Teach Phonics, Not Politics

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Here we are. The ACLU is defending a clandestine curriculum that the media says does not actually exist. Teacher unions refuse to work, but given the curriculum, this might be a net gain for society. Some children — the kids in Flint — still can’t get back into the classroom and are forced to work on a computer until the end of days. The good news is that the end may not be too far down the road.

Public education will likely never recover. School choice will grow and education efficacy will return, but when the circus leaves towns, the clowns will remain. No one will view teachers or administrators the same. One on one, at the personal level, specific teachers and their communities will put the pieces back together. Unfortunately, the public at large will view teachers in general as charlatans, but perhaps it’s for the best. If teachers were still respected, then they could get away with teaching CRT under the cover of darkness or skirting the responsibilities of teaching basic skills.

Thomas Sowell warned America in “Inside American Education” (1991), but we didn’t listen to the warnings then because we don’t heed the warnings now. Sowell admonished teachers because they were not honoring their responsibilities and teaching the basics. Instead they were using unproven methods and practicing social engineering.

Thirty years later, students can’t spell racist, but they know they are one or how to accuse others of being one. Behind the cover of the ACLU and media, progresssive educators are not planning reading lessons. They’re designing McGruff the CRT crime dog to help kids snitch on wrong thinkers.

An old Chinese parable goes like this. The Emperor asks a painter, “What’s easy to paint and what’s hard?” The painter answers quickly, “Dogs are hard and demons are easy,” because demons are not real. You can paint a demon any which way and you cannot be wrong. Dogs are common and everyone knows what they look like — exactly what they look like. They’re not easy to get exactly right. Teaching made up contradictory Marxist theories is like painting a demon. There is no way to fail. Teaching a kid how to read is like painting a dog. We can keep score of that, and label you a bad painter. We have decades of data on dog painting, but we have very few Monets.

It is not easy to teach kids how to read, especially students from low-income households (newsflash, that’s about to be all of them, if things keep trending in the same direction). Teaching bogus theories based on feelings that don’t require a teacher to actually crack open a book is much easier. While teaching students to read isn’t easy, it’s not that difficult either. John Taylor Gatto points out in “Dumbing Us Down” (1991) that it only takes about 100 hours to learn to read effectively. Americans were far more literate in the previous three centuries and had far less access to reading materials and instruction

Some of us need to fight the CRT battle. Some of us need to push for school choice legislation and conservative education initiatives. Others need to win seats on school boards. But most of us — parents, teachers, administrators, and citizens — just need to teach the kids how to read.

In “Woke Racism,” John McWhorter sounds yet another alarm. He is concerned with the Elect, as he calls them —- Marxists, Applied Post-Modernists, or Neo-Racists —- but rather than spending the entire book contesting their ideas, he offers plans toward a better society. His ideas are not revolutionary. As a linguist, he’s been giving the same message for the last twenty years: teach phonics. Years ago, his message went against the conventional wisdom, but McWhorter held his ground, and eventually the progressives in education came around. They’ve accepted the mountains of data that have accumulated over the last three decades. Teaching the whole language method — especially to students from low income households — does not work, and teaching reading through phonics does.

Just ask yourself which plan has a better chance of creating a better society for everyone: Teaching highly subjective beliefs with the main tenet that to end discrimination one must actively discriminate, or teaching children how to read. It should trouble us all that some teachers will choose the former rather than the latter. The ACLU is fighting to protect CRT, while it knows that teaching CRT takes time away from reading instruction, an actual civil liberty of marginalized Americans. 

Pearce Dietrich
Pearce Dietrich is a former Title I School Teacher/Administrator. His online social studies curriculum and other content can be found at his blog theconstrainedvision.com