How Schools Cause Dyslexia
Dyslexia is not a real disease. It is simply the result of using a bad method of teaching reading. This is how the opening of a popular children’s book would look, to a child who has memorized all 220 of the “Dolch words” and the 95 additional common sight words but does not know how to sound words out.
This is the real text. Notice that a child who knows how to sound words out would be able to figure out practically all of these words.
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
Dorothy lived in the midst of the great Kansas Prairies, with her Uncle Henry, who was a farmer, and her Aunt Em, who was the farmer’s wife.
For generations, powerful people have been promoting the sight word method. They claim that it helps children learn to “read for meaning” and to enjoy literature. Yet children cannot understand or enjoy a book that they cannot read.
Can You Understand This?
Can you put the following text into your own words?
When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
Classics professor David Mulroy asked students at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, to rewrite that sentence in their own words. To his shock and dismay, none of his students seemed to recognize the sentence. Only a small minority understood what it meant: that if you are breaking a political tie, you should explain why you are doing so. (The sentence is the opening sentence of the Declaration of Declaration of Independence.) Most students thought that the sentence was about a romantic breakup, or that it had something to do with religion or the environment.
Mulroy believes that the problem is the result of the neglect of grammar in our public schools. The students did not know how to identify the main clause of the sentence. (Few of the students even know what a clause is!) So instead of analyzing what the sentence actually says, the students were free-associating on some of the more colorful words in the sentence. This goes far toward explaining the current breakdown in communications in American society. Even many college students have not mastered some basic skills that should have been taught to them in seventh grade. As a result, they are not really ready for college-level work. Nor are they ready to take part in ordinary political discussions.
This form of higher illiteracy among college students is no accident. It is the predictable result of some education policies that we have been told are progressive. In the name of Progressive education, teachers have been told to stop teaching grammar. They have been told that grammar lessons do no good and are probably even harmful. Yet students who have never studied grammar have the following serious problems:
- Poor reading comprehension
- Poor writing skills
- Problems with logical thinking
- Problems with moral reasoning
- Difficulty in learning foreign languages
Many of these problems can be solved by teaching students the eight parts of speech and a few simple rules of English syntax. Like all language skills, these concepts are easiest to learn in childhood. They should be taught to all children in elementary and middle school. Yet they have been suppressed, for polibical reasons.
The Great Dumbing Down
There are three basic approaches to education. One is to teach everyone. The other two approaches are designed to keep the powerless from learning too much.
Education for Freedom
Democracy was invented in ancient Greece. So was the kind of education the prepares people for democracy. No man in ancient Athens was rich enough to hire a standing army to take control of the city-state. A man like Pericles could become powerful only if he could persuade the men of military age to support him voluntarily. For this reason, most of the important decisions in ancient Athens were made in public, in open discussions. Other Greeks referred to this system as democracy, which meant mob rule. Yet democracy can work well if people are civilized.
The ancient Greeks coined the word democracy. They also developed away to train people to take part in democracy. The purpose of this training was to prepare a young man for citizenship. It would help him become a good citizen during wartime and a good companion during peacetime.The Romans called these studies the liberal arts, because they were appropriate for freeborn men (liberi) but not for slaves (servi). The classical liberal arts education consists of seven subjects. The three verbal arts were called the Trivium. The four arts of number, space and time were called the Quadrivium.
Grammar is the study of how words are altered and combined to form meaningful sentences in a particular language. Human beings are the only species that can understand the concepts of grammar. That is why human beings can talk but chimpanzees cannot, not even in sign language. You need to master the basics of grammar before you can begin to study logic.
Logic is the study of how to combine sentences to form arguments. By studying logic, you learn how you can use some facts to figure out other facts. You need to learn the basics of logic before you begin to study rhetoric.
Rhetoric is the art of persuasion. (Oratory is the art of persuasive speech.) By studying rhetoric, you learn how to persuade other people. You also learn how to make better decisions. Aristotle taught that there are three means of persuasion: logos, ethos, and pathos.
Logos means an appeal to facts and reason.
Ethos means an appeal to character, such as the honesty of a witness. Ethos becomes important when you have to rely on other people’s testimony or opinions.
Pathos means feelings. You need to deal with feelings whenever you are dealing with questions of right and wrong, and questions about what you want or don’t want.
Mathematics is the study of number. Mathematics began as a way for wealthy people tokeep track of the cattle and other goods that they owned.
Geometry is the study of number and space. It was first developed in Egypt, because people had to keep redrawing lot lines on farm land after the annual flooding of the Nile.
Music is the study of number and time. Music has social and military purposes. The best way to move a large army through a smallspace is to get them to march in time.
Astronomy is the study of number, space, and time. It is needed for making accurate calendars, for farming and other purposes.
Education for the Ruling Class
The so-called Dark Ages were dark because people in western Europe stopped reading the great works of Greek and Roman literature. The rediscovery of these works led to a rebirth (Renaissance) of civilization. During the Renaissance, some of the wealthy families of northern Italy started to develop a new appreciation for education. They started studying a set of subjects that would help their sons and daughters learn to have productive and pleasant conversations about important subjects. These studies were called the humanities. They included history, philosophy, languages, literature, and art.