“Hey Smartass!” No one gets to mess with my market share!

This just in from a slightly panicked vendor of teaching resources:

Hi everyone!

I’ve been asked to coin a derogatory term for my detractors to help shift attention off the weaknesses in my resources and put it back where it should be: on the Reading Wars. To that end, I’m going to go with phonics-centric. It has an eccentric connotation to it, as well as hinting that they’re a bit obsessive. Smart, huh? I’ll also be referring to them as a nefarious ‘interest group’ who are trying to claim that they own science. I’m not going to outright call them the Phonics Mafia or even phombies, as some of my more unhinged colleagues are wont to do because I’d like my followers to believe that I’m way better than that, but between you and me, those labels are pretty funny, no? Lol!

What I might do is start by offering my opinion that the phonicators mean well, bless their hearts, but they need to shut up, because no one wants to go back to that time when all children, regardless of background, were mercilessly forced to learn how to read and write proficiently. Repeat after me, “The real problem is poverty…the real problem is poverty!”

I’d also like to take the first of many opportunities to discredit and deride a very dangerous movement, comprising my worst nightmare, and yours too if you’re clinging to whole language: well informed parents! Gasp! Those scamps have HAD ENOUGH of their dyslexic children being poorly taught and are making quite a lot of bad-for-business noise, if you know what I mean. How DARE they? Those chumps aren’t qualified to mess up teaching reading. Sheesh!

While we’re at it, now that Bob Sweet is no longer around to defend his life’s work, it’s probably safe to start complaining about the threat Reading First posed to brands like mine. I’ll return to that little nugget shortly, but at this point, I’d like to tell you how well I’ve grasped the process of literacy acquisition. I might get it a bit wrong, and please don’t mention orthographic mapping or the Simple View of Reading, because those doozies frighten the bejeesus out of me, but as you can see, I really know what I’m talking about without those eggheads telling me what’s what. As long as I sprinkle in some obvious facts about talking predating writing, you won’t notice how mindbogglingly wrong I got it in the past. Right?

Now here’s where I’ll refrain from calling my detractors a derogatory name, because it’s time to align myself with their good works. Ready? Here goes: I for one have always said phonics needs to be explicitly taught. I mean, duh! Have you seen my new phonics patch? I didn’t invent that for the good of my health…or anyone else’s for that matter, but I diverge.

So yeah, phonics rocks. I’ve always said it and I want you to say it too. Just don’t take away my guessing god! I’ve built an empire on this thing and those naughty phonicators are starting to get through to my customers! So how about we all just agree not to use the word “guess” any more? Instead, let’s imply to children that they should guess. After all, that will develop those gorgeous little inferencing skills even more, right? Here’s a list of words that you may say to replace the G-word when children are reading. You can choose one or all of them, heck, you can even improvise, just as long as you keep ‘em guessing:

“Try it”

“Check it”

“What could this be?”

“Chunk your head off!”

That sort of thing will do just fine.

I also want to say a word about some of the more pesky journalists that are getting up my nose at the moment. Even though I go to great lengths to encourage people to revere and respect writing and writers, I just want you to remember one thing: journalists are baddies that don’t know what they’re talking about. Just because their bread and butter literally relies on them looking deeply into topics and expertly writing about them, just because they have mastered the art of synthesising their background knowledge with the interpretation of complex topics through a highly developed ability to think critically, doesn’t mean they get to say my philosophy sucks.

Never be afraid, dear teachers, to point out that the only source of knowledge about teaching literacy comes from classroom experience. And from me. Don’t forget about me. That’s it. No one else can possibly know anything about literacy unless they are me or teachers.

Also, a quick warning: the 3 Cueing System is getting a bad rap. Time to distance ourselves from that cute little Venn diagram, methinks. I know, right? So sad! It’s such an adorable graphic, but I hate to tell you, we need to unhitch ourselves from this unpopular little wagon pronto! Shhh, though, we don’t want people noticing too much, so follow these baby steps:

  1. Let’s pretend we only ever used it for assessment and never for teaching.
  2. Get all those posters down from your school walls and Facebook pages that disprove 1 above.
  3. Quickly point to decodable reading material and shout, “Look over there!”

