Some of Professor Plum's colleagues--(1) the self-inflating progressives, and (2) the doing-nothing-but-always-looking-busy-drone-hacks--don't much appreciate Professor Plum's inestimable value.
"Say it isn't so!"
"Surely, you are mistaken."
In know. I know! It IS hard to believe. Moreover...
Fie! 'tis a fault to heaven,
A fault against the dead, a fault to nature,
To reason most absurd;
(King criticizing Hamlet's continued mourning,
in Hamlet, I: II)
O, that this too too sullied flesh would melt,
Thaw, and resove itself into a dew!
Or that the Everlasting had not fix'd
His canon 'gainst self-slaughter!
Oh, God! O, God! How weary, stale, flat, and unprofitable
Seem to me all the uses of this world!
Fie on't! O, fie! 'tis an unweeded garden,
That grows to seed; things rank and gross in nature
Possess it merely. That it should come to this!
(Hamlet, in Hamlet, I, II, 129)
Apparently, they are unjollied (if that's the word I want) by Professor Plum’s speaking and writing…
You cram these words into mine ears against
The stomach of my sense.
(Alonzo, in The Tempest, II: I)
What cracker is this same that deafs our ears
With this abundance of superfluous breath?
Austria, in King John, II: I)
Here's a stay
That shakes the rotten carcass of old Death
Out of his rags! Here's a large mouth, indeed,
That spits forth death and mountains, rocks and seas,
Talks as familiarly of roaring lions
As maids of thirteen do of puppy dogs!
What cannoneer begot this lusty blood?
He speaks plain cannon fire, and smoke and bounce;
He gives the bastinado with his tongue:
Our ears are cudgell'd; not a word of his
But buffets better than a fist of
Zounds! I was never so bethump'd with words
Since I first call'd my brother's father dad.
(Philip the Bastard, in King John, II: I)
Indeed, some view Professor Plum’s personality to be less than human.
A devil, a born devil, on whose nature
Nurture can never stick; on whom my pains,
Humanely taken, all, all lost, quite lost;
And as, with age, his body uglier grows,
So his mind cankers. (Prospero, in The Tempest, IV: I)
And their little hearts go pit-a-pat (assuming that pit-a-patting is among the things that little hearts go) when they envision the moment Professor Plum opens the big doors to the New Ed School Building, tips his hat, or fedora--whichever comes first--turns, and saunters into the sunset--or to the parking lot down the street.
Bitter sweet. Also pathetic.
Professor Plum is happy they have pleasing images to stimulate their sluggish glands and to enrich their otherwise dreary lives. However, Professor Plum is not going anywhere soon--well, maybe to Harris Teeter to get a six-pack of Samuel Adams Black Lager.
Following are two recent writings (or maybe just one--we shall see) that some colleagues found objectionable. VERY objectionable. Also, they didn't like them much.
Dear Colleagues, or Collards if You Prefer,
The dates of the the recent whole language convention in
With these lines, the whole language cult movement has at last removed the mask of scholarship, abandoned its pseudo-humanistic posturing about concern for the wellbeing of children, and displayed nothing but gruesome self-interest. Many of us have long felt this was the case. Whole language is a money making operation for gurus, book writers, publishers, conference and workshop organizers. It provides sellers of remedial reading programs (such as
The fundamental whole language salespitch has always been liberation and child advocacy. They have no credible data showing that whole language works. And until now they haven't needed any. Whole language gurus and professors well understood that if they used treacly terms often enough--"whole child," "authentic," "literature rich"--the public would be so beguiled that it would not ask for data.
Proclaiming themselves stewards of
In a country weary of the Vietnam War and
suspicious of its government, science, and reason, the whole language salespitch was bought by boards of education,
principals, and teachers. But the
The whole language cult movement is the subject of increasing criticism.
Linguists have shown that its foundational proposition (Learning to read is as natural as learning to speak) is the invention of persons who have no idea what they are talking about. At the same time, scores of experimental studies have shown that the so-called "child-centered" methods of whole language reading instruction--in which teachers do not teach reading skills directly, but instead provide "creative" activities in which children are thought to "discover" or "contruct" knowledge of how to read on their own--often do not work, leaving many children nearly illiterate and unprepared to learn all other subjects that require skill at reading.
State legislatures, state departments of public instruction, and now departments of the federal government are responding to the research evidence showing that whole language (mis)instruction is a disaster for almost 50 percent of children--and especially for disadvantaged children. They have begun to enact legislation mandating that elementary schools teach basic reading skills (e.g., "phonics" and comprehension) in a systematic and explicit fashion. They have established guidelines that public schools can use to evaluate and adopt reading curricula. They have published enormous literature reviews that identify the main features of effective reading instruction. At the same time, many school districts and even states have moved away from whole language and towards reading curricula that are field tested, that are consistent with experimental research on how children best learn to read, and that involve more direct, logically progressive instruction from well-trained teachers. This is essentially no different from what happened in medicine in the early 1900's.
When a social institition that affects the well-being of millions of citizens is shown to do damage, and in the face of this evidence does little to improve itself, the government must do something to protect citizens.
All of the above provides a context for the speeches in
They--whole language professors, writers, book sellers, trainers--are the victims of criticism--criticism that to them ranks with mass murder. They--whole language professors, writers, book sellers, trainers--are the innocents. They have done nothing.
On the surface, these speeches merely suffer from logical fallacies--appeals to pity, false analogies, appeals to emotion. On a deeper level, however, they reveal the soul of the whole language cult. Nothing too sacred to abuse. Self-love so all-enwrapping and enrapturing that obscene speech is considered catchy and crowd pleasing. A juxtaposing of horrifying mass death with Chablis imbibing conference goers strolling hotel lobbies, sharing tales of vicious "attack" by advocates of systematic phonics instruction. Remember the date.
Following is a sample of well-reasoned comments Professor Plum received via email.
1. "You are creating a hostile environment." [Nnnnnooooo!]
2. "Direct Instruction is not the ONLY way to teach reading!" [Now THAT makes sense--if you are insane.]
3. "Why do you bother. No one is listening." [Because my conscience is listening, moron.]
Professor Plum was even called to the Dean's office. She said something to the effect, "You are creating divisions among the faculty."
Is it REAL hard to make the distinction between CREATING divisions (out of what?) and merely EXPRESSING divisions that are already there?
Divisions among WHAT faculty? There's all of THEM and, in marked contrast (follow me closely), ME.
Stay tuned for our next installment of "As the Worms Turn."