Can phonics reduce the crime rate in America?

In 1994 the U.S. Department of Education acknowledged that two-thirds of all incarcerated criminals have poor literacy. source

Picture of a Girl Reading

Reading is a fundamental life skill. Photo credit: healingdream

Imagine applying for your first job as teenager at a locally owned restaurant. You live rent free but would like to earn some extra spending money. When you tell the manager you would like to apply, he hands you a form and asks you to fill it out. You nervously glance down as you take the form in your hands. How would you feel if you could not read the form? To you the form may as well be written in Kanji characters. Your chances of getting this job are sunk because you can’t even read the application.

Unfortunately for too many government school students this scenario is all too real.

The System is Rigged

It turns out that the best way to teach people to read is phonics. However, as John Taylor Gatto demonstrates in this chapter of the Underground History of American education, there was a shift away from phonics based teaching in the public schools of America. Gatto uses data from the US military draft board to trace a significant decline in the literacy rate of the school population.

It is a despicable crime to deprive human beings of a basic skill through the use of inferior methodology such as whole word reading. The leaders of the public school system know that non phonics based programs will increase illiteracy. Yet the practice continues to this day.

Think about how you read a new word. If you have acquired basic phonics skills, you can sound out a word you have never seen before by decoding the symbols that are used to represent sounds. If you have been taught to guess at words, your reading experience will be frustrating.


It is hard to imagine why some school districts refuse to use phonics based reading programs when a growing body of evidence links illiteracy to crime. You can prevent your loved ones from being damaged. Take the time to teach your kids to read using a phonics based approach. If all the schools in America did so, the crime rate might even be reduced.

Is whole word reading a crime against humanity? Let me know what you think in the comments section.

3 thoughts on “Can phonics reduce the crime rate in America?

  1. Pingback: Carnival of Homeschooling: Wish List Edition | Life Nurturing Education

  2. Ina's 5

    I think the poor literacy rate is bot due to while word or phonics but due to the mindset that obe us better then the other. If teachers taught both methods then mire students would learn to read. I have 5 children. One is three hrs old tomorrow. The other four are who I will use as examples. My oldest daughter and middle son learned to read with phonics. One in school. One at home. My oldest son an youngest daughter learned with whole word. We new our oldest sone would struggle to learn to read in the s bool system and so taught him to read with oyr own version of whole word (do e orally). We didn’t know there were other ways to teach reading as schools here all teach phonics. He now reads above grade level and is 12. Our youngest daughter could not read when we pulled her from ps. I struggled to teach her to read as did a tutor. I searched on line and learned of whole word which was similar to how we taught her brother. A year later she was reading. This year she is reading for fun. There is never one right teaching meathod. The idea that there is, is what is failing kids.
    Btw I have enjoyed reading your blog. 🙂

    1. Dan Post author


      Thanks for your response. Your dedication to your children is apparent from your efforts to make sure they learn to read. This kind of one on one attention is one of the reasons that makes home education a superior alternative. I think you have shown that you care more about your kids being able to read than a government employee would no matter how well intentioned they are.

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