PhonicsCommentary by Pete du Pont
February 06, 1997
Host intro: Yesterday, commentator Pete du Pont had good news on the education front from Minnesota. Today, it comes from California.
Good news two days in a row? This is going to ruin my reputation.
First, though, a test.
Let's say you're eight years old. You barely know the alphabet. I show you the word "physician."
Ok, pronounce it.
Fye-sick'-ee-uhn? Puh-hi-sigh'-kine? Piz'-ick-i'-an?
Welcome to whole language.
Whole language is the method which holds that children who aren't given basic rules about pronunciation can figure out words just by looking at them. It's like building a house with bricks and no mortar. It's responsible, in large part, for low reading scores nationwide. I can't do any better than to tell you how its supporters describe it: "child-centered, reflective, social, collaborative, democratic." In other words, trendy, political, mushminded and useless. And worse: a key element is "invented spelling." Rather than bruise tender egos, teachers let children spell words any way they want.
The good news?
Two years after tying with Louisiana for the worst reading scores in the country, California's junking it. The state passed a law requiring textbooks to use the reliable, challenging, tested phonics method to teach reading.
Or, for those of you schooled in whole language, puh-hone'-icks.
Those are my ideas, and at the NCPA we know ideas can change the world. I'm Pete du Pont, and I'll see you tomorrow.
Host outro: Coming up Friday, Pete du Pont explains why Washington is forcing your insurance rates up.