I am not a high-profile journalist with platforms at APM, Education Week, and the New York Times.
So I have to imagine that hearing from teachers and parents raising concerns about how the “science of reading” (SOR) movement isn’t representing them and even silencing and bullying them is only a fraction of those experiencing the same thing.
Of course, I too have regularly experienced the visceral anger and bullying coming from SOR and dyslexia zealots (a substantial percentage of the entire SOR movement).
Here, then, I want to focus on how the SOR parental rights bullying has a current and parallel cousin—the anti-CRT, curriculum ban, and book censorship movement driven by conservative culture warriors.
The overlap, in fact, between the SOR movement and the culture war linked to education and attacks on marginalized groups is becoming more and more direct:
[House Speaker] Renner [FL – R] also lodged attacks against measures conservatives and DeSantis have derided as “woke” movements. Ideologues are pushing their politics as a religion and at the expense of education, he said.
“They spend more time defending drag queen story time than promoting phonics and the science of reading,” Renner continued. “In this election, moms and dads sent a clear message to these ideologues: our children are not your social experiment.”Paul Renner, now House Speaker, promises conservative agenda
First, a typical pattern I experience on social media is that when I post research that challenges and contradicts SOR talking points the bullying begins. That bullying tends to gravitate to asking why I want to ignore (or accusing me of ignoring/discounting) the voices of parents and teachers who are being elevated by Emily Hanford’s articles and podcast.
Well, I have to be clear here that I understand that parents and teachers have quite valid concerns, and I would never silence or ignore those concerns. But the SOR movement isn’t limited to raising their voices; the movement is using those voices to bully and to ram through policies and practices that ironically deny other parents and teachers their voices and concerns.
As I have pointed out numerous times, there is a singular message to Hanford’s work; she has never covered research that contradicts that singular message.
For example, not a peep about the major study out of England that found the country’s systematic phonics-first policy to be flawed, suggesting a balanced approach instead.
And not a peep about schools having success with one of Hanford’s favorite reading programs to demonize.
At the root of this problem, also, is that Hanford has a habit of switching back and forth between claiming “science” and “research” while depending on anecdote:
Hanford critiqued approaches named as balanced literacy and whole language without citing any evidence around these claims. She continued with anecdotes on how a focus on the SOR has improved student performance, but there is not a single citation of evidence in support of this claim.Hoffman, J.V., Hikida, M., & Sailors, M. (2020). Contesting science that silences: Amplifying equity, agency, and design research in literacy teacher preparation. Reading Research Quarterly, 55(S1), S255-S266. Retrieved July 26, 2022, from https://doi.org/10.1002/rrq.353
It is clear that the repeated critiques of literacy teacher preparation expressed by the SOR community do not employ the same standards for scientific research that they claimed as the basis for their critiques.Hoffman, J.V., Hikida, M., & Sailors, M. (2020). Contesting science that silences: Amplifying equity, agency, and design research in literacy teacher preparation. Reading Research Quarterly, 55(S1), S255-S266. Retrieved July 26, 2022, from https://doi.org/10.1002/rrq.353
The fundamental concern I have is not that Hanford and the SOR movement is elevating the concerns of parents and teachers, but that far too many SOR advocates are misrepresenting and oversimplifying reading science and then using that bully pulpit to mandate “all students must” policy and practice
Simply stated, reading science is not settled, brain research on reading isn’t fully formed in ways that can or should inform practice, and mandating universal policies erases the need to hear all voices and serve the individual needs of students.
For example, many SOR advocates call for systematic phonics for all students (regardless of need), universal dyslexia screening (which isn’t supported by research), and specific practices that also are not supported by research—Orton-Gillingham (see here and here), LETRS (see here), grade retention (see here), and both structured literacy (see here) and the “simple view” of reading (SVR) (see here and here).
It is entirely different to call for the needs of your child or the needs of yourself as an educator than to demand that all students and teachers need what you are demanding from your singular although shared experiences. 
Teachers across the US are being bullied and silenced through LETRS training and by administrators for simply asking questions about SOR or correctly pointing out that SOR is being misunderstood and misused (see how Gov. Youngkin (R – VA) frames SOR as phonics).
Where is the podcast for those educators?
Where is the podcast for parents thrilled by the education their children have received through Reading Recovery, Units of Study, or Fountas and Pinnell?
There isn’t one because the SOR movement has committed to a bullying agenda, demanding universal and one-size fits-all policy, often reinforced by the market interests of companies branding with “science of reading.”
Missionary zeal and righteous anger are useful for clicks on media platforms that are struggling with the shifting ways we all access news and information (interesting that APM is chasing money by accusing other people of chasing money).
Missionary zeal and righteous anger are cancers for productive discourse and effective systemic reform (such as addressing reading policy needs).
Not all beginning readers are the same.
Not all struggling readers are the same.
Not all children labeled with dyslexia are the same (although dyslexia may be most strongly associated with out-of-school factors, which SOR advocates fail to acknowledge).
Therefore, policy must not demand that teachers conform to scripted approaches as if individual students are not being served.
Let’s then add the parallel dynamic occurring with anti-CRT movements, curriculum bans, and book censorship.
Republicans are (like Hanford) only reaching out and elevating a narrow type of parental voices, those righteously angry about what teachers teach, what students learn, and what anyone can read.
Censorship and bans that are universal erase the rights of those parents who want those lessons and those books for their children.
It is one thing to request that a child not be assigned a book or not have access to materials, but it is quite another thing to demand that no child can be assigned a book or have access to materials because a loud parent or parental group is offended.
Not a single recent bill (just as there is no podcast) protects the rights of parents and students to have access through the publicly funded school system curriculum and books that someone else may find offensive.
The SOR movement and the anti-CRT/curriculum and book ban movement are ultimately not about parental rights, student needs, or reading and literature as well as academic freedom.
They are ideological bullying that forefronts a narrow set of mandates at the expense of what likely is the silenced majority of parents and teachers who want children taught as individuals and teaching and learning to honor the sacred foundation of academic freedom.
Parental rights is not being honored when some parents have rights and a voice that deny other parents their rights and voices.
 A trap and flaw of the SOR movement is shouting “Science!” and then using anecdote. I want to be clear that (1) anecdotes are not science, and (2) I actually think we should drop the “science” tyranny and spend more time on anecdotes because qualitative data are quite valuable in education.