Singular Minds
September 17, 2005 • Volume II, Issue 1
Prolinguistica Dyslexia Correction Center
Laura Zink de Diaz

Quote of the Month #1
Q: Is there any relationship at all, by any stretch of the imagination between algebra and higher order thinking or critical thinking?
A: There could be. It would depend on how it’s taught. In most schools it probably doesn’t do anything for critical thinking. America mostly teaches math by describing a procedure, giving an example or two, then some seatwork and then some homework. Then it moves on to another procedure...

Quote of the Month #2
Q: How can the powers that be insist on using “ scientifically based research methods” that were conducted under tightly held rigidly controlled experimentally conditions and apply them to the real world?
A: They can’t. And they aren’t—-except to public schools. ... There doesn’t seem to be any appreciation of the speech that Alan Roses gave a couple of years ago. Roses pointed out that 90% of approved drugs only work on 30-50% of the people who take them. Roses is a vice president at GlaxoSmithKline and he was arguing for genetic tests to try to match treatments to patients better. If you find out that phonics works better for initial reading (which the evidence, so far as I know, denies), that just means you have a statistically significant difference between the average scores of two (or more) groups that someone might have converted into an effect size. In any case, what works better on average will fail miserably for some children.

both quotes from Gerald Bracey in an interview found at:
Gerald W. Bracey is an associate professor at George Mason University, Fairfax, Virginia and an Associate of the High/Scope Educational Research Foundation, Ypsilanti, Michigan.


Again, apologies for the lateness of this month's edition of Singular Minds. In the last days of August I flew to Quito, Ecuador to do a program with a young man. Our work together took longer than I'd planned, which brought me back to the US rather behind schedule. But it was well worth it, both because of the wonderful opportunity to get to know a great fellow and his family, and the chance to see a really lovely country.

I read before the trip that Quito is considered the most beautiful city in South America. From what I saw of it, that statement may well be true. It's at 9,250 feet, and it took several days to adjust to the altitude, but once I'd caught my breath and ventured out to explore a bit, what I saw was fascinating. Ecuador has a "dollarized" economy, which means you don't need to exchange any currency when you get there - they're using ours! (Prices are lower than they are here though...!) I was surprised at how clean the city is. You expect a huge metropolis to have a certain amount of trash on the streets, in the darker corners. But Quito looks like a city inhabited by 1.8 million very orderly people! There's a hill in the middle of the city called El Panecillo, from which you can look out over the valley, completely filled by the city - and it's as shining and clean as could be. From atop Panecillo you can also see, to the south, the snow-capped peak of Mount Cotopaxi, the tallest active volcano in the world. In the Centro Historico, the old quarter of the city, as much as possible from the colonial period has been preserved, so that you feel as if you just stepped back a couple of centuries when you walk through plazas, passing ancient churches and government buildings, or drive along the brick and cobblestone streets.

I count myself very fortunate to have had an opportunity to travel out of the city for a quick drive through three small cities a little to the north, as well as a trip to the Equator. Moving out of Quito and into the countryside you see many people who still use traditional garb: men with long black hair tied back in a pony or pig tail reaching the middle of the back, women in long black dresses, white embroidered blouses, a "manta" of a single, rich color, usually folded neatly and worn on the head as a sort of layered cloth hat. It's very interesting that there's a large monument to "La Mitad del Mundo" - the Center of the World - about 20 kilometers north of Quito, but it's not actually ON the equator. To experience the equator itself, you must go about two blocks away from the monument and visit a small museum called Inti-Ñan. There you can see for yourself that water poured through a drain on the "actual" equator flows straight down the pipe, no swirling, while water swirls vigorously clockwise or counter clockwise, when you move the drain only a couple of feet to the north or south. You can also balance an egg on the head of a nail pretty easily if you're on latitude 00 00 00. A fascinating country. I hope to be able to post some of my photographs from this trip. I'll provide the URL here once I get the picture page going.

Clay Night
Clay night for October should be the 13th. However, it looks like I'll be out of town (possible program in Puerto Rico that week), so for now, consider it cancelled. If it's possible to hold it, I'll notify those of you who are local clients a day or two before.

Support Group
Support Group will be the October 20 at 7 pm

Good Stuff to Read

Too much learning damaging children's play, says report
Thursday September 8, 2005
The Guardian (UK)
Young children are being denied the chance to play at being pirates and astronauts because they spend so much time learning to read and write, according to research published today.
Role play games such as pretending to be doctors or police officers are vital to help children learn how to make friends and develop their imagination, the University of Plymouth study found. But the pressures of the formal primary school curriculum, such as the drive to teach literacy, mean there is too little time for play, the research said. Parents' groups backed the report's findings and warned that children were being pushed into formal education too young.
Read the rest at:,15612,1564667,00.html?gusrc=rss

Reading at Grade Level
Reading at grade level is reading at an average level for a given grade. For example, a third grade child who is an average third grade reader is reading at grade level. It is mathematically impossible for all children to read at grade level. When below-average readers read better, the average changes. It is also mathematically impossible, long-term, for all children to read at or above the 50th percentile on norm-referenced tests (e.g., the SAT 9). Norm-referenced tests are, by definition, constructed so that 50% of the test-takers will always be in the bottom 50%. When this changes, the test questions are changed so that once again 50% of the test-takers will be in the bottom 50%.
Read this and more at an incredibly useful and very low key site:
At this site you will also find the following interesting information gleaned from many generally ignored (not to say suppressed) "scientific" studies on reading instruction:
- Children in reading classes that emphasize meaning rather than phonics, consistently outscore students in phonics-based classes.
- When children are tested on reading words from a list, and are then re-tested on those words in context, they consistently can read most of the words they missed on the list, when they encounter them in context, with anywhere from a 43% to 82% gain.
- Children and adults have difficulty separating spoken words into their constituent phonemes, and adults who already read, use their knowledge of spelling to help them complete such tasks, often failing anyway; this holds true even after training in phonemic awareness.

