Schrock-Taylor: Just Stop Teaching Reading

Once again, Metropolis Café returns to its roots – the ‘Village of the Damned’ so to speak. Shortly after The Federal Observer went on-line in July of 2001, we began posting columns from a very accomplished, learned and opinionated (rightfully) teacher – Linda Shrock-Taylor. Linda is now retired, but her words and her ‘lessons’ have not retired. We are thankful to still have a selection of her archives and will continue to post them on this site. After all – her words are the KEY to the future. ~ J.B.

Hear ye, hear ye! The 2009 award for the most Stupid Educational Fad goes to all schools where spelling is no longer being taught; with special “Fickle Finger of Failure” prizes to administrators, school boards, state school boards, departments of education, and all others who believe that teachers should officially stop teaching spelling as if trashing of the last vestige of actual academic instruction in America should be celebrated.

I suggest that in the last 50 years, American public schools have not taught enough spelling to even make a ‘stoppage’ worthy of media coverage. Instead of making announcements, these criminals should sign confessions down at their local police departments. Frankly, schools have long been attempting to hide their educational crimes of omission, and of teacher inefficiency, by forcing students to memorize lists of spelling words for Friday tests.

The schools should put an end to the counterproductive foolishness that passes for ‘reading instruction‘ and use their time instead to only teach spelling. My mother (who taught school until she was 72 years old) is accurate when she states that “those children, who do learn to read in today’s schools, learn in spite of the instruction.” Nothing else accounts for the few children who escape, actually literate, from the ever-deepening rot that has taken over academics in this nation. Massachusetts had a literacy rate of 98 percent until they opened public schools. Their literacy rates have been in free-fall since then, and the other 49 states blindly leaped for the band wagon – but to their academic deaths, as well.

Teacher-training (LOL) professors; school administrators; local school boards; state school boards; state and federal Departments of Education, I need your attention. The language of America – English, for those who have forgotten – is written in a CODE and the only way to learn how to read and write anything written in that CODE is to first learn how to SPELL. Musical performers and creators learn to read and write the Code in which music is written. Dancers and choreographers learn to read and write the Code in which movement can be recorded. Stenographers used to learn to read and write shorthand notation which also is a Code. When schools lost the teachers who understood the importance of, and how to teach spelling – real education came to a standstill. Schools no longer are capable of teaching students how to Encode, or how to Decode, the Code In Which English is Recorded.

A moment, please, to defend young teachers because they have lost out twice – once in the K-12 schools of their youth, and again with the nothingness that they learned in teacher-training programs. They paid tuition to be trained as effective teachers. (Can anyone imagine an accountant who cannot account receiving a college degree?) Unfortunately, college professors are usually so busy theorizing or developing new fads to foist upon the mis-education culture, that they have little to teach; and almost no focus from which to teach. Furthermore, they have little-to-no-effective teaching experience of their own because, frankly, teachers learn more in the first three to five years of teaching than they get taught to their students. To ‘train’ future teachers, one only is expected to have a research PhD and 3-4 years of teaching. (Remember, those first teaching years are only partially effective.)

For teachers who have taught more than five ineffective years but still carry on as usual; refusing to acknowledge and learn missing skills; ignoring blatant failure and suffering students – shame on you. There are libraries. There is the Internet. There is Spalding International. There are my articles. There is no excuse for stubbornness and laziness. Such teachers spend their days NOT teaching children to read, spell, and learn, but happily collect unearned paychecks and ask for raises. They are destroying lives with each day of fraudulent instruction.

Our jails and prisons are filled with 1st-3rd grade readers. Our welfare rolls are filled with the same. How can we expect adults to be fully self-sufficient and lead families with wisdom, in a technical culture, if our schools cannot and will not teach them to read, write, spell, and learn knowledge? If America’s educational mess is not cleaned up ASAP, there will be no future for our nation; for our people; for our Rights and Freedoms. We must start changing local policies today. My mission is to teach Michigan to read; to again retake the leadership position that it held back when I was in school in the Sixties; back when Michigan and California led the nation. Please join me.

Massachusetts had a literacy rate of 98 percent until they opened public schools.

Learn to teach systematic, methodical encoding of the English language. The term for that is ‘Spelling.’ If schools must drop anything, they should drop reading lessons in order to more perfectly teach spelling lessons. Buy The Writing Road to Reading by Romalda Spalding. Order a set of the Spalding phono/gram (Greek for sound/write) cards. Learn how to carefully teach students of all ages to Encode (put into code = Spell) and Decode (take from code = Read) English. Use precise pronunciation and expect the same from your students of all ages.

Why are Hispanic and black children failing to learn to read and spell? They lack precision with their pronunciation of English! There is too much of a breakdown – a disconnect – when a child says ‘baf room’ while trying to write or read the word ‘bathroom.’ We do children great harm when we accept dialects and slang as a substitute for Standard English. The Code for English is based upon Standard English. I explain to my students that in my home we call whipped cream, ‘creama-whippa‘ because that was how my very deaf brother pronounced the name for that product. However – never do we go to the grocery store and ask for Creama-Whippa! Never do we expect the people of America to accept our mis-speak as real English. Dialect is fine for use within family circles and subcultures but when teachers, parents, and the nation allow dialect and slang to take the place of properly-spoken English, educational failure is the Expected Outcome! Politically Correct has turned schools into crime-filled places – CAPPP – Crimes against Pupils, Parents, Public.

Toss out textbooks that fail to teach children to read, spell, write. Replace them with the $5.40 readers from Spalding. Think about this: of all businesses, only textbook publishers get rich by selling products that fail. Why does America tolerate such an anti-economically-sensible and educationally-destructive situation? Textbook sales representative to school official: We know that our 103rd edition failed to teach your students to read, but if your district will only buy our new, bigger, more expensive, flashier 104th edition, your students might learn to read this time. Oh, BTW, we sell failing fuzzy math books, also. Crashing math scores, anyone?

Demand that your districts invest in products that work, like those from non-profit Spalding International. Demand that your districts hire Spalding trainers to do what the colleges failed to accomplish train teachers to effectively instruct. I promise, teachers will learn more in two weeks of Spalding training than they would learn in years spent at most of today’s university teacher-training programs.

School decision makers, if you are unwilling to follow my advice to teach spelling, and then just stop teaching reading, also. You are wasting everyone’s time and money while you turn America into a mass of illiterates. Instead, direct your teachers to spend every day reading aloud to the classes. Students can use their auditory skills and so learn a wealth of vocabulary, concepts, and facts in order to develop a wide general knowledge base. For full-time oral reading of increasingly more challenging texts, the public would finally gain from the money spent on teachers’ salaries. Students would exit school as educated individuals; as complete, whole human beings. America owes our children at least that much.

Submitted to Kettle Moraine, Ltd. Publications for publication by the author. Previously published on the Federal Observer, December 31, 2009.

~ About the Author ~
Linda Schrock Taylor, M.A. taught special education for 35 years in public schools. Now retired from teaching, she concentrated on her her book for reclaiming lives, Rapid Reading Remediation. In additon, Linda once ran for Governor of Michigan on a platform for A Constitutional & Literate Michigan. (U.S. Taxpayers Party of Michigan, a branch of The Constitution Party).

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