The whole language method is in contrast to the phonics method. Phonics teaches the individual components and sounds (or phonetic building blocks) which make up words, enabling the student to then determine the correct pronunciation, and often the meaning, of most words with relative ease. The whole language method requires the student to recognize and learn new words as whole words, and rely on the context in which they appear, rather than on their phonetic building blocks, to determine their meanings.
Indeed, this criticism is in part because leftist and cultural Marxist publications have lauded the whole language method as part of the broader changes which took hold after the 1960s; as the avowedly socialist Monthly Review puts it, "during the Vietnam era when campuses and high-schools broke into open-rebellion and, as a collateral result, critical pedagogy, whole language reading programs, inter-active, investigatory teaching gained a foothold ...".
The "whole language" or "look-say" method became trendy in the United States following World War II. Rudolf Flesch was an early and influential critic of "whole language" teaching methods in his 1955 book Why Johnny Can't Read. Flesch advocated a return to phonics.
Dr. Louisa C. Moats observed that whole language reading "lives on," despite documented evidence that its approach is a primary reason why the standardized reading scores of public school students remain abysmal.
- "The Phonics vs. 'Whole Language' Controversy", Onkar Ghate, Capitalism Magazine (February 25, 2005), http://www.capmag.com/articlePrint.asp?ID=4151
- "Notes from the Editors", Monthly Review Volume 60, Number 5, http://monthlyreview.org/nfte081001.php
- Flesch, Rudolf. Why Johnny Can't Read: And What You Can Do About It.