The governor and his wife, Crissy, launched a campaign Feb. 17 for “a statewide focus on the critical value of reading — not only the value of learning to read but also the value of reading to learn.”
“The Read to be Ready campaign kick-off will highlight our collective and aligned strategies to improve reading that will lead to better thinkers and workers in Tennessee,” a government statement said. The program has the ambitious goal of having 75 percent of third graders reading on grade level by 2025. Right now 43 percent do so.
Literacy is not a state interest because it would overturn the current paradigm of the obedient consumer and compliant state dependent and taxpayer. The fetish of literacy is a danger to the modern state because it would allow the self-creation of an independent and free people who might demand constitutional and federated government rather than unitary administrative welfare states such as that which has seized the State of Tennessee.
Literacy is no mystery
Literacy is attained by the teaching of pure phonics. In the United States, families involved in home education were the first to see through the illiteracy crisis. Samuel Blumenfeld and Rudolph Flesch in the 1980s enabled thousands of ordinary people to get clear of the state’s strangulation of reading and to have fully literate children. My wife, Jeannette, and I have home educated four children, now ages 13 to 23. We used Mr. Blumenfeld’s Alpha-Phonics, a no-big-deal all-phonics workbook.
As early as the 1930s academicians in the U.S. and the Soviet Union knew that they could cripple the reading process by pretending words were pictures and not a sequence of sounds. This problem could be created by teaching reading according to the work of Thomas Gallaudet.
A hundred years earlier Gallaudet ran the Hartford Asylum for the Deaf and Dumb. For those who hear neither consonants or vowels he devised a method of teaching reading. The look-say method works on the deaf.
But its use on everyone else artificially induces dyslexia, which Blumenfeld describes as a “reading neurosis” or “a learning block.”
“Reading disability is a form of behavior disorganization induced by the look-say method,” Blumenfeld says, “because look-say sets up two mutually exclusive tendencies: the tendency to look at written English as an ideographic system, like Chinese, and the tendency to look at written English as a phonetic system because it is alphabetic.”
The alphabetic system harmonizes with spoken language because it is based on it. “But the ideographic look-say system is in opposition to the spoken language because it is an entirely separate system of graphic symbols with no direct relation to any specific spoken language.”
When the look-say method of reading instruction was taken up as a device to reduce reading ability, the reigning themes were collectivism and behaviorism. Mass man. Man as trainable animal.
The look-say method had been researched by Soviet psychologist Alexsandr R. Luria, who worked in collaboration with American behaviorists. Luria in a book tells how he created “models of experimental neuroses which made possible an analysis of the laws lying at the basis of the disintegration of behavior.” He found that in tests on animals he could condition two reflexes on a collision course.
The eminent scholars of the day viewed reading not as a benefit, but as a liability. So declining literacy was not a problem, just a condition.
Tennessee’s alternative theory of dyslexia
Dyslexia comes not from a bankrupt teaching method, but is “a neurobiological condition in which the brain fails to read words or letters.” State law indicates dyslexia is rooted in biology. It orders the state department of education to work with “institutions of higher education to formally address dyslexia and similar reading disorders” by giving “educators and teachers” effective instruction “for teaching students with dyslexia using appropriate scientific research and brain-based multisensory intervention methods and strategies” TCA 49-6-3004(c)(1).
In 2014 Gov. Haslam signed a two-page measure that seems to accurately describe dyslexia as arising from the disconnect between the teaching of reading and letter sounds. “These difficulties typically result from a deficit in the phonological component of language that is often unexpected in relation to other cognitive abilities.”
Existing language doesn’t go far enough. Activists want more aggressive state intervention.
A new five-page bill, HB 2616 and SB 2635, creates a dyslexia advisory council and orders the DOE to create a “screening tool” for reading. The intervention program “includes phonological awareness, sound symbol association, syllable structure, morphology, syntax and semantics,” which seem to touch upon the solution to the problems caused by look-say. The bill was proposed by Decoding Dyslexia in TN, the group that won state government to its views in the 2014 law. It says dyslexia is a “language-based, neuro-biological learning disability, where people have difficulty with specific language skills, particularly reading, writing and spelling.”
Dyslexia is a deep mystery, and academic prowess is directed at unraveling it. Middle Tennessee State University operates a center for dyslexia in Murfreesboro. It adopts the National Institute for Child Health and Human Development argument that dyslexia is the student’s fault: “Dyslexia is a specific learning disability that is neurological in origin.” This language has been adopted by state government.
Before the 1930s dyslexia was unknown. In America’s colonial period, literacy was nearly universal.
Dyslexia has been turned into a political screen that keeps us from seeing the truth. The private sector in East Ridge led by home educators solved the reading problem 45 years ago, and there is no excuse for what clearly is pedagogical malpractice. Yes, functional illiteracy serves public and corporate interests that favor a tractable, compliant populace of consumers and debtors. But from the perspective of any Hamilton County student staggered by dyslexia and that student’s family, it’s a shame no remedy is close at hand.
— David Tulis hosts a show 9 to 11 a.m. weekdays at AM 1240 Hot News Talk Radio, covering local economy and free markets in Chattanooga and beyond. The show is live on YouTube at the hotnewstalkradio channel.
Sources: “Statewide Reading Initiative Designed to Nearly Double Reading Proficiency In Third Grade By 2025,” Chattanoogan.com, Feb. 16, 2016. http://www.chattanoogan.com/
Rudolph Flesch, Why Johnny Can’t Read (Reader’s Digest, 1985) 222 pp
Sam Blumenfeld, The New Illiterates (Boise, Idaho: Paradigm Co., 1973, 1988) 358 pp
Sam Blumenfeld, NEA: Trojan Horse in American Education (Boise,Idaho: Paradigm Co., 1984),283 pp. See pp 102-128
John Taylor Gatto, The Underground History of American Education; a Schoolteacher’s Intimate Investigation Into the Problem of Modern Schooling (New York: The Oxford Village Press, 2000)
The current dyslexia bill is at https://decodingdyslexiatn.
“Dyslexia is real bill,” in the Tennessee General Assembly as of 2014. http://www.tnida.org/docs/
Grace Tatter, “Tennessee rolls out sweeping literacy initiatives amid stagnant reading scores,” Aug. 20, 2015, Chalktalk http://tn.chalkbeat.org/2015/
“Tennessee Task Force on Student Testing and Assessment, Final Report, Tennessee Department of Education, September 2015
Holly Korbey “Why Recognizing Dyslexia In Children At School Can Be Difficult,” MindShift, Oct. 8, 2015. http://ww2.kqed.org/mindshift/