The Whole Language approach to teaching English was another magic bullet in public education that misfired. California’s educational system suffered horribly from this blunder. The theory was that the more a child reads on their own, the more the child learns.
However, children watch – on average – several hours of TV daily, and more than forty percent are latch-key children. Most of these soda-drinking sugar heads would not read even with a loaded gun to their heads. But for the Whole Language program to work, the children had to read at last thirty minutes every night on their own.
Grendel’s boss was Sauron from Mordor (Grendel and Sauron are anonymous names that represent real administrators). This latest magic bullet—The Whole Language approach to teaching English—probably came from him since most magic bullets for public education come from micro-managers like him. You’ll hear more about Sauron in a few other posts. He even appears in my memoir as Mr. Insert.
Anyway, Grendel ordered the English teachers to stop teaching grammar, mechanics, vocabulary and spelling, and this led to some of us teaching stealth grammar until Grendel recruited students as spies to catch us.
Sauron lived up to the nom de plume I’ve given him. Anyone that worked in Rowland Unified School District at that time probably knows who I’m talking about. He may even have had a Palantir, one of the seeing stones from The Lord of the Rings, to keep an eye on his administrators and teachers making sure they were doing things the way he wanted. During my thirty years of teaching in that school district, I often heard from staff that nothing was done without Sauron’s approval. The principals probably had to ask permission to visit a bathroom.
Now here’s the thing—teachers are blamed for every alleged failure in public education, and many of these so-called failures are manufactured. They are based on lies and fraud. For instance, teachers are lazy, teachers are incompetent and so one. But how could the failure of Whole Language be blamed on the teachers? Teachers protested. They knew it wouldn’t work. They knew that teachers had to keep teaching grammar. A decade later, Whole Language was quietly dropped, and teachers were told to start teaching grammar again but most of the textbooks had been recycled against the common sense and warnings of teachers–who are seldom if ever listened to by those at the top who know it all.
Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran,
who taught in the public schools for thirty years (1975 – 2005).
Honorable Mention in Biography/Autobiography at 2014 Southern California Book Festival
His third book is Crazy is Normal, a classroom exposé, a memoir. “Lofthouse presents us with grungy classrooms, kids who don’t want to be in school, and the consequences of growing up in a hardscrabble world. While some parents support his efforts, many sabotage them—and isolated administrators make the work of Lofthouse and his peers even more difficult.” – Bruce Reeves
Lofthouse’s first novel was the award winning historical fiction My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. His second novel was the award winning thriller Running with the Enemy. His short story A Night at the “Well of Purity” was named a finalist of the 2007 Chicago Literary Awards. His wife is Anchee Min, the international, best-selling, award winning author of Red Azalea, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year (1992).
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