Monday, May 25, 2020

“The Era of Stupid” Michael A Cohen

The title above and this post is inspired by a post on Diane’s blog.

Here are extracts from Diane Ravitch’s blog post on 21.5.2020.
Michael A. Cohen is a regular columnist for the Boston Globe.

He has determined that the current era will henceforth be called “the Era of Stupid.”

Granted, “stupid” is not a highbrow word, and I’m dubious that it will catch on in the same way as the “Jazz Age.” But in its simplicity and crudeness, it vividly captures the absurdity of our times.

There are so many “stupid” examples one can choose from….

AND Diane Ravitch  goes on to list some of the things she thinks is stupid.

Here is a list of things I think is stupid. starting with Diane Ravitch herself.

i.                     Diane Silvers Ravitch is a historian of education, an educational policy analyst, and a research professor at New York University. Yet she does not understand that the basic problem with many kids being unable to read is the fact that the pronunciation of phonemes of consonants is taught wrongly. I have written several comments on her blog that have been ignored by her.

Here is a comment on one of the blog posts of Diane Ravitch: “Your post is a perfect example of the polemics used to promote the so-called “science of reading”.

ii.                   Dr. David Boulton is another educator who has interviewed 160 scientists of all kinds and after 15 years has yet to find out why kids leave school as illiterates. I explained to him that the pronunciation of phonemes of consonants are taught wrongly and that made him cut me off.

iii.                 Dr. Timothy Shanahan has the audacity to ask me for evidence that consonants should not be taught with extraneous sounds. If this is not stupid then nothing is.

iv.                 Dr. Robert Slavin says, “Since it is impossible to know in advance which students will need phonics and which will not, it just makes sense to teach using methods likely to maximize the chances that all children (those who need phonics and those who would succeed with or without them) will succeed in reading.” 

My question is: What is the method to maximise the chances that ‘all children will succeed in reading?’

I wrote on his blog and I also sent him an email saying that, at first, we need to ensure that the pronunciation of phonemes is taught correctly. There is complete silence from him.

He probably believes that what he does not comprehend does not exist.

v.                   Our Systematic and Synthetic Phonics proponents Sue Lloyd, Stephen Parker, Pam Kastner and many others keep insisting that theirs is the only way to teach phonics without understanding that the foundation of phonics is being taught wrongly. There cannot be proper phonics of any kind if the sound symbol skills are taught wrongly.

Sue Lloyd keeps insisting that there are other matters like blending that is necessary. Of course it is but how do you blend if the very foundation of phonics which is the sound symbol skill is not taught correctly?

vi.                 We also have our Science of Reading (SoR) proponents like Pamela Snow who ignores comments on her blog. What is new about SoR that hasn’t been written before? It is just a rehash of what has been written for decades.  Is she that stupid not to understand what I have been writing to her since 2018?

I can’t believe that she is capable of tweeting the following:

“What about children who learn correct pronunciation of phonemes and still have problems reading? There's plenty of them.”

Is Pamela Snow advocating that we should not teach the correct pronunciation of phonemes?

Doesn’t Pamela Snow understand that you cannot teach phonics effectively without teaching the correct pronunciation of phonemes of consonants?

Pamela boasts on Twitter that she is “part of the scholarly community…”.

AND if she is then she should discuss contentious matters brought up and not sweep them under the carpet like she has done.

vii.                We also have Jennifer Buckingham who debates in favour of phonics without understanding that phonics can only be effective if the two components of phonics namely Sound Symbol relationship and Oral Blending abilities are taught correctly.

viii.              Similarly, Jeffrey Bowers challenges anyone to a debate by saying phonics is not effective when in fact, it is not phonics that is not effective, but that, it is the wrong teaching of the sound symbol skills that is so.

I can go on listing many other stupid remarks and statements made by so-called educators but I believe the above should suffice.

Yes, I agree with Diane Ravitch and Michael A. Cohen that this is ‘an era of stupid’ but it has existed for decades and not only now. 

Is there anyone who disagrees that the prerequisites to teaching phonics are sound symbol skills and oral blending ability?

There comes a time where we need to stop pulling people out of the river. We need to go upstream and find out why they’re falling in. – Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

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