Author: Bruce Deitrick Price

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Bruce Deitrick Price discusses these themes (and d

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“Learning Styles”--What’s Up With That? By Bruce Deitrick Price

  in Opinions | Published 2011-12-23 02:29:55 | 594 Reads | Unrated


Learning styles--something that hardly existed 25 years ago--now seems to be a fixed part of American education Do you ever suspect that maybe we’ve let this thing go too far

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Learning styles--something that hardly existed 25 years ago--now seems to be a fixed part of American education. Do you ever suspect that maybe we’ve let this thing go too far?

Sure, some kids are left-handed and some right-handed; but we’ve always managed to teach them as though they were more or less the same. Now we have left-brained and right-brained children; and for some reason this requires the school to dance in a new way. We’ve got the tactile, the musical, the auditory, the kinesthetic, the interpersonal, and lots of others. We’ve got more categories, as they u
sed to say, than Carter has little liver pills.

Why is the Education Establishment so drawn to something that might not even be real? After all, can’t we safely say that children are much more similar than dissimilar? They’re human beings, are they not? Young but still all the same species? For some reason, however, the Education Establishment wants to segregate every group of children into subgroups, each with a special set of problems and requirements, not to mention extra budget appropriations.

One can’t help thinking of the centipede, who walked so well and gracefully until someone asked which foot went first? Is he, therefore, a left-footed centipede or right-footed? Which group does he belong to? In the meantime, how can he possibly walk without answering this important question? Paralysis sets in. Much the same thing seems to be happening in many school rooms as teachers struggle to pigeonhole their children.

And where did this tendency start? Well, here is a cynical theory. It all started with the phrase “reading readiness.”

Let’s say the year is approximately 1950. Imagine you have promoted a 100% phony way to teach reading (it was known as Look-Say). Kids don’t read; instead they end up functionally illiterate, learning-disabled, or dyslexic. How do you explain away all this failure, and come out looking good?

You need a genius excuse that no one can see through. Does such genius actually exist? Yes, unfortunately. The Education Establishment came up with the concept called “reading readiness,” This con was among the most ingenious ever devised in the 20th century.

If a child wasn’t reading, teachers would explain the problem to the parents this way: “Your child lacks reading readiness. Don’t worry. It’s probably temporary. It might go away in second or third grade, surely by fourth. Almost all children get reading readiness, eventually.”

You see how clever this is? Your child may act in a normal way. And yet it turns out that your child has some mysterious mental defect which makes the child unable to process words in a book. Your child missed out on reading readiness. There is absolutely nothing anyone can do except wait patiently. And accept without complaint whatever side-effects show up: ADHD, dyslexia, low grades, loss of interest in school, etc.

If the school were using phonics, your child would learn to read in the first grade. The child does not lack anything. It is the SCHOOL that lacks reading readiness, or more exactly, readiness to teach reading. But who would ever know? The educators invented reading readiness as the all-purpose defense against charges of incompetence, child abuse, educational malpractice, and subversion. Genius.

My thesis is that this cop-out worked so well, the Education Establishment started using it in all directions. Any time kids aren’t learning, the school says brightly: oh well, these children have a different learning style. As soon as we figure what it is, we’ll get moving again. In the meantime, any problems these kids are having is their fault. Certainly not ours!

(For more of this analysis, see “51: Learning Styles--How Educators Divide and Conquer” on



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About the Author

Bruce Deitrick Price discusses these themes (and dozens of others) on his site See, in particular, "38: Saving Public Schools." His fifth book is THE EDUCATION ENIGMA--What Happened To American Education.