LISTSERV mailing list manager LISTSERV 16.0

Help for CASLL-L Archives


CASLL-L Archives

CASLL-L Archives


CASLL-L@LISTSERV.UTORONTO.CA


View:

Message:

[

First

|

Previous

|

Next

|

Last

]

By Topic:

[

First

|

Previous

|

Next

|

Last

]

By Author:

[

First

|

Previous

|

Next

|

Last

]

Font:

Proportional Font

LISTSERV Archives

LISTSERV Archives

CASLL-L Home

CASLL-L Home

CASLL-L  February 1997

CASLL-L February 1997

Subject:

Whole language and partial language

From:

Russ Hunt <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Thu, 20 Feb 1997 09:58:56 AST

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (90 lines)

When I saw the story Jamie refers to on the front page of the Grope
and Quail I went into a funk.  It got worse as I read Jamies's post
(which may well have been a troll: I'm never sure with Jamie, eh?).

Here's my take: Whole Language is a lost cause.  But this is not
because there's anything wrong with it at all.  Marcy's right, for
instance, it _includes_ phonics, and is not opposed to it: it's
language taken, studied, and learned _whole_, rather than considered
in fragments (Ken Goodman used to say he wasn't in favor of teaching
partial language).

What's happened, apparently, is that people who have (a) commitments
of one kind or another to the phonics industry (basal reader
merchants, test addicts, outcome-measurement control freaks, and on
and on, or (b) racial memories of catastrophes around "look-say"
methods of teaching reading, or (c) ideological reasons having to do
with power and control, have managed to gain the high ground by
repeatedly characterizing Whole Language and Phonics as "opposing
methods."  Then they define Whole Language as visual word
recognition (sort of like defining holistic medicine as acupuncture).

They then engage in the sort of "study" reported in the paper,
"proving" that acupuncture isn't as good as, say, physiotherapy.
The fact that what they've done has nothing to do with Whole
Language, and that the tests they use to measure things measure
nothing you or I would recognize as literacy, gets lost in the
shuffle as journalists and adminstrators rush to buy commercial
programs that guarantee results no matter how ignorant, underpaid and
unprofessional your teachers might be becoming as deskilling and
budget cuts take their toll.

What distressed me was that Canada's national newspaper put that
story on the front page.   It deserved no news coverage whatever. The
study was unpublished (except on the newswire), and thus unvetted.
What it defined as "Whole Language" was described as a method (it's
never been a method, but let that pass) which puts learners in a
position "to be exposed to whole words in context." What it _measured_
was word recognition ("one-third of those students had learned 2.5
words or fewer on a 50 word list"), not reading, writing, or
understanding.

The results were characterized this way: "ability to identify and
understand words."  How, I wonder, does one test this?  If you
define a language as a set of words, this might be a meaningful
measure.  No one but a linguist ever would, and even they now mostly
tend to define it (equally wrongly, in my view) as a set of
sentences.

The article also quotes one David Pesetsky, a linguist at MIT.  He
and the Massachusetts "Gang of 40" have been conducting a campaign
to make language instruction "scientific" as linguists define that
term for some years, asserting, among other things, that no really
"scientific" study of language has any social component.

(If you want to see a letter they wrote the Massachusetts state
education curriculum authority, it's on my web site, here, I think --

http://www.stthomasu.ca/hunt/gango40.htm

-- and it's far more incriminating than anything I could say about
their position.)

But.  It is clear to me that "Whole Language" is a lost cause.  When
that article gets to the front page of the Globe, it's a signal that
the media battle is over.  And when Jamie says, on the CASLL list,
that

> I have always assumed that a whole language approach has much to
> recommend it.  Over the years, however, I've noticed mounting
> evidence that phonics are apparently useful for many kids much of
> the time, and that a pure whole-language approach can have high
> costs.

-- I know it's lost.  There is _no such thing_ as a "pure" whole
language approach that doesn't include phonics: graphonemic cues are
part of language.  It's clear to me, though, that any teacher, at
whatever level, who wants to put meaning at the center of her
pedagogy, instead of decontextualized decoding skills, had damn well
better not call what she's doing "Whole Language."