Because, you see, dear friends, one of our most powerful ways to keep the competition at bay is to cast doubt on the utility of decodable reading books. Stick to your guns when attacking them by saying things like, “Children are never taught what the words in those books mean, so sentences like ‘Jan can lug the tug’ make no sense!” Gasp! Those fonatix are like the nihilists of the education arena, going around saying: “Everything is meaningless so let’s just bark at print!” As long as we perpetuate the myth of phonics in isolation, my market share…I mean…our philosophy…is safe. We’ll call it all extreme decoding and laugh (all the way to the bank in my case).

At this point in my manifesto, dear reader, I’d like to get back to whacking that rotten National Reading Panel by listing a whole bunch of teachable skills, like phonics and writing, with a whole bunch of non-teachable thought processes like comprehension and critical thinking, and hinting that teachers are being forced to choose between having children develop them. I mean, hey, no one really has really to grasp the difference between them, do they? As long as we keep saying, “No one size fits all!” about teachers, about students, about schools, we’re free to justify any old horse manure. Amirite, folks? Lol!

So anyway, back to my market share. Somehow I’m going to have to find a way to placate a bunch of people whose kids we spent decades ignoring. Yep, I’m talking about those annoying, well-organised, well-informed dyslexia moms! Because let me tell you, knowledge is power and those bitches know way too much! Remember the good old days when you could just rock up and say you were an expert and the parents just believed you? Well those days are gone. Those dogs are using the internet and finding out the big secret about reading (you know, the stuff you weren’t taught at teacher school that all the smartasses in their labs and their newspapers and their speech-language clinics learned about?). Turns out, this is making the dyslexia mom movement mad as a cut snake! And people are listening to them!

So I’m just gonna go right ahead and claim that me and a whole bunch of neuroscientists got together and we all agreed that as much as we love those dyslexic kiddoes, we don’t love them quite enough to get rid of whole language in the classroom just yet. That would mean so much lost business…I mean lost time retraining everyone in how to teach the structure of words explicitly and systematically to all the kids. No, those little challenged cherubs can just be segregated from their classrooms and given high quality instruction (or not, who cares?) somewhere else, while the rest of us get on with the much more profitable (and easier) business of teaching guessing. Okay, dyslexia moms? See? I have empathy.

I just want to conclude by thanking you all, for what has been a very lucrative career. I’ve benefitted immensely from being falsely hailed as someone who has an inlking about teaching reading to all children. Now that my work is being called into question on so many fronts though, I feel it necessary to address those questions in the only way I know how: with a rambling, passive-aggressive mishmash of half truths and slogans.

To demonstrate the stupefyingly impressive learning trajectory I’m on, I will close with a  list of a bunch of publications that sort of agree with the points I’m making, whilst taking great pains not to mention any of those silly smartass reading scientists with their facts and their research, trying to make me look dumb.


PS Keep buying my stuff.

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30 thoughts on ““Hey Smartass!” No one gets to mess with my market share!”

    1. Avatar

      This is the most entertaining article I have read in ages! I stumbled upon this as I am preparing to bring my complaints about Lucy Calkins approach to my daughter’s first grade teacher. A million thanks!

  1. Avatar
    Karleen Spitulnik

    I love your sense of humor and I’ve enjoyed following you and your fellow Australians on Twitter and at TRL Conference. Thank you for making me laugh. ~~~ from one of “those bitches [who] know way too much!”

  2. Avatar

    Finally, a bit of humor to this mess — you’re humorous, and you’re also spot-on!

  3. Avatar

    That was quite fabulous! “I’m not going to outright call them the Phonics Mafia or even phombies, as some of my more unhinged colleagues are” #GeniusShadeThrowing

  4. Avatar

    Please tell us when you want to come back to the US! We will host you for an eternity. Your wit and knowledge are a perfect pair, so much better than the swearing I am prone to release.

  5. Avatar

    Thank you for the great wit and humor packed into a brilliant understanding of the concerns. As someone way deep into this “war” right now, the laugh was much appreciated!

    1. Avatar

      Good heavens! Thank you, Louisa. I’m honoured!
      PS I tell teachers everywhere I go that LETRS is what they’re looking for.

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