Why did schools stop teaching children to read?

An “unbearable gloom” has overtaken childhood education as a “pedagogy of the depressed” pushes a simplistic vision of “troubled America” ​​to impressionable young students, wrote Robert Pondiscio in Comment last year.

A former teacher, Pondiscio is currently a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and the author of a 2019 book. How the other half learns: equality, excellence and the struggle over school choice (Avery), a behind-the-scenes look at Success Academy, one of America’s most successful (and controversial) charter school networks. (To watch Reasons interview with Pondiscio about that book.)

Public schools have failed to teach children to read and write because they use approaches that are not based on proven phonics-based techniques. Many schools have been influenced by the work of Columbia University’s Lucy Calkins, who is the subject of a new US Public Media podcast series, Sold the story“exposing how educators believed something that was not true and are now dealing with the consequences – damaged children, wasted money, twisted education system.”

“The South Bronx elementary school where I taught 5th grade for several years was an advocate of the Calkins approach,” Pondiscio wrote in 2022. New York Post op-ed. “We have adopted her teaching methods and employed her literacy coaches for years, with very little effect. Her greatest sin against literacy occurs after children learn to ‘decode’ the written word, whether they are taught phonics or not, which is just the beginning of the lines for reading.”

How did this happen? Is school choice—a system where parents can opt out of traditional public schools and their flawed approaches to reading instruction—the answer? As Pondiscio argues, does withdrawing “concern for traditional public schools” equate to withdrawing “concern for our republic”?

Join Reason’with Nick Gillespie and Zach Weissmueller for a live discussion with Robert Pondiscio about all these questions and more this Thursday at 1:00 PM ET. Watch and leave questions for Pondiscio on the YouTube video above or at ReasonFacebook page.

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