I have had several responses to my "I hate whole language" post, and I figured that I would respond in a post instead of in the comments.
It is probably no secret that I am a "DI" and phonics advocate, and have a
huge small prejudice against whole language based upon my experiences with my four school age kids.
I am sure that D-EdReckoning and Nancy Creech will cover the issue much more in depth when they debate the issue on Edspresso next month, but I did want to address some of the points made by my commenter's.
I suppose one of biggest issues with whole language, is that no one seems to be able to articulate it with any great precision. As near as I can figure out, the one common theme among "whole language" advocates is that whole language teachers play an active part in tailoring their techniques to individual children. They use their expertise and experience to identify and address weaknesses. Many might use phonics as a teaching tool, but its only one of many tools to help the child learn how to read.
Mobility61 asks me this:
What kind of teacher would you want for your child? Would you prefer one who is a critical thinker, with a vast store of knowledge of literacy learning and an ability to use any available resource, who is also a learner that is constantly researching and updating her repertoire; or a teacher who follows a teacher's manual and puts children through a series of lessons prescribed by some publishing company far away? To me that seems like a no-brainer.Rhetorical questions are often a great way to make a point, but occasionally it backfires. D-Edreckonings post on Zig Englemanns unpublished book on Project Follow Through has a great passage that answers this question.
The senior reading teacher and guru in one of our schools instigated an argument with me about reading—what it was, and how best to teach it. In the best cocktail-party style, we were polite, and the small group surrounding us was intent. The teacher’s premise was that the creativeness of teachers should not be trammeled by a lockstep program, like DI. She was well read, and quoted the literature with flourish. After the discussion went on for possibly ten minutes, one of our first-year teachers from the same school interrupted and ended the argument.And I guess this sums up my greatest problem with whole language. It relies on teacher expertise, and I quite frankly am skeptical about the expertise of teachers.
She said, “Angie, you know more about reading than I’ll ever know. You know linguistics, and all those theories I don’t understand. All I know how to do is follow the program. I do what it tells me to do in black type, and I say what it tells me to say in red type. But Angie, my kids read better than your kids, and you know it.
Meanwhile, eceteacher comments:
It is the enemies of WL, and some poor teachers who call themselves WL, who've made up all this business about not teaching phonics... now think about it; leaving out phonics would make it Part Language, wouldn't it????As I have already mentioned, whole language advocates can't even agree among themselves about what whole language really is. It seems to me that any pedagogy that can't even accurately define itself is by definition already doomed to failure.
The enemy here is undereducated teachers, ones who don't use all their skills but instead grab hold of one technique (phonics could be the one) and think that will work for everyone. As someone who has taught hundreds of children to read, let me assure you that phonics alone will not bring about literacy, and, worse, it will not help children to love to read.
It seems a little unfair to us as parents to accept the premise that we should entrust ourselves to teachers who can't even articulate a standard method to teaching. Our schools then become nothing more than a crap-shoot... maybe your kid will end up with a good teacher, maybe they won't. Truth be told, this is exactly the same situation we are in now.
At least the "DI" school can define standards and accurately evaluate their teachers. It may be ugly, but I prefer ugly and effective to beautiful and failing.
I will leave with one final word, if whole language is the answer then "show me the numbers".