The Chronicle Airbrushes Affirmative Action

I have a short piece up this morning on Minding The Campus, “The Chronicle Airbrushes Affirmative Action.”

Phonics … Or Not

On Instapundit yesterday Gail Heriot discussed an Oakland, California, teacher who had success teaching reading based on phonics, and the opposition that engendered among teachers and administrators who opposed that method. She concluded her post: “Phonics.  Phonics. Phonics.  It’s the approach that works.”

Here’s an email I just sent her, which I thought readers who know more about this issue than I do might find of interest:

Hi Gail,

Hope all is good with you.
Re your recent post on Instapundit:
Phonics.  Phonics. Phonics.  It’s the approach that works

I’m no expert on this issue, and in fact knew more when daughter Jessie (now 35) was growing up, but I do know that phonics — which may well be best for most — is not how all kids do or should learn to read. Here’s an excerpt from a short article I wrote last year, “I Was Raised by a Gifted Child”:

One morning, when my daughter Jessie was three and a half, it became crystal clear that my wife and I had an unusually smart kid on our hands. We were on a plane returning from a visit to grandparents in Florida when Jessie took a book out of her mother’s hands — All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten— and began reading it out loud.
… And who could have ever figured out how a toddler had one day just suddenly started reading adult books? Guessing she may have been keeping this ability secret for a while so we would keep reading to her, after the Florida trip I proposed a bargain: I’d sit with her while she read out loud if she’d stop and ask about any word she couldn’t pronounce or didn’t understand.

One night she was reading about the black plague in the Middle Ages (!), and I could see she was approaching a word she wouldn’t know, contagious. But she pronounced it correctly and kept going. “Jessie,” I interrupted, “you agreed to stop and ask about a word you didn’t understand.” Pointing to contagious, I asked what it meant. With no hesitation she replied, “spreadful.” I kept quiet after that, a useful lesson I should have learned better.

Jessie, in short, started reading without ever sounding out a word, encountering a syllable or phonics. This ability may well be rare, but I’m sure it’s not unique to her. Perhaps it’s similar in some way to the fact that as a second-grader she tested about half way through eighth grade algebra even though she wasn’t particularly good at arithmetic….
Regular readers of this blog (there are a few, aren’t there?) will recall that Jessie went on to receive a PhD in Applied Physics at Caltech, at 23 … but you could not have predicted her math ability from her arithmetic in school. Maybe arithmetic:math :: phonics:reading?

Barone On Biden’s Leftward Lunge

Michael Barone’s July 6 column, “Who’s Behind Biden’s Leftward Lunge?,” is as impressive as usual, though a bit more idiosyncratic than his normal commentary. You should read his column, but, briefly, Barone argues that Biden’s views reflected those of his Delaware friends and constituents from 1972-1996. After that, when Delaware became safely Democratic,Biden too moved […]

Patriotism? Recycled Again

Following is the eleventh recycling of a blog post I first posted, here, twenty years ago, and subsequently ten different times over the years on or around July 4 — most recently last year, here. My preface to that first post explained how it had come to be published eleven years earlier, in 1991, as […]

President Claims Republicans Are “Fascists’ Tool, Threaten U.S. Liberty”

Has the president finally been driven completely bonkers by his vitriolic partisanship? Perhaps. Indeed, probably. In any event he’s channeling another Democratic president. From the front page of the New York Times, October 26, 1948: PRESIDENT LIKENS DEWEY TO HITLER AS FASCISTS’ TOOL; Says When Bigots, Profiteers Get Control of Country They Select ‘Front Man’ […]

UVa Men’s Tennis: A Dramatic, Perhaps Unique, National Championship!

[UPDATE! Those of you who have read this post my find this difficult to believe, but I actually understated UVa’s dramatic accomplishment. In discussing UVa’s almost certainly unprecedented string of 4-0 victories and the fact that it lost only one point, one singles match, on the way to the championship, I neglected to count its […]

“Equity” And The Harvard/UNC Affirmative Action Case

The Supreme Court has just granted cert to the challenges against affirmative action at Harvard and the University of North Carolina. No way, of course, to predict what the outcome will be, but it’s safe to say that at the moment progressives are nervous and conservatives are hopeful. My nominee for the most interesting fact […]

Fighting “Systemic Racism,” Promoting “Equity”

Being Raised By A Gifted Child

Now We Know What “Equitable” Means

[Le]Manning The Barricades For Affirmative Action

Patriotism? The TENTH Recycling Of July 4

Affirmative Action: R.I.P. Or Release 3.0?

“Equity” For Whites?

Ad For Ohio State Diversity Officer

A History Assignment For President Biden

How Bad Is Cancel Culture?