Monday, April 18, 2011

Six hugely popular books that accidentally screwed the world

At Cracked Jacopo della Quercia tagged six hugely popular books that accidentally screwed the world.

One entry on the list:
The Dick and Jane series, by William S. Gray and Zerna Sharp

If you grew up in the U.S. at any time from the Great Depression to the disco era, chances are you were forced to get to know two Aryan youths named Dick and Jane in elementary school.

They weren't particularly bright kids, and their neighborhood was not all that racially inclusive, but man, did they ever know how to make learning to read fun!

The Ugly Aftermath:

It is hard to imagine that any book printed prior to Dan Brown could actually make you dumber by reading it, but sure enough, that remains the No. 1 complaint leveled at the books of the Dick and Jane series.

The books were intended to teach reading using a specific method, often called the "look-and-say" method, which pretty much did for literacy what texting has done for spelling.

The method relied on, for instance, putting the word "DUCK" under a picture of a duck, and visually the kid was supposed to remember that those four letters stuck together represented the quacking bird. The kids weren't being taught why words are pronounced they way they are, or how different letter combinations work together. So if a kid ran into a new word, he had no means of figuring out how to say it on his own -- he only learned them as a series of pictures.

We know that's a terrible way to learn English ... now. And educators have changed their approach. But to this day, there are experts who blame a generation of Dick and Jane readers for America's lagging performance in reading skills (U.S. students rank 17th in the world in reading).

Debate still rages about which teaching methods are best, but there seems to be universal agreement that using the Dick and Jane "look-and-say" method by itself results in kids who both hate to read and also really suck at it.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue