Theodor Seuss Geisel is better known by his pen name, “Dr. Seuss”, the author of some of the most famous children books of all time. The Cat in the Hat, Green Eggs and Ham, and Hop on Pop has more in common then just being popular. They all share a common characteristic of being constructed almost entirely with “sight words”.
Seuss was commissioned in 1957 to write a book using only 236 sight words. It was a response to the Dewey revolt where phonics were thrown out, and schools went to word recognition. John Dewey is considered the father of the progressive school movement. Dewy believed only scientific method could further human good, and that there was no room for “God” in the education process.
Dr. Seuss wrote his books with good intentions of providing kids with fun, productive stories with exciting entertaining pictures. His stories since have been categorized with the “look say” movement, a method of teaching beginners to read by memorizing and recognizing whole words, rather than by associating letters with sounds.
Parents where encouraged to read and have their kids memorize books like ‘Cat in the HAT”. Which in the long run developed kids into “sight readers” with a holistic reflex rather than phonetic readers with a phonetic reflex. A holistic reader looks at each word as a little picture, a configuration, much like a Chinese ideograph, and tries to think of the word it represents. A phonetic reader associates letters with sounds and sounds out the syllabic units, which blend into an articulated word.
Dr. Seuss also regretted the association with the “look say” movement. He expressed the opinion in Arizona Magazine in June 1981, saying “… I think killing phonics was one of the greatest causes of illiteracy in the country.”
The “look Say” movement is even connected to creating such disorders like ADD and Dyslexia. Educational disorders are thought to be a form of behavioral disorganization created by teaching disorganization. Mainly influenced by the holistic teaching movement.
Here’s some other interesting facts. Dr. Seuss also shares a connection to the Rockefeller’s. He started his career as a political cartoonist and was then hired by standard oil. As an advertiser he worked for FORD, GE, and NBC to name a few.
Cat in the hat was original published by Houghton Mifflin one of the largest educational publisher in the US at the time. They published textbooks, assessments, reference works, and even standardized testing.
It is now published by random house that is owned by Bertelsmann. Bertelsmann is not publicly listed and is majority owned (76.9%) by the Bertelsmann Foundation. A non-profit organization and political think tank that have been accused of being neoliberal. Wanting education out of the private sector into government control.