K–12: Ten Lies Teachers Tell You

By Bruce Deitrick Price series #7

May 4, 2020

Hopefully, no one will forget our debt to Rudolf Flesch.  He was a great man with a great mind.

Almost forty years ago, Flesch published Why Johnny STILL Can’t Read, wherein he continued his crusade against Whole Word (AKA Whole Language, Sight-Words, and other aliases).  In this book, Flesch attacked the Education Establishment and its counterfeit merchandise in a unique way.  He pointed out that all the things the professors assert most loudly and proudly are nothing but alibis — a polite way of saying lies.

Has there ever been a field, in all of human history, that could be best defined by its alibis and lies?  And not just a few of them.  There are ten big ones.  Identifying and illuminating them are where Flesch’s genius shone.

Our Education Establishment, in its dedication to falsity, is almost superhuman.  After all these years, these people are still pushing the same inferior theories and methods.  Their gimmicks are disproven by almost all research and experience.  These faux reading experts can do nothing but build a case on lies.

The Education Establishment tells these lies because its partisans know that the public wants desperately to believe they are true.  The educrats are happy to let you have your illusions, as these are the intellectual basis for their dumbing down of America.

The first lie is “Everything Is Hunky-Dory.”  Isn’t that comforting and reassuring?  Parents with kids who can hardly read a word are naturally worried and nervous.  Teachers, in many different ways, are trained to say everything is perfect, your child is on track to be a lifelong reader, don’t worry.

The next lie is “We Do Teach Phonics.”  The context here is that parents hear how other schools teach reading and ask teachers, What about phonics?  Sometimes the teachers will claim that phonics doesn’t work.  But the parents might know more than the teachers.  Then it’s simpler to say, Of course we teach phonics.  The professors might concoct debased versions of phonics (e.g., intrinsic or analytic), or they cripple phonics with counterproductive details, so children get phonics in name only.

Another way to undermine the claimed superiority of phonics is to say, “No One Method Is Best.”  Probably this lie has been uttered billions of times because it’s handy in so many situations.  If parents have a good argument for anything, the teacher dismisses it by creating a promiscuous justification for everything else.

The next lie is used like a flamethrower throughout the reading wars.  Professors of education disdainfully sneer that phonics is a moot point, as “English Isn’t Phonetic.”  Flesch did his own calculations and concluded that English is about 97% phonetic.  Other experts suggest similar or higher numbers.  But every English word, even if irregular, is still phonetic.  You would need a word like XY4Z, pronounced “sailboat,” to have genuinely non-phonetic language.  English has nothing like that, and the professors know it.

Notice, by the way, how simple and comforting these ten lies are.  They are all in the great tradition of “the check is in the mail” and “I’ll still love you in the morning.”  There’s no way to look at the verbiage and know whether it’s a lie.  You have to depend on the speaker’s honesty.  Good luck in K–12.

This next one is sick: “Word Calling Isn’t Reading.”  A version of this claims that when children read successfully what’s on the page, it’s not reading; it’s only “barking at print.”  In other words, your kid, the best reader in his class, is only a dog.  Reading words quickly off the page is precisely the first step toward real literacy.  That’s why the professors try to stop it with this silly sophistry.  Note that if adults read a paragraph by Hegel or Heidegger, they might not be able to explain precisely what the gnarly philosophers mean.  Don’t make a sophistry out of less than perfect comprehension.

Your Child Isn’t Ready” is what school officials tell parents if a child is less than literate.  This tricks the parents into backing off and waiting a few years.  A simple lie buys time, maybe several years during which the child might learn nothing at all.

“Your Child Is Disabled” means there is some problem in the kid’s brain, not in the school’s approach.  Again, this lie buys time, provides an endless alibi for malpractice, and takes everyone’s mind off the real instructional problems in our elementary schools.  For example, a diagnosis of dyslexia is the all-purpose explanation for bad readers.  As the Church Lady says, “How convenient.”

“It’s the Parents’ Fault.”  As soon as Sight-Words were introduced and children began to falter, psychiatrists came up with convoluted ways to blame the parents — obviously, they were irresponsible, alcoholic, fighting in the home, abusing the children, not preparing a wholesome home environment, not treating the medical problems which children most likely have, ad nauseam.