Finally, some good news:
NCLB Left Behind: Report Finds 47 of 50 States in "Some Stage of Rebellion" Against Controversial Law
Study: UT, CT and CO Already in Open Revolt
USNewswire -- August 17, 2005
Washington -- The grassroots rebellion against the controversial No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act already has spread in some form to 47 of the 50 states and is likely to flare up in particular in such states as Minnesota, Maine, Nevada, New Jersey and Virginia during the 2005-2006 school year, according to a new report from, a project of the nonprofit and nonpartisan Civil Society Institute (CSI). The report... provides a detailed national overview of the growing state and local dissent against NCLB ... documented in terms of anti-NCLB legislation (21 states); opting out/waivers/ exemptions (40 states); litigation (four cases, with more in the offing); NCLB unfunded-mandate cost studies (21 states); and NCLB school failure rate studies (including one by MA showing NCLB will flunk 75-90 percent of schools over time).
You can read more about this at:

Recent Cuts Reversing 50 Years of Progress in School Libraries
CHICAGO, Aug. 16 PRNewswire
-- As millions of American children prepare to head back to school this fall, more will be attending schools without libraries. ... The once-remarkable nationwide growth of public schools with library media centers (+64%), schools with a librarian (+39%) and pupils in schools with a librarian (+167%) has been undermined in the past five years by substantial cuts to school library funding. ...Since 1965, more than 60 education and library studies have shown that school library media programs staffed by qualified library media specialists have a positive impact on student academic achievement. In response to the urgent need to support and maintain school library programs and certified school librarians across the nation, the ALA has convened a new task force on school libraries to assess U.S. school library service and make recommendations to strengthen services for children nationwide.
You can find more information on school libraries and student achievement at:

No Emotion Left Behind
By Timothy P. Shriver and Roger P. Weissberg
THE debate over education reform has tended to divide children's learning along two axes, the emotional and the academic. Either we can address children's academic performance, the conventional thinking holds, or we can address their emotional and social needs. ...The two kinds of learning are intimately connected. That means that promoting students' social and emotional skills plays a critical role in improving their academic performance. ... Along with Joseph Durlak, a Loyola University psychologist, one of us (Roger Weissberg) recently conducted the largest-ever quantitative analysis, encompassing more than 300 research studies on this subject. The results, which will be presented later this week for the first time, show that social and emotional learning programs significantly improve students' academic performance. The review shows, for example, that an average student enrolled in a social and emotional learning program ranks at least 10 percentile points higher on achievement tests than students who do not participate in such programs. Moreover, compared with their counterparts outside of these programs, social and emotional learning students have significantly better attendance records; their classroom behavior is more constructive and less often disruptive; they like school more; and they have better grade point averages. They are also less likely to be suspended or otherwise disciplined.
Read more about this at:

Phonics has a phoney role in the literacy wars
Children do not need to sound out words to read them, writes Mem Fox.
WHAT is the role of phonics in learning to read? And what is phonics exactly? ...Phonics is the ability to break up the words on a page into sounds - for example, seeing the word "cat" and being able to say its individual sounds: kuh-a-tuh. Making the right sounds is phonics, but phonics is not reading. Reading is making sense from the page, not sounds. We can all make the right sounds in the Bahasa Indonesian sentence below without understanding it: "Terima kasih banyak, kakek," kata Jessie. ("Thanks a lot, Grandpa," said Jessie.) But getting the phonics right is pointless when there's no sense to be had. Parents often make the understandable mistake of believing that phonically sounding out words is reading. But we do most of our reading in silence: the meaning is on the page, not in the sound. ... So, hey, waht does this say abuot the improtnace of phnoics in raeidng? Prorbalby that phonics ins't very imoptrnat at all. How apcoltapyic is that, in the cuerrnt licetary wars?
Read the rest of Mem's commonsensical essay, which ends with the delightful statement that, "Less heat and more light would be enormously useful in this debate," at:

Supernanny State
Alfie Kohn
A despot welcomes a riot. Disorder provides an excuse to rescind liberties in the name of restoring calm. There are only two choices, after all: chaos and control. The creators of Supernanny and Nanny 911 understand this. Each week they poke their cameras into a dysfunctional suburban home where the children are bouncing off the walls and the parents are ready to climb them. There's whining, there's yelling, there's hitting...and the kids are just as bad. But wait. Look up there: It's a bird. It's a plain-dressed, no-nonsense British nanny, poised to swoop in with a prescription for old-fashioned control. Soon the clueless American parents will be comfortably back in charge, the children will be calm and compliant, and everyone will be sodden with gratitude. Cue the syrupy music, the slow-mo hugs, the peek at next week's even more hopeless family.
Read the rest of this insightful essay at:
Alfie Kohn's latest book is "Unconditional Parenting: Moving From Rewards and Punishments to Love and Reason" (Atria)


That's it for this month. I hope you all had a wonderful - if hectic - start of the school year! As a result of the possible work in Puerto Rico early in October, that issue of Singular Minds may be late. I apologize ahead of time! Have a great month!

Next Issue of Singular Minds: Mid-October? 2005

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