The best-known educator of the 20th century was a scammer in cashmere. "The most famous reading teacher in the world," as television hosts introduced her, Evelyn Wood had little classroom experience, no degrees in reading instruction, and a background that included a collaboration with the Third Reich. Nevertheless, a nation spooked by Sputnik and panicked by paperwork eagerly embraced her promises of a speed-reading revolution.
Journalists, lawmakers, and two US presidents lent credibility to Wood's claims of turbocharging reading speeds. A royal-born Wood grad said she'd polished off Moby Dick in three hours; a senator swore he finished one book per lunchtime. Fudging test results and squelching critics, Wood's popularity endured even as science proved that her system taught only skimming, with disastrous effects on comprehension. As apps and online courses attempt to spark a speed-reading revival, this engaging look at Wood's rise from missionary to marketer exposes the pitfalls of wishful thinking.
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Skimmers gotta skim
The real moral of this story is how ignoring scientific evidence, and asserting that facts are somehow fungible, has gotten us into the mess we are in today. I suppose being an LDS missionary helped this charlatan to convince others to join her in a world of irrationality. To be honest, the story of her life is rather dull. There are moments when she is heartless adoptive mother, a falsifier of credentials, and a shameless (and untruthful) name dropper. But always just a rather unremarkable person, who was able to ride a wave to join a long line of carnies selling Americans snake oil. Actually, a deeper investigation of the credulity of the people who believed the scam, or used it for their own ends, might have made for an even more intriguing book.
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There was a lot to this lady than just reading
The ads and TV appearances all were part of my childhood seeing the demos and then the newspaper ads so that is why I got the download. Yes I wanted to take the course but it was so expensive.
The book is a lot more than Reading Dynamics thankfully going into the early days. The stories from their time in Germany before the war were some of the most interesting parts of the book. She was a female entrepreneur with multiple degrees, and this was the 50's. Her husband was OK being "behind" her so not a common marriage for the time.
Like many entrepreneurs she was great at product and promotion but lousy in business. There is also an interesting point when consumerism started in the late 60's and how new expectations and laws changed the promotion of speed reading which I lived thru but not aware of the impact to companies.
Thee quarters of the book are of the early days and life of the Woods in Utah then moving to DC in the 60's. If you enjoy that type of history it is great listen. It is also good to learn why Evelyn Woods courses are no longer offer and what has replaced them.