Sunday, April 27, 2008

Can Johnny's Granddaughter Read?

It seems like there are still always complaints about education, at least in America. In my day (the 1950's,) a scandalous book came out Why Johnny Can't Read.

It said that the reason for the problems many American children have reading is davka the modern teaching methods, memorizing words--rather than phonetics. In the last half a century, the "experts" have been unwilling to admit their mistakes and try all sorts of "combination methods." They insist that their method is good, even though results aren't.

Unfortunately, Israeli educators imitate every failed method, and even Hebrew, a totally phonetic language, has been taught non-phonetically in many schools for over 25 years. My 3rd daughter was lucky, because she was in the last year to learn the old way. When I tried warning the principal and teachers here, they ignored me. I wasn't a "real" teacher, and I had no pedagogic status or credentials.

It wasn't until a few "crops" of boys, who had learned the "new way," reached Bar Mitzvah and problems, remember this is Israel where Hebrew is the native tongue, learning how to read the Torah, when the authorities finally began to admit that "maybe something's wrong with the new method."

In today's schools, discipline and routine aren't what they once were, combining with innovative, rather than tried and true teaching methods, and the fact that kids (and teachers) sleep much less than pre-VCR/DVD and "open until midnight" malls and supermarkets "conspire" to make it very difficult to learn to their full potential.

I did my best to protect my kids from the "experts," and now I worry about my grandchildren.


Pesky Settler said...

It's been one of my pet peeves with how my husband chooses to learn Brachot and davening... rather than learning to read the words, he memorizes them when others sing/say them.

Unfortunately it means he doesn't recognize the words, he doesn't hear them clearly and therefore mispronounces them often, if the tune is different, he's up a creek and if they don't sing at all, he's totally lost.

muse said...

That's how many non-Hebrew knowledgable boys have been taught for Bar Mitzvah, memorize the "song" from the record, tape or whatever technology is available. It does its damage, and many adults can't take the leap from "singing" to reading.

Proper phonetic teaching from day one is the only prevention. Cures are hard to come by.