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The National Council of Teachers of English should award the Doublespeak Award to itself.

Let's have some truth in language here: NCTE deserves its own Doublespeak Award.

A Reader Responds: Kudos! NCTE needs to be called out on this--and brought to their knees for "lazily fondling the fingers of [our] alert enemies," to borrow a phrase from Millay. I recently received a request from NCTE to fill out a survey addressing why I had dropped my membership. I deleted it but I think I can still fish it out and let them know NCTE's stance on the LEARN (sic) Act is a huge factor.


The NCTE gives The Doublespeak Award annually to those "who have perpetuated language that is grossly deceptive, evasive, euphemistic, confusing, or self-centered." Previous winners include George W. Bush, Newt Gingrich, Rush Limbaugh, Exxon, the National Rifle Association, and the Tobacco Industry.

NCTE deserves the award for its document, "The LEARN Act and NCTE," signed by NCTE's Executive Director and the Director of the NCTE Office in Washington. The LEARN Act would spent 2.35 billion on literacy programs that spanning birth to grade 12. NCTE voiced its strong support of LEARN and urged NCTE members to support it as well. The article responded to criticism of NCTE's position and easily meets each of the requirements of Doublespeak:

It is grossly deceptive: In response to the claim that the LEARN Act involves too much testing, the NCTE article points out that LEARN includes formative testing, but only mentions in passing that LEARN will also include all the other dreaded and unnecessary uses of testing. In other words, they argue that because one kind of testing is ok, all the others can be included as well. Nor is it clear that formative testing done by outsiders is a good idea; see comments by J. Lucido, following the prize-winning NCTE paper (sources below).

It is evasive: Critics have pointed out that LEARN assumes that direct instruction is the only path to literacy development. The NCTE paper asks us not to worry, there will be no phonics in high school, evading the question of whether intensive phonics should be included anywhere, whether direct instruction is the only path, and ignoring the evidence that shows that literacy competence is largely acquired through reading, not through direct instruction.

It is also evades all research showing the powerful effect of libraries on children's reading ability and literacy development in general, noting only that the word "library" does in fact occur in the LEARN act.

The NCTE evaded all direct mention of the criticisms of its position, denying readers the chance to read the original statement and judge for themselves as to the validity of the points made as well as the accuracy of NCTE's characterization of these points (see below for locations of all relevant documents).

It is euphemistic, in that it uses the term LEARN Act without criticism or comment. The LEARN Act has nothing to do with learning.

It is confusing, in that it comes from NCTE, an organization that has, in the past, opposed the very points that the LEARN Act emphasizes.

It is self-centered. NCTE is clearly proud of its association with LEARN and with the fact that they were invited by a US Senator to approve of LEARN, along with a number of other groups. They suggest that they (in contrast to critics) have taken LEARN "seriously," a strange conclusion given that NCTE has ignored important research that has obvious relevance to the LEARN Act and its methods.


NCTE. 2009. Ask Your Senator to Cosponsor S. 2740, the LEARN Act. http://www.ncte.org/action/alerts/learn

Krashen, S. 2009. The LEARN Act: Reading First on Steroids. http://www.ncte2008.ning.com/profiles/blogs/the-learn-act-reading-first-on

Cambridge, B. and Williamson, K. 2009. The LEARN Act and NCTE. http://www.ncte2008.ning.com/forum/topics/the-learn-act-and-ncte.

— Stephen Krashen & Susan Ohanian
News Release




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