Michael Brunner
Starting in the Reagan Administration, Michael Brunner was a director of the Title I program of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (1965). He later joined the National Institute for Education under Robert Sweet.

In 1982 Brunner wrote a critical analysis of reading curricula in the US focusing on Houghton Mifflin's 1981 Reading Program as typical of the four leading reading programs of that year.

His report, called"Vowelectomy" was published in Vol. 10, No. 1 – September, 1982 Reading Informer, 21st Annual Conference of the Reading Reform Foundation, July 9-11, Toronto Ontario, Canada.

Download Brunner's Vowelectomy.

In 1993 Brunner published a National Survey of Reading Programs for Incarcerated Juvenile Offenders to determine whether and how juveniles were being taught to read while held in detention facilities.

This research informed Brunner's important book, Retarding America: The Imprisonment of Potential which examined the relationship between juvenile illiteracy and the methods that are commonly used to teach reading (i.e., very little phonics), and what proportion of juvenile crime might be attributable to the failure of our school systems.

Brunner is clear about where the fault lies, with the teachers of reading, but the ultimate cause of the failure lies in the schools of education which have failed to each the teachers how to teach reading.

The normal inclination is to hold teachers accountable for students failing to learn to read: The student hasn’t learned; therefore, the teacher hasn’t taught. Not so. Teachers teach the way they were taught to teach. And once employed, they are held accountable for using the reading programs purchased by the district. To do otherwise is considered insubordination.

Teachers cannot and should not be held accountable for what is squarely the fault of the reading departments in schools of education which have failed, and continue to fail, to instruct prospective teachers in the phonology of the English language as well as in intensive systematic phonics methods that incorporate direct instruction strategies — an approach to reading instruction, it will be shown, that has a proven track record of success compared to other approaches. Most teachers, even if they were favorably disposed toward some type of phonics instruction, are likely to shy way from experimenting with it because today they have little or no knowledge of phonetics or intensive, systematic phonics programs that are based upon this knowledge. The schools of education have, for the most part, withheld this knowledge from teachers. An examination of college catalogs, textbooks on developmental reading, and course outlines for reading methods courses provides incontrovertible evidence that this is true.

Ever since the late 1920s, the professors of reading have been supportive of one form or another of whole-word instruction, many believing this instruction makes learning easier and more rewarding. The tragic side effect of this deleterious instruction has been countless millions of illiterates and functional illiterates.

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