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[Susan notes: Kudos for Ken Goodman's strong letter pointing out that this battle is not about liberals vs. conservatives, pro-Bush vs. Anti-Bush. Too bad that Garrison Keillor hasn't a clue that it is much more complicated than that.]

Published in Arizona Star
01/31/2008

To the editor

Garrison Keillor's always been one of my heroes. His wonderful line about mythical Lake Wobegon, where all the children are above average, is a classic put down of those who want to oversimplify the goals of education. So it made me wonder if my hero had one too many when he was writing his recent (1/30/08) support of phonics as a solution to the nation's reading problems and his condemnation of educators who think that teaching kids to read is a good deal more complicated than teaching them phonics.

Unfortunately the so-called reading wars are not a matter of liberal vs conservative, republican vs democrat, pro Bush or anti Bush. George Miller and Ted Kennedy lined up with Bush to legislate how reading should be taught and put the Reading First portion of No Child Left Behind in the hands of a small group of extreme phonics advocates who blatantly imposed their own texts and tests on the states and local schools violating conflicts of interest according to the Department of
Education's Inspector General. I's akin to putting the space program in the hands of the astrologers.

Under the Reading First Mandates millions of children as young as five are failing inappropriate tests in the first week of kindergarten and start school labeled ad failures. And our Secretary of Education and President keep going Keillor one better by seriously claiming that the goal of Reading First and NCLB is to have all children reading on grade level- which by definition is the average score on a standardized test-and thus unachievable since half of all those taking any such test will always be below grade level- no matter how poorly or well they read.

NCLB is not about reforming schools it's about making public education look like a failed ideal. Garrison Keillor has let himself be used in this campaign.

Ken Goodman


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