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'The New Illiterates'

May 19, 1991

From my point of view as a specialist in literacy development, it is clear that Dinesh D'Souza's "Illiberal Education" (April 14) accurately analyzes one aspect of "the new illiterates," reviewer Todd Gitlin to the contrary.

The book correctly depicts the "deconstructionist" theory of reading comprehension that has been adopted by English departments of even major universities. This theory's central contention is that written language has no inherent meaning. Written texts are said to mean whatever their readers will them to mean.

This theory is at the heart of the WL (whole language) approach to reading instruction that rapidly is invading our schools. Children in WL programs are encouraged to guess at authors' words and meanings, rather than to discern precisely what they intended to convey.

D'Souza describes the ideological source of this pernicious educational practice. It is one about which all parents--and, for that matter, all taxpayers who pay for failures in reading instruction--should be alarmed.

PATRICK GROFF, Professor, College of Education, San Diego State University, SAN DIEGO

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