Dodgy Logic Finally Exposed!
The growing success of applied phonics programmes, particularly synthetic phonics, cannot be ignored. There are still grumblings of discontent from those 'old guards' of the special needs empire who have failed students for years. Plowden and Warnock swept the legitmate rights of the masses to an education under a carpet of reform and, in so doing, disenfranchised generation after generation, not just from the right to communicate but also from the awareness of the world around them. The uneducated cannot make informed decisions about the issues which are most important. Many go to prison; others may spend their lives wasted by want and unemployment without the real capacity to ask why! 'Whole Word' methodology is social engineering on a massive scale.
We have had twenty-five years of dodging the brickbats and struggling against the 'Whole Word' protagonists. The increasingly discredited Reading Recovery programme, which has absorbed hundreds of millions of pounds worth of funding, is on its way out along with a plethora of other 'Whole Word' systems. The 'WASP' phonics standard, alongside others, has now been raised.
The comments below, largely based on the introduction to the first edition, still apply but thankfully, to an ever-decreasing number of indivduals and institutions:
At a recent conference, a teacher asked the following question: "What about those children who prefer to be taught by other means?" By 'other means' she meant those methods based on 'Whole Word' systems, memory training mnemonics and multi-sensory techniques which are routinely inflicted on adults and children who are diagnosed as having Special Educational Needs. The logic is entirely suspect: Would you ask a lifelong vegetarian if they preferred pork over beef! How does one suppose that someone without literacy prefers to be taught that of which they have little or no concept? Even the sounds received by the illiterate can only be reproduced by them as estimates. It seemed particularly galling as there can be little doubt that the question was posed by someone whose education would have been entirely traditional.
Why do so many of the custodians of the Special Needs Empires who barked at print in order to become literate feel it necessary to pour scorn on the methods which taught them? Why do they feel it necessary to inflict the mind-numbing banalities of wooden letters and memory training gimmicks on those who are desperate to learn the rules and structures of our language?
I was also asked a very pertinent question by a post-graduate student at MA UWCN who asked why it was that some students might be reluctant to embark on the Word Wasp programme.
It is always helpful for coaches to put themselves in the student's position: For a given number of years you have been a failure. You have been subject to all manner of patronizing and totally useless techniques. You have managed to salvage, by memory, a certain number of words. Your coach can read and spell thousands of words. You know that inside you are not stupid but you feel stupid because you cannot emulate the memory skills that your coach, apparently, has in abundance. It's taken all your effort to learn a handful of words.
The teacher has never said that they were taught by an entirely different set of rules! Students think that teachers learned their literacy skills by the same means that are being inflicted on them. Is it any wonder that students can be truculent?