I quite like Rod Liddle’s column every week in the Spectator. He usually makes me laugh. Sometimes out loud!
This week began as no exception. In 'My daughter's end-of-term report confirms that she is being taught by alien reptiles', he got the ball rolling by deprecating the ‘vacuous propaganda' emitted by teacher training institutions before turning attention to his daughter’s end-of-term report, which is, as is often the case today, a cut-and-paste job from a menu on the computer. So, no grumbles there!
It was when he sneakily inserted the snide liddle aside about Mary Seacole, ‘the kindly black lady who helped out during the Crimean War’ – for which read that our Florence has been airbrushed from history by the wave of political correctness so beloved by the multiculturalists Rod so despises – that I began to be a liddle nettled. And, I couldn’t bring myself to swallow his claim that, on the pensions march last week, some of the teachers he talked to didn’t know who Michael Gove is. But then, that’s his technique. Reading him is a bit like being a full back trying to read Stanley Matthews in his prime: you’re so mesmerised for a moment by twitch of the hips, he slips the ball past you before you know what’s happened.
But what really rubbed me up the wrong way was what he had to say about phonics – the moment when the keyboard became disconnected from his brain. He had, he confessed, been reading the Guardian and had come to the conclusion that phonics is a bad idea.
He claims that, at his daughter’s school, ‘no child can spell anything’, which he attributes to the ‘phonic method’ they use. Well, there are phonics methods and phonics methods, but if the school’s particular phonics method is any good, children ought to be able to spell like demons. And most phonics methods knock into a cocked hat the kinds of whole language approaches advocated by the organisations onto whose coat tails our Rod is so pathetically hanging.
As so often happens with people who don’t know how the speech sounds in English relate to the writing system, he brings up the old Shavian jest about ‘ghoti’ being read as ‘fish’. Unfortunately, Rod, the fish joke is now so old and discredited it positively stinks. How I’d like to see it hung around your neck for the rest of the week while a bunch of teachers parade you around Fleet Street.
The piece ends with the risible claim that ‘phonics has achieved its dominance … because it is easier on teachers’. While I’m sure most phonics advocates would hotly dispute the first claim, the second is utter tripe.
So, maybe a liddle of what you fancy doesn’t do you that much good!