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35: The Most Eminent Authority In The Field Of Reading--Samuel Blumenfeld


--"the most eminent authority in the field of reading”--

This phrase has a sad history. The National Education Association crafted these words in 1932 to describe William Scott Gray, the main man behind the Dick and Jane readers, first introduced in 1931. These readers relied on the Look-Say or Whole Word method of reading instruction. The idea was that students, by looking at the same few words over and over (“See Dick run!”), would memorize the SHAPES of the words. Phonics was discardred. The alphabet was not taught. Literacy plunged.

Well, it’s taken me years to reach the point where I can, without hesitation, conclude that William Scott Gray was a complete fraud, like all of his colleagues at the top of the field of Education.

The point now is to strip Gray of his undeserved title, and to bestow this title on the man who actually is, in our country today...

The Most Eminent Authority

In The Field Of Reading--

Dr. Samuel Blumenfeld


I think of Blumenfeld as exceedingly smart, wise, scholarly, and brave. He is Mr. Reading and Mr. Phonics. There are other experts I trust (Rudolf Flesch, Marva Collins, Mona McNee, Martin Kozloff, Don Potter et al). However, Blumenfeld is the dean.

When any teacher, parent or researcher has a question about reading,
I would recommend: first find out what Blumenfeld has to say.

The rest of this article consists of great quotes
from the many works of Samuel Blumenfeld.


Here is my personal favorite:

"Some children give up even before the fourth grade level. Those children become known as ‘dyslexic’--a fancy medical term coined especially to describe the perfectly normal, intelligent youngster who can't learn how to read by the whole-word method." (The New Illiterates, 1973)

I warn you now that fully understanding what Gray and his gang did to the children of America will make you cry.
“[Average students] seem to read with an adequate speed, but they make many errors along the way. They would drop words, read words that weren’t there, sometimes rearrange the words in a sentence. They were never aware of their errors and never stopped to correct themselves, unless someone was there to point out errors. If not, they would read on, even when their error altered the meaning of the sentence. My point is that these readers were considered successful by whole-word standards.” (The New Illiterates)

“If we have learned anything from the last five years, it is that the leaders of the organized education establishment refuse to learn anything from their critics, have nothing but disdain for the parents who place their children in their hands, show contempt for the taxpayers who support them, and exhibit a cold institutional sadism toward the children they supposedly teach. The sorry truth is that for many children the public school has become a place where minds are destroyed and the future laid waste.” (NEA: Trojan Horse in American Education, 1989)


“A sight vocabulary contributes nothing to the child’s intellectual growth; in fact, it is a hindrance, a retarding agent, calculated to delay for as long as it suits the publisher, the pupil's ability to read independently....Placing such artificial limits on the young mind for no sound pedagogical reason is criminal. Placing such limits on the young mind for the sake of enriching a few authors and publishers is likewise criminal.” (TNI, page 69)


“Is it not a crime to take a perfectly healthy, normal human child, train him or her up as an animal, destroy the special intellectual gifts which God gave that human being, so that he or she will live the life of a stunted mental cripple, unable to enjoy a good book, a philosophical conversation, or a sense of what it means to be a child of God? That is why all talk of education reform is just so much hogwash, so much establishment hot air, so much political posturing. For as long as behavioral psychologists control the curriculum, including the content and instruction methods of public education, the schools will never be able to obtain the intellectual competence they once were capable of.” (Victims of Dick and Jane, and other essays, 2002)

“Some years ago I tutored a very successful, intelligent man, a graduate of a midwestern university, who couldn’t read. He was a typical victim of a whole-word, sight method. He had no phonetic knowledge whatever. But when he told me that he would rather be beaten than have to read, I understood for the first time the kind of unbearable psychic pain that the sight method can cause. I taught him our alphabetic system, and in a short time he was reading smoothly and easily.”  (Education Letter, page 3, August, 1992)
“There is no sound pedagogical reason to withhold the alphabetic concept from a child who is being taught the concepts of word and sentence. Yet, believe it or not, the alphabet itself is not introduced to the pupil in this reading program until he is in the fifth grade! And then it is not taught as an aid to reading, but as an aid to using the dictionary. At least this is what is recommended by William S. Gray, chief author of the Dick and Jane program, in his book On Their Own in Reading.” (TNI, page 65)

“ Conservatives called for getting back to basics, for teaching reading by intensive phonics, for strengthening all of the academic subjects, for greater discipline, more homework, etc. The liberal education establishment had other ideas. Besides calling for more money, higher teacher salaries, all of which they got, their view of reform included whole language in primary reading, invented spelling, no memorization in arithmetic but lots of calculators, a breakdown of traditional subject matter into relevant topics, and, above all, a greater emphasis on the affective domain, that is, more emphasis on feelings, beliefs, values, socialization, sexuality, group learning, group therapy, peer counseling, death education, drug education, etc.” (Victims of Dick and Jane, and other essays, page 92.)

“By 1952, behavioral psychology had not only become the ‘scientific’  foundation of American pedagogy, but it had changed our textbooks, revised the classroom curriculum, and redesigned the American school building. If you detect something mindless about American education, it’s because the mind has been taken out of it.” (NEA, Trojan Horse, page 83)

“Those who reengineered primary education in America did so in order to carry out a political and social agenda that had nothing to do with what the parents want for their children. These were men determined to carry out Revolution, to change America, to change human behavior, to change human nature, to change our economic system, to change our values.” (Victims of Dick and Jane, and other essays, 2002, page 73)



For more articles on reading, see 42: Reading Resources

© Bruce Deitrick Price 2009