NYT Blasts Calkins with “Science of Reading” propaganda
Just 10 days after the New York Times ran a factually misleading piece on a dyslexia program championed by Mayor Eric Adams, Dana Goldstein amplified the “science of reading” attack on Lucy Calkins and the Units of Study reading program.
Goldstein’s uncritical use of “science of reading” propaganda fits into a pattern of mainstream media, particularly the work of Emily Hanford, that weaponizes “science” while trafficking in anecdote and grand misrepresentations. Hoffman, Hikida, and Sailors explain:
Hanford critiqued approaches named as balanced literacy and whole language without citing any evidence around these claims. She continued with anecdotes on how a focus on the SOR has improved student performance, but there is not a single citation of evidence in support of this claim. … It is clear that the repeated critiques of literacy teacher preparation expressed by the SOR community do not employ the same standards for scientific research that they claimed as the basis for their critiques.
HOFFMAN, J.V., HIKIDA, M., & SAILORS, M. (2020). CONTESTING SCIENCE THAT SILENCES: AMPLIFYING EQUITY, AGENCY, AND DESIGN RESEARCH IN LITERACY TEACHER PREPARATION. READING RESEARCH QUARTERLY, 55(S1), S255-S266. HTTPS://DOI.ORG/10.1002/RRQ.353
The NYT’s article on Calkins has several significant problems. First, since the bar in journalism for citing evidence is much lower than in academia, the piece itself oversimplifies and misrepresents complex and important issues about reading and teaching reading, often with no citation or by cherry-picking (and misrepresenting) a single link to evidence.
Next, the fundamental problem with the article is the continued uncritical acceptance by mainstream media of the “science of reading” movement and marketing. This last point, the marketing aspect of the “science of reading,” must not be ignored since phonics-heavy programs are committed to taking market share away from current popular reading programs such as those by Calkins and Fountas and Pinnell.
And finally, the framing of the article fails to recognize, as Thornton does (as well as Hoffman, Hikida, and Sailors), that both Calkins’s programs and the “science of reading” deserve critical interrogations against research and best practice.
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