On balance, I have been fortunate with engaging on social media, specifically Twitter and my blog. However, over the past few years, my work on the “science of reading” (SOR) has attracted more and more angry and confrontational responses.
As a result, I muted a large number of accounts in 2022, usually because the person either responded with attacks or misrepresentations and were unwilling to reconsider their antagonism or my clear refuting with evidence that they had in fact misrepresented me and my work.
None the less, I occasionally have other people alert me of even more and extreme misrepresentations from those muted accounts. One in particular seems popular among SOR zealots—the swipe that people should not listen to me because I work for Reading Recovery (I don’t and never have).
So let’s set the record straight about who I work for, and what that means.
I have a 39-year professional life as an educator across five decades. I have worked on payroll as a public school teacher in South Carolina (18 years), as an adjunct at several universities and colleges, and as a professor at Furman University since 2002 (now as a tenured full professor).
Simply stated, that is who I have and currently work for. The most important aspect of that disclosure is that as a university-based scholar, I am an independent scholar in that no one pays or directs me to do any particular scholarship or public work, and certainly, absolutely no one tells me what to express in that scholarship and public work.
My scholarly and activist agendas are entirely my choice and my responsibility (which I take very seriously).
Over my five decades in teaching, I have presented at dozens of conferences sponsored by dozens of organizations. Conservatively, I have done so for free or at costs to me in about 90% or more of those.
I have participated in dozens and dozens of interviews, podcasts, and webinars—virtually all of them for free.
My extensive publishing record has also been almost entirely either for free or at a cost to me—with a few projects done for a stipend or honorarium (although even then, my work is entirely my choice and my responsibility).
I have never and will never do work for hire to endorse or promote any organization or person. Period.
Since last November, I have presented (or will present) at 6 major conferences for different professional organizations. Presenting at a conference or for an organization is not working for or endorsing that organization. Again, I have never and will never present as a spokesperson for any organization or anyone (except myself).
When invited and/or paid, I accept based on interest in my work or my reputation as a thorough scholar on a topic, but I do not respond to requests for what I will present or for any sort of endorsement.
For about a year now, I have monetized my blog, but that is a very small amount of money that basically pays for having a website with WordPress; and I maintain a blog in order to make my work accessible to anyone without cost to them because I see my work primarily as activism.
I have a book on the “science of reading,” in a second edition. To date I have received $0 in royalties for that work (academic publishing is rarely profitable).
The purpose of my extended commitment to challenging the SOR movement is to correct a false story and to challenge misinformation, baseless blaming, and unfounded personal attacks.
And broadly, my SOR work is targeted at identifying misguided reading policy and practice driven by a false story.
I don’t endorse reading programs (I repeatedly have called for an end to purchasing and implementing reading programs), and although I belong to a few professional organizations, I very carefully do not endorse or associate my scholarship with ideological agendas or profiteering.
My experience is those who attack and misrepresent are either projecting (Sold a Story is selling a story, and education products), unable to engage with the evidence, or both.
The great irony of those attacking me to discredit me by association is that if they would simply read my blog or talk to people who actually know me, I have a really solid reputation as being my own person; I simply do not carry water for anyone or any organization.
That a faction of the SOR movement persists in attacks, misrepresentations, and outright lies says far more about them and their lack of credibility than it does about me.
Recognizing there are problems beneath the surface of his works and many of his aphorisms, I remain compelled by Henry David Thoreau in “Civil Disobedience”: “Any man more right than his neighbors constitutes a majority of one already.”
In terms of my scholarship and public work, I work for me. Anyone posting otherwise is, frankly, lying and should not be considered credible.