Imagine hearing your daughter struggling to read a book and hearing her read this sentence: “The fuzzy dog was hit by the fire engine”. “Why would a children’s book include such a disturbing sentence?” you wonder. Curious, you pick up the book once she’s put it down and see that the dog wasn’t hit by the fire engine, but was frightened by the fire engine. You take the book to your daughter, point to the word “frightened” and ask your daughter to read the word. She simply stares at the word and shrugs her shoulders. And you are hit with the reality that your second grader is not being taught to ready by using Phonics, but by a controversial program called “Whole Language”. The premise of “Whole Language” was that reading was learned by immersing a child in a world of words.
This actually happened in the 90’s and it caused major conflict between educators and parents all over the United States as well as many other countries. The argument against “Whole Language” was that if you could actually learn to read by simply being exposed to words, there should be little to no illiteracy in the world as everyone is surrounded by words every day, everywhere they go.
I was one of those parents.
After many frantic phone calls between parents, the School Board was contacted and the parents were shocked to learn that a number of the School Board members didn’t know anything about these new reading programs, but were also shocked to learn that a number of the Board members not only knew but supported the programs. And thus began the conflict between School Board members.
The first act by the Board was to form committees to investigate “Whole Language” (WL). The members of the Board in support of WL – we will refer to them as Committee A - were already armed with their facts and ready to debate the other side as to its merits. They were aware of the shortcomings of WL but were also highly aware of the amount of Federal Funding being given to any school system that adapted the WL program. In their opinion, the school system needed that money and that was the bottom line. Their argument was that if the program was as bad as these misinformed parents believed, it would never have been approved for use in the public school system. Committee A also consisted of a particular political party and was persuaded by the politics of the situation to support WL. They had adapted a model of bounded rationality and were firmly standing behind their decision of satisficing. They had determined receiving Federal Funds for implementing WL was a good enough decision for them as the Federal Funds met their current needs and were not concerned as to whether it was the best decision for the students.
Committee B – the Board members who were concerned about the program continued their investigation had among them a retired college professor that...