Briton to Expound New Learning Approach on TV
September 28, 1970, Page 54
The New York Times Archives
The time for a child to learn to read, according to Dr. Caleb Gattegno, is soon after he learns to speak.
A mistake that is made, the international educational innovator believes, is that adults encourage a child to learn to speak, but they wait to teach him to read.
Ideally, he says, a child should be encouraged to learn to read by the same quite natural process by which he learns to speak.
Though he states his demurrers mildly, sounding no more radical than a favorite uncle, Dr. Gattegno's words boil down to the assertion that children are taught to read in the wrong way, at the wrong time, in the wrong place.
Nearly as much can be said of the teaching of mathematics, of biology, of music —wrong, wrong and wrong again, in Dr. Gattegno's view.
He does not therefore challenge American education on some point of methodology; he challenges it in the way Copernicus challenged the belief that the sun revolved around the earth—that is, at the heart of its most fundamental and honored assumptions.
There tend to be two strong views of Dr. Gattegno among the relatively few familiar with his works. There are some who believe that he is a genius, and there are some who think that he is educationally mad. Now, parents, teachers and school officials will have an opportunity to consider the matter for themselves in the next few days.
Some of the concepts of his approach, and some of its results, are being set forth in a two‐week‐long television series called “Powers of Children” on the WNBC‐TV “Education Exchange” program.
The series begins today and it will continue on Channel 4 from 6:30 to 7 A.M. weekdays, through Oct. 9. Tomorrow morning, and again on Oct. 7, Dr. Gattegno will explain his approach; other programs will show it in action.
‘To Hear Is Music’
The half‐hour on Friday will show small children amusing themselves by playing Bach on violins in a segment titled, “To Hear Is Music.”
This will be the most sustained public exposure that ‐Dr. Gattegno will have had in the nearly five years since he came from England to make New York City the base of his attempt to re educate the educators.
He is the author of more than 50 books and the holder of degrees in mathematics, physics, education and psychology. He has worked principally in Cairo, in London and in Ethiopia. At his office at 821 Broad way he runs Schools for the Future, which disseminates his ideas, and Educational Solutions, Inc., which offers help to school systems on a pay‐only‐if‐it‐works basis.
The child is ultimately the agent of his own apprehension.” That perception by Dr. Gattegno lies very near the heart of his system. It mandates a new relationship between the learner and the teacher.
“We don't teach speaking,” he said in an interview. “We learn it before we go to school. Why should we teach reading?
“Since you only need to know five clues to learn to read, why shouldn't we give you the five clues and let you alone?”
Those five clues are that the written language is linear, runs from left to right and top to bottom, with spacing between words. The fifth clue is that certain designs trigger special sounds.
Supplied with these clues, a child can learn to read in 20 hours, an illiterate adult in 4 to 6 hours, Dr. Gattegno said.
He sounds the keynote of his philosophy when he insists on “the subordination of teaching to learning at all ages.”
A child who is released from the domination of teaching procedures, and allowed to learn, will acquire a great deal in a short time, thus shortening the duration of his education, Dr. Gattegno asserts.
He is death on teaching by drill and rote. Such classic methods concentrate on im parting knowledge, while Dr. Gattegno believes that what should be imparted is a way of knowing.
In reading, he says, “I as the teacher work only on you, and you work on reading.”
“Geometry is presented to you as knowledge, rather than as your activity,” he said, “but if it is presented to you as your activity, you can acquire and own geometry in days instead of years. This I was doing 33 years ago, getting people to acquire geometry in no time.
“It is important to keep meaning at the center, not memory. Once the dynamics are yours, you can extend it yourself.”
Dr. Gattegno has entered into what he calls a “performance contract” with the Roxbury, Mass., schools to increase the reading skill of 400 children.
“If I don't deliver, they don't pay,” he said. “If they don't get an increase of a year and a half this year, they don't pay. If they get a year and a half to 2 years, they pay $100 per child. Over 2 years, $200 per child. Each additional year is $30 more per child per year.”
His office is also working in Harlem with four elementary schools and Intermediate School 201. Dr. Gattegno says that his way of teaching reading is now in use in 7,000 to 8,000 class rooms in the United States, though he would prefer to reach 3‐year‐olds by television.
Dr. Gattegno advocates “bypassing knowledge and making it not the object of education.”
“Knowledge increases all the time and very fast, so it is not in the question that we can keep up with it,” he said. “If the stress is on knowing, we shan't be in the mess we are in today by trying to do the impossible.
“Knowing is far more im portant than knowledge. Knowledge becomes obsolete; knowing does not.”
A version of this archives appears in print on September 28, 1970, on Page 54 of the New York edition with the headline: Briton to Expound New Learning Approach on TV.