Thursday, August 19, 2010

So why can't they read?

Well one thing is certain - the Centre for Policy Studies pamphlet 'So why can't they read?' offers nothing new to the debate on reading standards. It recycles opinion as if its fact, and attempts to simplify complex professional and pedagogical issues in a single sweep. The ridiculous suggestion by Boris the Preposterous that these complexities could be resolved by some sort of 'shoot-out' is not really worthy of comment (but see here). Alarm bells began to ring for me when I looked at the contents page: foreward by Boris Johnson: alarming figures (!); reading wars; immigration; what's happening in primary schools now; facts are fun; a good school. In 38 pages there couldn't be much - and certainly not £5.00 worth and I can safely say there isn't. I went straight to the immigration page. Could a pamphlet with that title possibly suggest that immigration was to blame? Was the author Alf Garnett? Well no and no. The immigration chapter with its two subheadings, SEN and Speaking street is pretty incoherent but not as dangerous as I anticipated. Thank goodness for that! But if any budding sociolinguist wants to do a study of language and power, I recommend the 'Speaking Street' as a text for analysis. Whether you're interested in verbal hygene or cleaning up the streets, it's a gift!


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