Saturday, July 28, 2012
Bob Rose has been my on-line friend for about 5 years now. He was born in 1938 0n Long Island, in a suburb of New York City.
He graduated from New York University in 1963 (when I was only 11 years old), and after two years as a navy medical officer in Guam, he became a board certified medical internist and practised solo medicine (mostly geriatrics) on eastern Long Island for 27 years.
In 1996 he retired and moved to Georgia (presently in the Appalachian town of Jasper) to be nearer to his first son and grand children.
I commend Luqman for his belief that fluency in the acquisition of knowledge is a central idea of great importance when it comes to improving the education of youth in our schools. Lord knows why professional education professors haven't already explored this concept; but that's their problem, not ours.
I've always been interested in improving education, and eventually came to the conclusion that lack of fluency in reading and maths is the reason why so many children in this world are failing to get "world class" educations.
The fact that I'm a retired physician with a special background in neurology and neuroanatomy, combined with my acquaintance with an expert in artificial intelligence and computer science, as well as the fact that our second son (now a successful intellectual) was considered "dyslexic" as a child all contributed to my ability to have the ideas I'm about to describe.
During the 2002-3 school year I went on-line and recruited a group of five "whole language" teachers to time how quickly it took their first-graders to write the alphabet, and found that practically all could read when they had practised enough to be able to write the alphabet at a minimum rate of 40 letters per minute. I took these 100 students to be a "control" group.
The following school year (2003-4) I started my own listserv and recruited five kindergarten teachers willing to check this fact empirically. By February of 2004 the results were very obvious. Virtually all of the kids who could handwrite the alphabet at 40 LPM were reading with good comprehension.
I immediately wrote up our findings and submitted the manuscript for publication. But no journal would publish it, no doubt because our findings were so contrary to the popular wisdom. I will email an MS Word file of this paper to anyone who requests it. My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org
It has also been found that second-graders able to give more than 40 correct answers per minute on simple addition facts (like 6 + 8 = 14) virtually never have maths or science problems thereafter.
One of these days, John Dewey's idea that "kids should only learn what they want to learn" will become obsolete. As Luqman believes, fluency at the basics is foundation of future world education reform.
I'll end with a word about "phonics". I don't believe in "phonics", which assumes that kids must learn an alphabetic "code". Such a code doesn't exist for English spellings, and in spite of the wishes of many, spelling reform in English is not going to happen.
For example, what is the "sound" of "ch" in "Chicago" or "yacht"?
On the other hand, what I call "the alphabetic principal", or "phonetics" is imperative in the pursuit of literacy.
The question should not be "what phoneme does this grapheme represent?", but rather "What does it represent in THIS PARTICULAR WORD". Children can learn writing, spelling, "phonemic awareness" and reading with comprehension all simultaneously if they learn to write the words in their vocabularies while saying to themselves the appropriate sound of each grapheme written.