Education: THE FIRST R

IN the office of the superintendent of education in Marin County, Calif., three elementary schoolteachers sat across a table facing four indignant supervisors. The supervisors had just made a horrifying discovery. The teachers had been teaching reading with a system based on pure phonics, and now, far from repenting, they wanted permission to buy a phonic text. As the debate raged back and forth, one supervisor finally blurted out: "But if we approve this book, other people will think we are giving in to Rudolf Flesch."

If 1955 was notable for anything as far...

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