Following on from my little rant yesterday, both have letters and both have Leading articles, but only the Telegraph seems to make any sense, so I shall start here.
From the leader, the money quote is:
"the life-chances of up to four million children could have been harmed by the abandonment of synthetic phonics as the means of teaching reading."FOUR MILLION CHILDREN. I think we deserve to know how this came about. Who recommended dropping phonics? Why?
From the letters to the Editor:
Having a non-photographic memory, I could not have learnt to read using the "look and say" method. If I had been born later, I could have ended up illiterate.A recent visitor at my manifesto would be delighted to see the subjunctive mood used correctly here.
All good stuff. Now let's look at the Times. The Leader is generally OK:
"... it has permitted a “pick and mix” approach in which rather too many teachers have plumped for the fashionable but flawed “whole word” or “look and see” formula. As its critics have noted, “sit and hope” would be more accurate.""Look at the pictures" might be another passable description of this method.
This is admirably followed up with:
"One in five children is falling short of the level desired. Only 60 per cent of children obtain these scores in each of the modern “3Rs”. A sharp gender gap is becoming embedded, with boys falling behind girls at a young age and never quite recovering. [My emphasis]"We will return to this, but there is more that is laudable in this leader:
"One of the many mistakes that the “whole word” lobby makes is in insisting that children be allowed to learn to read at their own pace and that it should be a labour of love, not a chore. This is patronising, destructive nonsense. Children need to learn to read as soon as is possible. Until they can, they are left in a state of academic limbo. To teach them to break words into key sounds is not to return to Victorian schooling. It is to liberate them to enter a world of learning."Nicely put.
But then the ball is dropped. That which is given with one hand is deftly taken away with the other. The Letters Editor must be having an off day. I shall, naturally, take the second letter first:
Sir, It is a big mistake to order all children to be taught to read by the phonic method. Much research has shown that the method is best suited to girls, while boys, with superior visuo-spatial skills, are best taught by the look-and-say method because of their ability to recognise the shapes of words."Much research", indeed? Doesn't really fit with the Leading Article, does it? If boys have such an innate "ability to recognise the shapes of words", why does that not apply to individual letters?
But then we have to deal with this moron:
Fifty years ago the battle raged in the opposite direction. The phonic synthesis method used by most teachers was decried as “barking at print” by proponents of look-and-say (whole word recognition) and the Sentence method.The "Sentence" method!!!!
He [David Bell, Ofsted Chief Inspector] is equally right to insist that it should not be the sole method, since it does not get one very far with a word such as “laughter”.Quite so. English is indeed full of irregularities. So what? A child of two is able to cope with this irregularity - the verb "to be", the plurals of "man" and "sheep" - with little difficulty: you just don't expect them to deal with it before they have burbled "dada" for the first time.
What our correspondent does NOT tell us is that he is talking total tosh. A child taught with phonics WILL be able to decode
AntidisestablishmentarianismTry doing that with "look and say". Indeed, if the same child came across a picture of our intrepid letter writer in a newspaper, he would be able correctly to decode the caption that reads
MORONand will understand the full force of the meaning of the word to boot.