I too share some pessimism toward the “whole language” approach to teaching reading. But Janet Albrechtson is wrong to say that phonics is not a politically driven agenda. In fact she herself makes it political by tying it to indigenous issues. She may be correct, but she is certainly being political and ideological. That’s because no educational theory or methodology is worldview neutral. Every educator is a preacher, implicitly or explicitly so. Every classroom is a pulpit, for better for worse, in sickness and in health.
And just imagine if Julia Gillard, the education revolution minister from the Labor Party’s left faction no less, chose to confront the ideological critics of phonics? If Rudd and Gillard are serious about an education revolution, let it begin in the classrooms of indigenous children. Let it begin by telling it like it is. Learning the sounds that make up words is not a politically driven agenda. It is about literacy. It is the key to social mobility. Until that small step is taken, indigenous children will continue to suffer.