Gadfly doesn't consider himself a moral crusader, much less a moral alarmist. But he is--and The Australian newspaper is his mouthpiece. That's reality according to University of Western Sydney education school professors Wayne Sawyer and Susanne Gannon, who in a recent article accuse the media--that's us--of promoting a "simplistic and demonised version" of whole language reading. They allege that The Australian and its political allies are wrongly rousing the public to "moral panic around literacy instruction in particular, and education in general." Well. Let's check the data. As The Australian pointed out in an editorial, a recent national report found that "a significant minority of children in Australian schools continue to face difficulties in acquiring acceptable levels of literacy." It also found (not uniquely) that phonics programs were notably more effective than whole language programs, which presume that struggling students can more or less teach themselves to read. Sometimes panic isn't such a bad thing--when it pushes us to act.

"‘Panic' over whole language," by Justine Ferrari, The Australian, September 4, 2007

"Reading the riot act," The Australian, September 5, 2007

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