“Too Much TV” is a common excuse.  Flesch decided that many kids are watching TV not because they really want to, but because nobody taught them how to read. 

“We Now Teach All Children” suggested a racist explanation for schools failing.  School officials point out that lots of minorities are in the schools now, and they can’t handle real literacy, so averages will fall. 

The ten alibis/lies are still the essence of how the Education Establishment created an artificial reading crisis.  Happily, it’s easy to fix.  Get rid of Sight-Words.  Make phonics the default method for reading instruction.

Bruce Deitrick Price’s new book is Saving K–12: What happened to our public schools? How do we fix them?  Price deconstructs educational methods at Improve-Education.org.

3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Chris
    Aug 18, 2020 @ 23:51:50

    Mr. Flesch would be happy with some of what is going on in my state, Arkansas. In the past few years, I’ve had to take professional development courses (to keep my teaching credential) called the “Science of Reading.” It is, basically, a return to real phonics teaching in the classroom. I think Arkansas was getting fed up with being near the bottom of the barrel when it came to national reading scores and they were willing to do ANYTHING (phonics in this case) to chance that. I certainly hope the intention was to help children with their reading skills and not just a goal of raising test scores. Obviously, those teachers who do care for their students are happy with the change.
    The lies mentioned in this article are also real and lies only always make things worse. Most of them are created by administrators who encourage, at times, teachers to mimic them.
    At the same time, a good amount of K-12 teachers are doing their best in difficult times to teach. Kids are bringing more “baggage” to school than ever before. So many of them have a hard time concentrating in school when their lives at home are a mess. Dr. Kevin Leman, an internationally known Christian psychologist, states in one of his videos: “It used to be that parents had lots of children. Now, children have lots of parents.” With all of the dramatic impact that comes with the breakup of the family (as God instituted it), children struggle. And then there are all of the other ungodly influences in our day.
    When you compare the 8th grade final test of 1900 with the ones that kids take today, there is no question that everything is NOT “Hunky-Dory.” There are so many reasons why this is the case,“some of them are the lies mentioned in this article.”

    Reply

  2. Mannyr
    Aug 21, 2020 @ 20:03:32

    Somehow i feel like the test scores are the real goal here. Far to many lies is for sure a bad road. Administrators get my backside up. I have lived here since 1977 my children grew up here. We lived out in Tonopah 50 miles from Metro Phoenix. A farming community with a real wonderful grammar school with genuine values.
    The value was in the parents who took their children’s education seriously as workers at Palo Verde nuclear plant and a plain vanilla school that worked at true values. To my knowledge the administrators were were not high salaried.
    In Phoenix that was not the case which was and still is a mess.
    I agree with Dr. Leman and his statement which is very sad to say the least.
    We cannot escape the lie infested indoctrination which has been brewing for 50-60 years across our country. It has the potential to ruin our nation.
    My oldest daughter had three sons one of which insisted to go to U.C. Berkeley i of course told her and she agreed with me it was a sewer for a wonderful Christian young man to attend. (chasing an ex girl friend). His goal was to be Neurosurgeon and had qualified for UCB. My daughter and i drove with him to Berkeley. One year later he fell to his death from a drug high. So sad a beautiful young man with a great life awaiting him. He is sorely missed.

    Reply

    • Chris
      Aug 24, 2020 @ 23:51:45

      I am sorry to hear about your grandson, Manny. Who knows how many lies may have contributed to his death.
      I know that there are many school districts that teach “to the test.” Some of them have a main goal of higher test scores. It’s sad.
      When I moved to Arkansas, even though many children didn’t score high on tests, my kids did. We always read to my daughter and son as they were growing and I think it helped. My wife supplemented what was going on at school with interesting learning tools at home. It also didn’t hurt that they got her brain. She was the one with the very high GPA in college.
      The reason I mention small town Arkansas is that I bet it was much like Tonopah. I thought I’d died and gone to heaven when, at my first football game watching my daughter in the band, they said a prayer “In Jesus Name” before the National anthem.
      Sadly, in the past 25 years that I have lived here, the values are slipping but I guess that’s happening everywhere.
      Thanks again for a very timely post.

      Reply

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