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Book: The Whole Language/OBE Fraud
Posted: Mon Feb 19, 2007 12:57 pm
The Whole Language /OBE Fraud by Samuel Blumenfeld, published by Paradigm (1996) -my copy obtained through Abebooks.
Warning: This book has strong Christian conservative overtones and readers may find some of the content annoying, possibly even offensive.
In chapter seven Blumenfeld discusses Huey’s 1908 book ‘The psychology and pedagogy of reading’. ‘The significance of the book is that it signalled the take over of the primary school curriculum by the psychologists who then proceeded to scientifically analyse the 3 R’s.’(p59) Huey described reading as ‘a fetish of primary education’, and said that it should be deferred until at least the age of eight. He agreed with Dewey ‘that a certain mental enfeeblement comes from too early an appeal to interest in the abstractions of reading’ whilst also suggesting that it was fine if a child learnt to read’ naturally’ at home (p61)
The following, from chapter nine, will ring bells with many RRFers. Whole-language guru Frank Smith ‘spent a year at the federally funded Southwest Regional Laboratory (SWRL), where, at tax-payers expense, a very poorly conceived linguistic –orientated primary reading programme was produced. Smith didn’t like it because, in his view, it had too much phonics. Actually, it was a product of the so called eclectic approach in which the repetition of sight words was augmented by a linguistically orientated choice of vocabulary and a simultaneous introduction to letter sounds’ (p81)
UK RRF message board member, Geraldine Rodgers, also gets a mention (p138) as Blumenfeld refers to her history of reading instruction, in his chapter on ‘Miscue Analysis’. In Blumenfeld’s opinion ‘miscue analysis is probably the worst form of educational malpractice ever invented. What they do is take a poor sight reader –a victim of the whole-word method –and try to improve his guessing ‘strategies’ (p144).
I hope the above has given you a reasonable 'taster' of the contents.
Posted: Mon Feb 19, 2007 12:58 pm
Posted: Sat Feb 25, 2006 4:48 pm Post subject:
Concerning Sam Blumenfeld: In 1973 he published, The New Illiterates. This book went through the Dick and Jane teachers' manuals page by page and explained in exquisite detail the logical outcome of teaching the look-and-say method. Later Mr. Edward Miller learned of Mr. Blumenfeld's work. Ed wondered why some children came to school with the debilitating holistic word identification reflex (dyslexia) that Sam claimed would result from the Dick and Jane look-and-say method, yet they had never been in a Dick and Jane classroom. Mr. Miller discovered that Dr. Seuss had written his books using word lists of sight-words provided him by educational publishers who hoped that learning lots of sight-words before entering school would help students. Mr. Miller developed a test to determine if the students had been learned sight-words as wholes and if that exposure was creating a blockage to seeing words phonetically. Mr. Miller, Charlie Richardson, and I have together given a significant number of these assesments to both good and bad readers. The results appear to us to confirm the hypothesis that early instruction in sight-words can cause whole-word dyslexia. It is true that Mr. Blumenfeld has a strong Christian persuasion, but that has nothing to do with the startling facts that his years of research into reading instruction have uncovered.
Some of the articles mentioned in the Book Review thread were first written in his magazine The Blumenfeld Education Newsletter (1987 - 1995).
Here are the URLs to the article Susan mentioned in the book:
Miscue Analysis: http://donpotter.net/PDF/Miscue%20Analysis.pdf
Ed Miller's Research ("The Miller Word Identification Assesssment"):
http://donpotter.net/PDF/Miller-Blumenf ... rticle.pdf
Here is an article Sam wrote on "Curing Dyslexia."
Question: Could anyone tell me about Marjorie Wise who is said to have introduced the ball-and-stick writing method to USA in 1922?
Here is an article Mr. Blumenfeld wrote on Cursive First:
Here are some quotes I have taken from his 1973 The New Illiterates:
http://donpotter.net/PDF/The%20New%20Il ... Quotes.pdf
Odessa, TX USA
Posted: Mon Feb 19, 2007 12:59 pm
I have just noticed this thread, and wonder if this is BRI rogramme? Can't believe dick has missed this.
Whole-language guru Frank Smith ‘spent a year at the federally funded Southwest Regional Laboratory (SWRL), where, at tax-payers expense, a very poorly conceived linguistic –orientated primary reading programme was produced. Smith didn’t like it because, in his view, it had too much phonics. Actually, it was a product of the so called eclectic approach in which the repetition of sight words was augmented by a linguistically orientated choice of vocabulary and a simultaneous introduction to letter sounds’ (p81)
Posted: Mon Feb 19, 2007 1:00 pm
Posted: Thu Jun 08, 2006 5:28 am Post subject:
[quote="JAC"]I have just noticed this thread, and wonder if this is BRI rogramme?]/quote]
Yes, the very same. Frank Smith expands on this critique in one of his books (I returned it to the library, so can't quote directly). His after-the-fact analysis is that SWRL and BRI were on the wrong track altogether. He does not, of course, accept that print mediates speech. He insists reading is an entirely visual process and that the function of the alphabet is to provide a stable set of symbols which we can name (and thus, communicate to others) that are used to represent words. The print to sound connection, for him, does not exist.
Posted: Wed Mar 07, 2007 5:51 am
Don Potter sent this note:
That is an astounding and compelling selection of quotes.
Thank you, Susan (and Don Potter).
Best regards, Peter Warner.
Re: Book: The Whole Language/OBE Fraud
Posted: Sun Aug 29, 2010 10:37 pm
This is the danger of a skewed critique of a programme - and it's so easy to do. Huge care is taken in the BRI books to employ the decoding route - not the 'sight' word route - and if the 'sight' word route should predominate over decoding all-through-the-word, then the 'reading' starts to fall apart - book 16 provides more speed bumps. Children who find reading difficult, then by book 9 ( of 140+ books), if sight word/whole language dominates - then the process becomes all but impossible - there's another 'speed bump' at book 16. A massive amount of overlearning and repetition is needed for those who struggle but BRI ensures that this is not at the expense of the decoding route. It's a pity that Blumenfeld fails to recognize this - though on a perfunctory 'look' at the books it's an easy judgement to make. I've never come across anyone who has actually used the books to teach a child to read who has judged them in this way.
Re: Book: The Whole Language/OBE Fraud
Posted: Wed Sep 01, 2010 10:44 am
I haven't used the BRI books with children but I don't doubt the reports that they are very effective. I've always thought it a pity, though, that the early books repeat the same few words over and over again rather than using a wider selection of words made up of the same letter-sound correspondences. My preference would always be for a wider selection of words, as it reduces the risk of children just memorising words - a problem which I think has occasionally been reported by BRI users.
Blumenfeld wrote:It is true that most phonetic rules apply to a large number of words, but in the whole-word method the child is exposed to such a small sampling of words illustrating any particular rule, that he simply cannot learn it well enough. In a method based on alphabetic principles, the sampling of words illustrating a particular phonetic formation is large enough and read often enough so that whatever the child is supposed to learn he learns well (pp. 92-3, according to Don Potter).
Perhaps Blumenfeld was critical of the BRI books because he felt that the 'sampling of words illustrating any particular rule' was too small.