Accuracy in reading is costly

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This reference is used to annotate "I would never send my kids to school" (2017) by Piotr Wozniak

Sam Blumenfeld was a great mind with Polish roots. He was highly critical of the institution of school. He considered it an enterprise that was dumbing down the nation.

In his texts he used the term educational dyslexia to describe the impact of the memorization of sight words on a child's ability to read. He explained his reasoning using old experiments by Pavlov in which animals were subjected to conflicting stimuli.

In his criticism, Blumenfeld failed to notice that the same mechanism, i.e. association of a memory with anxiety can also occur in the case of phonics instruction, esp. in multilingual children (see: Toxic memory).

One of my greatest disagreements with Blumenfeld is his criticism of those who insist that accuracy is secondary to semantics.

The most controversial aspect of whole language is the de-emphasis on accuracy. American Reading Council President Julia Palmer, an advocate of the approach, said it is acceptable if a young child reads the word house for home, or substitutes the word pony for horse. "It's not very serious because she understands the meaning", said Palmer. "Accuracy is not the name of the game"

As I explain in 50 bad habits learned at school, the brain needs to be treated as a concept network (as opposed to a tape recorder). Pattern recognition should rule the reading. In that process, semantics is the king. Teachers often insist on the primacy of "reading with comprehension", while the only goal should be comprehension. Substituting "pony" for "horse" is one example (in whole language approach). Achieving the same level of comprehension with audio or video materials is another.

In neural networks, achieving higher accuracy may come at a cost that is increasing exponentially. The cost of misspelling maybe negligible and I found misspellings in Blumenfeld books too. I would never notice. They were pointed to me by a spell-checker. The quest for accuracy should be proportional to goals. The accuracy of speed-reading or incremental reading may be low, but the flow of new value is very high. It is important to let children seek their own optimum without a pressure to be accurate, or to meet any other benchmarks.


Quoted excerpts come from the following reference:

Title: Dyslexia: Man-Made Disease

Author: Sam Blumenfeld

Date: 1993

Backlink: Reading wars are over: Whole language vs. Phonics

Link: https://www.home-school.com/Articles/dyslexia-man-made-disease.php