Natalie Solent

Politics, news, libertarianism, Science Fiction, religion, sewing. You got a problem, bud? I like sewing.

E-mail: nataliesolent-at-aol-dot-com (I assume it's OK to quote senders by name.)

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Jane's Blogosphere: blogtrack for Natalie Solent.


( 'Nother Solent is this blog's good twin. Same words, searchable archives, RSS feed. Provided by a benefactor, to whom thanks.
I also sometimes write for Samizdata and Biased BBC.)

The Old Comrades:

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Wednesday, November 10, 2004
The auld quarrel. John Quiggin of Crooked Timber writes about the Whole Language versus Phonics debate in the teaching of reading here. It's interesting to see that the comments include quite a few that defy stereotypes. For example this one by "another damned medievalist":
Anyone who knows me knows I think of myself pretty solidly on the left. I’m for socialized medicine, don’t believe that tax cuts for the rich do society any good in a society where the rich think it’s just fine to for CEOs to make hundreds of times what the average worker makes, etc.

But I believe in sounding out words, when you can. My parents had me reading before I went to school, and had me sound out words, but also were there to tell me I just had to remember the funny ones that didn’t sound like they were spelled. In 5th and 6th grade, I had teachers who made us learn Greek and Latin prefixes and suffixes so we could figure out what words meant. As someone who teaches, I can’t really understand why ANY method that can produce results would be frowned upon. Administrators are always pushing us to recognize and teach to alternate learning styles — isn’t this just one more of those things?

As for the pro- anti-Teachers’ Unions skirmish, I’m union. I also think that the teachers’ unions in the US really are often in opposition to good teaching. Part of this I attribute to a political environment where the perceived threat to teachers (K-16) creates more emphasis on job preservation than on doing the job well. Years of this have definitely allowed a huge pile of incompetent deadwood to pile up. I also think a lot of the problem has to be the control the education folk have over what is taught in this country and who teaches it. The past 20 or so years have seen more and more preference given to education degrees for teachers rather than discipline degrees. The curriculum is necessarily watered down and often not taught well, because, even after grade 6, faculty are often generalists teaching far out of their own expertise. I suggest that this is primarily down to the Education Lobby — which is primarily the two big unions.
That said, putting more money in the schools would make it mmore conceivable for schools and school systems to hire more specialized teachers and would allow the teachers more time to keep up in their subjects.

Oh well. We pay for the things we value and we get what we pay for.