Continuing Debate: Phonics vs. Whole Language
Whole language became increasingly popular in the 1970s and 1980s. Moats (2000) explained the growing popularity this way:
Relying on theory derived largely from introspection into their own mental processes, Ken Goodman and Frank Smith in the late 1960s advanced the notion that meaning and purpose should be the salient goals in early reading instruction. Observing that adults appear to process the written word without recoding it letter by letter or sound by sound, and claiming that children should learn to read as naturally as they learn to speak, Smith asserted that the decomposition of words into sounds was pointless; that attention to letters was unnecessary and meaningless; that letter-sound correspondences were "jabberwocky" to be avoided; and that skill development was largely boring, repetitive, nonsensical, and unrelated to developing real readers. Smith, Goodman, and their disciples pushed ideas that were eagerly and readily embraced by progressive educators turned off by drab basal readers, mechanistic drills, and the knowledge that the basal readers in use had not solved all of their instructional challenges. Teachers were persuaded that the cause of most reading failure was insufficient emphasis on reading real books for real purposes. By the mid-1980s, schools were ready to throw out basal readers, phonics workbooks, spelling programs, and other "canned" material so that teachers could create individualized reading instruction with "authentic" children's literature. (p. 7)
Moats (2000) went on to delineate the major premises advanced by whole language advocates and to show how facts established by scientific investigations contradict those premises:
Premise: Reading is acquired naturally.
Fact: Learning to read is not a "natural" process. Most children must be taught to read through a structured and protracted process in which they are made aware of sounds and the symbols that represent them, and then learn to apply these skills automatically and attend to meaning.
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