Reading & Literacy Opinion


By Deborah Meier — March 07, 2007 1 min read
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Dear Diane,

Glad to hear you are of two minds about this “scientifically-proven” stuff that the Bush administration is so fond of touting when it comes to K-12 schooling. To pursue the point a bit.

Why do I think the Bush Administration claim to stand for science when it comes to teaching reading to be nonsense? Since being well educated rests, I’d argue, on respect for credible evidence and learning from the past it would seem I’d count Bush as an ally. (I would perhaps chuckle at the irony that the Bushites require obedience to “scientific evidence” when it comes to prescribing how Johnny learns to read but not the scientific consensus on global warming, or the origins of the species.)

So why do I cringe every time I hear that phrase? Because there is nothing comparable in the science or consensus behind the research on learning to read that should allow the Federal government to dictate particular publisher products to the nation’s schools, nor ever likely to be. It’s dumbing down Science. Even in the field of medicine or related fields like nutrition we are more humble about the role of science. When I showed three highly regarded doctors my x-rays, described my symptoms and underwent an examination not long ago, I got more than one opinion. In the end, despite my enormous respect for the profession, I had to exercise my judgment. Good doctors are, furthermore, aware that individuals differ and what’s best for x may not for y. Unlike the Fed’s understanding of reading research.

Fortunately Big Brother doesn’t dictate that overweight people buy specific brand-named diet cures, or that we outlaw coffee one year and then require it the next based on the latest Science research. Yet defining and measuring good reading is more, not less complex than losing weight, or testing the impact of coffee. For some odd reason when it comes to the teaching of reading we have allowed the Department of Education to exercise the power of the purse to dictate which reading methods we buy, in the name of Science!


(p.s. It would help if teachers had the professional time to be the wisest professionals they could be, still I’m not prepared to substitute the wisdom of those who do not know my kids at all for the school’s judgment and mine.)

The opinions expressed in Bridging Differences are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.