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I THINK THERE IS REAL CAUSE FOR CONCERN WHEN THE SKIRMISHES BETWEEN advocates of "phonics instruction" and advocates of "whole language" mushroom into all-out reading wars. In mare schools, teachers no longer get to find their own creative ways of combining the two approaches; instead they are given prescribed programs to follow in lockstep fashion. While the programs are extensions of phonics-based methods of teaching reading, they are sold under such descriptors as research-based, directed instruction, and programmed learning. They come fully scripted and are described as teacher-proof and fail-safe.
Such terms appeal to administrators whose schools will be judged mostly by how many children earn passing grades--rather than by how many excel--on mandatory examinations. While most of us realize that a focus on conformity and mediocrity is not good for children, we might not have thought about the unforeseen consequences on teachers and librarians.
Based on how quickly conversations can turn hostile--especially when political views are brought in--it is unreasonable to expect librarians to enter the fray as assigned peacekeepers. However, they need to be aware of the issues and the fact that many people are willing to bide behind children to promote commercial interests and political views quite separate from helping children develop either skills or positive attitudes toward reading. In some schools, the librarian may be the only respected adult in a position to support and encourage creative teachers who know that their job is to make sure that children …