Inconsistent Spelling-to-Pronunciation Rules Inhibit Education
Since the bulk of human knowledge is recorded in books, one of the first steps in the education of the child is to teach him to read. Told that each separate letter, or group of letters, printed in his primer or reader represents a spoken word, the child, being gifted with reason, expects to find an invariable re- lationship between the sound of any given word and the letters composing it. He soon discovers, to his dis- may, that no such invariable relationship exists.
Unreason in Spelling
The child finds that some words speld alike ar pro- nounst differently, and that other words pronounst alike hav different spellings ; that the same letter may hav different values in a single word, and that in a single word the same sound may be represented by different letters. One thing he quickly learns that there is no way in which he may surely determin when, or why, a letter that has one value at one time has another at another time; no certain way to tel how to pronounce a word he has never heard, or how to spel a word he has never seen.
Distrusts His Own Reason
Confused and discouraged by the irregularities and contradictions in the spelling of so many of the words he most frequently meets, and humiliated by the "mis- takes" he constantly makes when he attempts, to reason from the spelling of a familiar word to the spelling of an unfamiliar word percieving, in fact, that the more he depends on reason, the more likely he is to go wrong he comes to distrust his reason in all that concerns spelling, and to rely entirely on his memory. This is, of course, good reasoning on his part, but he does not know it; for his teachers, in wel-ment but mistaken efforts to impart some educational value to the spelling-lesson, ar too prone to burden him with rules themselvs overburdend with exceptions that make him feel that there may be some sistem or order in it all that he is powerless to grasp. Thespelling-lesson thus becomes a real obstacle to the de- velopment of the child's reasoning powers.
If English spelling wer as nearly fonetic as Italian, Spanish, or even German, the scool-child would soon perciev that spelling was governd by certain laws, by observing which he could pronounce correctly ,the words he met in writing or print, and could spel cor- rectly the words that he heard spoken. The spelling- lesson would thus encourage him to rely on reason rather than on memory in his other studies also.
While the pupil would be taught to spel only the simpler forms, he would until these forms became adopted into general usage learn to recognize the same words in their longer and more complex spell- ings when he encounterd them in print. He would thus be led sensibly or insensibly, according to the interest taken in the subject by his teacher to un- derstand that an effort was being made in his behalf to apply reason and common-sense to spelling. He would come to regard the remaining irregularities, not as inevitable and irremediable, but as unreasonable hindrances to be overcome now, and to be got rid of as soon as possible.
He would find his efforts to reason from the spelling of one word to that of another more likely to be correct in their results; while the more enlightend teachers would not treat his "mistakes" as humorous or repre- hensible, but would applaud them as logical, pointing out that the real fault lay, not in the working of the pupil's mental processes, but in current bad practis.
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