The Australian newspaper has been running a teacher-bashing campaign for years – asserting that kids don’t learn to read and write because their teachers are crap or because they use a crap teaching method. Front page news today was an article by the Education Writer, Justine Ferrari, Teacher failures spell student trouble. Ferrari quotes one Denyse Ritchie, “executive director and co-author of THRASS (Teaching Handwriting Reading And Spelling Skills),” as saying:
“You can learn to read without knowing phenomics (the sounds that make up words), but when you spell, you have to have a good phenomic understanding to help spell words like said. “Unless you’re taught that ‘ai’ as well as ‘e’ can make an ‘eh’ sound in words like said and again, you will spell said as ‘sed’.
“But many teachers don’t have that inherent knowledge,”
The teachers’ phenomic knowledge was also tested. When asked to break words into the constituent sounds or phenomes – such as how many sounds in ‘cat’ (c-a-t) – the average score was 4.1 out of a possible 10 correct answers.
Who knows where the stuff-up occurred – Ferrari or a copy-editor using a mindless spell-checker. (Probably not Ritchie who charges $34.65 for a “Phoneme-Grapheme” Big Book on the THRASS website).
Whoever, whatever… it shows that linguists are not as good as geneticists at getting the jargon of our trade into everyday talk. The phenome outranks the phoneme. It’s symptomatic of our failure to get people to understand basic facts about language.