, your job is to stay home, watch TV, and don't get in the way. Experts are at work destroying another generation of readers.
-------------------------------------------------------Phonics4free.org is a site created by Alan O. for Mona McNee. You can find a pdf (and other formats) of the new booklet "Why Billy can't read."
(Site also includes Mona's entire phonics program.) http://www.phonics4free.org/
The "Step by Step" program can be found on Mona McNee's own site: http://www.catphonics.pwp.blueyonder.co....
"The Great Reading Disaster" is available on Amazon. Here's a link to the five-star review by me: http://www.amazon.com/The-Great-Reading-...
For my own short explanation of the reading wars, see "42: Reading Resources" on Improve-Education.org. http://www.improve-education.org/id65.ht...