Commentary Magazine


The "How to Read" Controversy

To the Editor:

I have just read, with interest and much appreciation, Spencer Brown’s article on “Dr. Flesch’s Cure for Reading Troubles” in the August issue of COMMENTARY. YOU and Mr. Brown are to be commended warmly for publication of his “cool look at the panacea.”

The problem evoked by Flesch’s book is one in which we, as test-builders, have a very special interest. Members of both sides in the reading-method controversy look to the test-makers for “proof” of their own particular points of view. This is difficult, for, as Mr. Brown points out, no one so far has found and proved any one method of reading instruction to be superior to all others for all children. So we find ourselves constantly asked (by anxious laymen): “Why don’t the schools do as Flesch says they should, so our youngsters will learn to read?”—and (by harassed educators): “What can we show or tell to parents who come in with the Flesch book in their hands and fire in their eyes?”

Short of a year-long course in the history and techniques of educational and psychological research, there is blessed little material available for lay readership that will help in answering these questions. Mr. Brown’s article is, in my opinion, one of the best and most readable short commentaries on the whole controversy. It could be used by many intelligent readers to attain a more balanced outlook in the matter.

John E. Dobbin
Educational Testing Service
Princeton, New Jersey

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