Phonics advocates have something to sell

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The only people who make any money out of education are phonics advocates. The only people.

Nobody else does.

Not children’s authors like Michael Rosen or Mem Fox. They do not make a red cent from book sales. Sometimes, Rosen can be found, deep into the night, slowly turning the handle of the printing press by candle light: Out pops another Bear Hunt. He gets nothing in return. That’s dedication.

Neither do the publishers of levelled readers. The well known early reader The Boy is Holding a Carrot, The Boy is Holding an Egg, was donated, complete with photographs, entirely free to the school community, as has been every other predictable text ever written.

And no teacher, principal, education bureaucrat or academic has ever drawn a salary. They give their time for the love of the children. As it should be.

And this is particularly the case for Reading Recovery teachers, not one of whom has ever been paid. They see it as a duty. That’s why they spread the word through training events that are free of charge. They just want it out there because they care so much.

So do Fountas and Pinnell and their publisher, Pearson. Despite being a tiny, ramshackle concern, Pearson waives its rights to raise any revenue at all from Fountas & Pinnell Classroom™.

And neither do those little backyard outfits Apple and Google. All those iPads you see in classrooms have been donated out of the goodness of Apple’s heart. All those machines seizing-up due to the latest version of Windows are seizing-up for free.

The education sphere, it can be said with confidence, is entirely altruistic.

Except for one neoliberal fly in the ointment. You know what I am talking about. It is those massive multinational behemoths that seek to profit off the back of children. The swines! Yes, it is the publishers of phonics programmes and decodable books!

Don’t be fooled. Have your eyes wide open.


Stick it to the man!

Note: None of the claims made in the post are true.


14 thoughts on “Phonics advocates have something to sell

  1. Luqman Michel says:

    With phonics and whole language and what not the schools still churn out illiterates each year. No one cares to find out why.

    • Tom Burkard says:

      We know exactly why–most schools in Britain still used mixed methods and fail to give slow learners addtional reinforcement before they fall behind. Furthermore, the EYFS inhibits schools from beginning instruction in Reception Year; sadly, the early years lobby is incredibly powerful. All of these are critical when teaching English (and French), where the spelling code is not fully transparent as it is in most languages. There is ample evidence that reading failure is all but eliminated in schools that follow these simple rules. I’m afraid we’ve had lots of people touting miracle cures before–everything from tossing beanbags to tinted lenses–but schools teachers like Sue Lloyd and Ruth Miskin have demonstrated beyond any reasonable doubt that rigorous synthetic phonics works even with pupils with multiple handicaps and poor oracy skills.

  2. Pauline Shelley says:

    Tom Burkard – well said! I couldn’t have put it better myself. I’ve worked as T/A for 20+ years and all my ranting about teaching synthetic phonics from early age has fallen on deaf ears. When are they going to understand? I fear that I will be retired before all schools sit up and realise this.

    • Tom Burkard says:

      Pauline–when we were introducing our Wave 3 intervention ten years ago, we had good support from Ed Psychs and SEN advisers in several LAs, and whenever we delivered training to a new cluster we made a big point of the fact that our materials were simple enough so that TAs could deliver them. Truth was that we knew that TAs were far more likely to deliver it in a straightforward manner, without feeling obliged to stop and talk about it every minute or two.

      Since then, opponents of synthetic phonics have made something of a counter-attack, and the EEF Toolkit recommendations on teaching early reading read as though the Rose Review never happened. And then we have the Grauniad publishing Michael Rosen’s rants…

  3. Maggie Downie says:

    If only Michael Rosen would realise that SP teaching has the potential to increase his sales as *more* children would learn to read and enjoy his works. And stop politicising the teaching of reading. There’s nothing ‘right wing’ about teaching SP.

  4. Tunya Audain says:

    I do not know Michael Rosen, how he obviously makes big $ (gathered from Greg’s sarcastic post), or his political/philosophical slant. But I gather he is NOT a supporter of phonics. I am from Canada, so far away from the politics and education divisions in Australia. From the comments I surmise that he considers phonics “right wing” ?

    Then he must be in the other camp. Please, for my enlightenment, where might he fit in to the Patrick Groff analysis? I bring it forward from my previous comment in “Science versus slurs: The phonics debate”.

    Groff said there might be 6 reasons why people cling, despite contrary research, to whole-language to teach reading:
    1. Educators have been notorious for their inability to resist the lures of educational innovations, especially if dubbed “progressive”.
    2. WL relieves educators of much personal accountability for results . . . standardized evaluation is not followed.
    3. WL appeals to many educators’ romantic and/or humanistic interpretations of what is healthy child development . . . classes are esteem-centered rather than learning-centered.
    4. In the past, educators have ignored or rejected most of the empirical findings in practically all aspects of their field . . . numerous educators still hold positive views about WL despite experimental research.
    5. The apparent simplicity of WL is alluring for teachers.
    6. Educators who have liberal political views are charmed by WL’s decidedly left-wing agenda.

    • Tom Burkard says:

      Whole language doesn’t fit neatly into a left-wing slot–nearly everyone I know who’s at all left-wing has very little time for any kind of progressive ideology. Rudolf Flesch, author of ‘Why Johnny Can’t Read’, was that rare breed, an avowed American socialist. In terms of educational theory, there was nothing remotely progressive about the Workers’ Education Association. Until the postwar era, the Labour movement passionately believed that the working classes should have full access to our common intellectual heritage.

      Admittedly, all this changed with postmodernism, which posited that the academic curriculum was an instrument for oppressing everyone except privileged white males. So how does Michael Rosen fit into this? For a start, his parents were both Communist activists, but he never joined the Party. I expect your item No. 3 is his main driving force, and indeed it is the main factor in the general acceptance of progressive practices by middle-class mums. Whilst a private tutor, I was constantly amazed how the latter could sing the praises of their children’s ‘caring’ teachers, despite the stress and humiliation created by the failure of their pedagogy. Politically speaking, I got a lot more support from mums from council estates, who understood all too well that their children didn’t have an extensive safety net to make good this failure.

  5. Mitch says:

    Good point Greg. Especially since my inbox is full of people claiming to help my students with 21st century and entrepreneurial skills if I only get their product or follow their course or join their program

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