David Boulton: Tell me about the state of reading in America as you assess it from your position with the National Reading Panel and as a member of the International Reading Association – share with us your national perspective of this.
Dr. Timothy Shanahan: It’s a little complicated, but essentially I look at it and say in terms of what schools have done, we’re probably pretty equivalent to where we were thirty years ago. Things haven’t gotten any better. Likewise I could say they haven’t gotten any worse. We’re probably doing about as good a job as we’ve ever done in dealing with the teaching of literacy. That’s probably both a victory and a defeat because on the one hand we’re managing to teach literacy as well as ever but we're doing it under more difficult circumstances. For example, we have a lot more people in this society who have to learn to speak English while they’re learning to read and the fact is we’re doing that and still maintaining the literacy levels.
My comment: This is a whole load of nonsense. ‘Things haven’t gotten any better and any worse’. Of course things will not get any better until and unless you begin to teach kids phonics like the way they ought to be taught.
Insanity was defined as ‘doing the same thing again and again and expecting different results’. These guys should be ashamed to say that having maintained the literacy level the same as 30 years ago is a victory. And the American citizens should be ashamed for not taking to task these guys who have been ‘STUDYING’ kids who had shut-down for the past 15 years.
All one has to do is to ask how many teachers in this LinkedIn group are able to teach kids who have shut down, to read within a short period of time. If these kids can be taught to read within a few months than it simply means that the kids had not been taught in the proper way in the first place. You don’t need a PhD to figure this out. All you need is a little common sense.
Dr. Timothy Shanahan: The schools have managed to do it. You look at 1971 literacy levels and you look at 2003 literacy levels and you come away saying man, there’s no difference. We’ve held the line. Our schools are terrific. And there’s truth to that, that’s not a fake picture.
That’s our situation. It’s an incredible tension where parents and politicians and media are demanding a better job be done with our kids and the schools are saying we’re doing as good a job as we ever have and we’re working really hard at it. People are getting angry at each other.
My comment: I want to just remind you that these guys who are doing this series of interviews are PhD holders.