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Volume I, Number 4, April, 2003

From the book cover . . .

With all the talk and print about "scientifically based" reading research, what educational reformers have concealed is that these findings are scandalously flawed.

You can order a copy of Reading The Naked Truth from FNO Press. Click here.


Reading the Naked Truth: Literacy, Legislation and Lies

Author: Gerald Coles

Publisher: Heinemann; (January 13, 2003)

Reviewed by Jamie McKenzie

This is a remarkable and courageous book.

Gerald Coles strips away the veneer of the National Reading Panel's report and reveals for all of us the distortions and misrepresentations that permeate the so-called scientific considerations of this highly partisan panel.

In the great American tradition of muckraking, Coles examines the many differences between the findings of the studies cited and the panel's reporting of those findings.

It is an astonishing book.

Even as a war rages in Iraq, a second war is being waged against the children, the teachers and the public schools of this land by a group that is so intent on pushing its phonics agenda that it will indulge in half truths, dismiss the findings of well-respected research scientists, and try to impose narrow-minded thinking and definitions on the rest of us.

Coles deconstructs the work of the panel like a good accountant or SEC investigator reviewing the cooked books of a rogue corporation of the last decade.

The bottom line? Coles shows us how the NRP was loaded with partisans from the very beginning. He goes on to demonstrate how their deliberations were narrowly focused and biased. He then examines their reporting study by study to reveal the distortions and discrepancies.

Reading The Naked Truth is chilling.

Accustomed to reading educational research that is balanced, judicious and measured in its approach to complex issues, most of us are unprepared for a document like the report of the NRP that is so unrelentingly partisan.

What makes this expose doubly ominous is the imposition of the NRP findings upon schools and teachers across the land by Federal bureaucrats who wield the power of NCLB funding and approvals to threaten folks who don't buy the programs they tell them to buy. (see N.Y. Times article on NYC Phonics Program - "Bush Adviser Casts Doubt on the Benefits of Phonics Program" - By Abby Goodnough, New York Times, January 24, 2003. Go to article)

For a sample of Coles' writing, consider the following passage that follows his review of the NRP summaries of phonics studies:

The review of the studies on phonics, in the previous chapter and this one, demonstrates that the Report's claims are not supported by what it points to as proof for its position. Systematic phonics training is not proven superior to whole language teaching or to teaching phonics as needed. Phonics is not shown to provide special benefit to at risk students. Overall, contrary to the Report's assertion, the "facts" should not persuade educators and the public about the purported value of systematic phonics instruction. (Page 97)

The attempt to wrap educational change agendas in pseudo science and misinformation does great damage to the educational policy process of this nation, as the average person rarely takes the time to check the footnotes and references cited in studies to see if they say what the authors claim they say.

It has long been a matter of trust to assume that researchers and writers would report the findings of studies in an honest manner.

Gerald Coles has demonstrated with Reading The Naked Truth that those days of trust are now over. Distortion, misinformation and stacking the deck to sell a program or a point of view have become standard sales strategies for many who would impose their doctrines and ideologies on the rest of us in the name of science, justice and progress.

It turns out, sadly, that there is little science, little truth and much harm lurking beneath the dazzling prose and veneer. Justice and progress are applied by conservative forces to the NCLB sales pitch in a cynical effort to market a series of change strategies likely to cheapen, weaken and dilute the quality of educational experience available to our least advantaged citizens.

You can order a copy of Reading The Naked Truth from FNO Press. Click here.

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