                                        -- Russ

                                __|~_
Russell A. Hunt            __|~_)_ __)_|~_   Department of English
St. Thomas University      )_ __)_|_)__ __)  PHONE: (506) 4520644
Fredericton, New Brunswick   |  )____) |       FAX: (506) 450-9615
E3B 5G3   CANADA          ___|____|____|____/    [log in to unmask]
                          \                /
       ~~~~~~~~ http://www.StThomasU.ca/hunt/hunt.htm ~~~~~~~~

Top of Message | Previous Page | Permalink

Advanced Options


Options

Log In

Log In

Get Password

Get Password


Search Archives

Search Archives


Subscribe or Unsubscribe

Subscribe or Unsubscribe


Archives

March 2020
February 2020
January 2020
November 2019
October 2019
September 2019
August 2019
July 2019
June 2019
May 2019
April 2019
March 2019
February 2019
January 2019
November 2018
October 2018
September 2018
August 2018
May 2018
April 2018
March 2018
February 2018
January 2018
December 2017
November 2017
September 2017
June 2017
May 2017
April 2017
March 2017
February 2017
January 2017
December 2016
November 2016
October 2016
September 2016
August 2016
July 2016
June 2016
May 2016
April 2016
March 2016
February 2016
January 2016
December 2015
October 2015
September 2015
August 2015
July 2015
June 2015
May 2015
April 2015
March 2015
February 2015
January 2015
November 2014
October 2014
September 2014
August 2014
July 2014
June 2014
May 2014
April 2014
March 2014
February 2014
January 2014
December 2013
November 2013
October 2013
September 2013
June 2013
May 2013
April 2013
March 2013
January 2013
December 2012
November 2012
October 2012
September 2012
July 2012
June 2012
May 2012
April 2012
March 2012
February 2012
January 2012
December 2011
November 2011
October 2011
September 2011
August 2011
July 2011
June 2011
April 2011
March 2011
February 2011
January 2011, Week 1
January 2011
December 2010
October 2010
April 2010
February 2010
January 2010
November 2009
October 2009
September 2009
August 2009
July 2009
June 2009
April 2009
March 2009
February 2009
January 2009
December 2008
November 2008
October 2008
September 2008
August 2008
July 2008
June 2008
May 2008
April 2008
March 2008
February 2008
January 2008
December 2007
November 2007
October 2007
September 2007
August 2007
July 2007
June 2007
May 2007
April 2007
March 2007
February 2007
January 2007
December 2006
November 2006
October 2006
September 2006
August 2006
July 2006
June 2006
May 2006
April 2006
March 2006
February 2006
January 2006
December 2005
November 2005
October 2005
September 2005
August 2005
July 2005
June 2005
May 2005
April 2005
March 2005
February 2005
January 2005
December 2004
November 2004
October 2004
September 2004
August 2004
July 2004
June 2004
May 2004
April 2004
March 2004
February 2004
January 2004
December 2003
November 2003
October 2003
September 2003
August 2003
July 2003
June 2003
May 2003
April 2003
March 2003
February 2003
January 2003
December 2002
November 2002
October 2002
September 2002
August 2002
July 2002
June 2002
May 2002
April 2002
March 2002
February 2002
January 2002
December 2001
November 2001
October 2001
September 2001
August 2001
July 2001
June 2001
May 2001
April 2001
March 2001
February 2001
January 2001
December 2000
November 2000
October 2000
September 2000
August 2000
July 2000
June 2000
May 2000
April 2000
March 2000
February 2000
January 2000
December 1999
November 1999
October 1999
September 1999
August 1999
July 1999
June 1999
May 1999
April 1999
March 1999
February 1999
January 1999
December 1998
November 1998
October 1998
September 1998
August 1998
July 1998
June 1998
May 1998
April 1998
March 1998
February 1998
January 1998
December 1997
November 1997
October 1997
September 1997
August 1997
July 1997
June 1997
May 1997
April 1997
March 1997
February 1997
January 1997
December 1996
November 1996
October 1996
September 1996
August 1996
July 1996
June 1996
May 1996
April 1996
March 1996
February 1996
January 1996
December 1995
November 1995
October 1995
September 1995
August 1995
July 1995
June 1995
May 1995
April 1995
March 1995
February 1995
January 1995

ATOM RSS1 RSS2



LISTSERV.UTORONTO.CA

CataList Email List Search Powered by the LISTSERV Email List Manager