Day: May 1, 2013

Traditional Academic Feuds in Literacy Studies: The Reading Wars as Evidence of Horizontal Knowledge Structure

This post is a consolidated form of the 8-part series I posted from April 16-May 30, 2013 as part of a class seminar on literacy. I have done a rough edit to attempt to make the posts more cohesive; if some issues are unclear, please refer to the original posts. Thanks again to all who commented and encouraged me during this endeavor. A special thanks to Dr. Carol Hopkins, who supported me in this project.

The Reading Wars of the 1990s were documented by the exchanges between Edelsky and McKenna, Robinson, & Miller in Educational Researcher. This theoretical conflict between Whole Language and Traditional Literacy represents what I call a “traditional academic feud.” A traditional academic feud is a social phenomenon in an academic field of study where two or more groups theorize about or describe a single phenomenon in categorically different ways. That a traditional academic feud eventually achieved “war” status is a curious phenomenon–but perhaps no more curious than the fact that academic feuds occur in the first place. In this series, I plan to explain 1) why the academic feud of the Reading Wars occurred, 2) why the feud escalated to a war, and 3) why a similar feud developed recently in the reading comprehension field (this element of the thesis was abandoned due to time/space constraints), and (if I am brave enough) 4) how we might avoid wars and have more productive feuds in Literacy Studies. (more…)