Instruction in reading that ignores phonics serves...


November 27, 2001

Instruction in reading that ignores phonics serves children poorly

Thanks for Howard Libit's article on the audacious tenacity of whole language advocates ("Whole language teachers unabashed, hanging tough," Nov. 17).

As The Sun reports, whole language is nationally discredited. Overwhelming evidence shows the lack of emphasis on correct spelling, phonics, grammar and word usage has been an abject failure.

Yet educators such as Bess Altwerger persist in pursuing their agenda by clouding the issue with semantics. Buried beneath such sophistry are two unfortunate realities: that a lot of what children learn "naturally" is not sufficiently corrected (if at all) by whole language and that such an anti-rigorous "philosophy" is simply a lot easier for teachers to adhere to.

Kudos to The Sun for exposing whole language for the sham that it is and to state schools Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick for rejecting it.

Maryanne Budnichuk


"Whole language teachers unabashed, hanging tough" (Nov. 17) describes the sorriest, saddest, most fatuous argument in all of education.

We now know how humans learn to translate print into speech. This knowledge came through countless studies and with the help of technology that allows researchers to photograph eye movements and scan brains in the act of reading.

One wonders how teachers' colleges ignore it. And why they insist on continuing to send uninformed teachers into first-grade, prepared only to place the blame for not learning to read on the six-year-olds themselves -- those who haven't learned by whole language methods.

Sara M. Porter


Arguments over reading ignore needs of students

In all the rhetoric about the "phonics" Vs. "whole language" approaches to teaching reading, I have not seen anyone make a point I have found critical to working with students for more than 30 years.

Each student is an individual with a unique learning style. No one method is going to work for all students all the time. I found that many students benefit from using techniques from both approaches.

Let's refocus the energy used in debating whether phonics or whole language is the single best answer.

Let's focus on individual student needs and teach with both approaches and an ability to know when to use one, or the other or both.

Lucille Z. Ikeler


The writer is former English teacher in the Baltimore County Public Schools.

Use books, not movies, to teach value of tolerance

While I admire teacher Nancy Shay's mission to "teach kids tolerance in an increasingly multicultural country," I question using movies to do so ("Using films to study ethnic stereotypes," Nov. 17).

Ms. Shay is an English teacher, and English teachers ought to be using books, not movies, to teach kids tolerance and expose them to new ideas and different viewpoints. She could begin with To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee or A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry.

Perhaps too much classroom movie-viewing and not enough exposure to good literature is contributing to poor student performance. Ms. Shay and teachers everywhere should encourage their students to pick up a good book.

Virginia Kline


Poor pension benefits worsen teacher shortage

The allegation that the performance of the state's pension system ranks last among supposedly similar pension systems has sparked great controversy throughout the state ("Changes in pension system forseen," Nov. 16).

However, the fact that Maryland's teacher pension system ranks last in the nation in the benefits it provides employees gets nary a mention.

It's common knowledge that Maryland faces a burgeoning teacher shortage. And the worst pension benefits in the country do little to attract and retain quality public school teachers. Significant and timely action must be taken.

Mark Beytin


The writer is president of the Teachers Association of Baltimore County.

Stand up for the veterans who stood up for freedom

At our time of need, we turn to our military. We need to stand up for them, and for those who served in the past.

We need to speak to those holding government office and see that they stand up for our veterans by making sure veterans' programs get the funding need.

These people gave us so much and ask for so little. We promised them their needs would be taken care of.

Remember, freedom comes at a high price. We honor the ones who gave their lives by serving the living.

William B. Rau III


Cutting corporate taxes fattens everyone's wallet

There is no faster way to put money in circulation than not to take it out of consumers' pockets in the first place ("Don't cut corporate tax," letters, Nov. 17).

Corporations, unlike the government do not have printing presses to make money. Every bit of their money comes from their customers. The politicians like this, because most of us do not know that we are paying the corporations' taxes.

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