Why is the 'new' UK drive toward synthetic phonics ridiculous

BBC NEWS | Education | Primary reading set for overhaul
The way children are taught to read in primary schools in England needs to be changed, says a government review.

It has backed the method synthetic phonics, which teaches children the sounds of letters and combination of letters before they move onto books.
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Many schools in England already use phonics, combined with other methods to help children to read, but proponents of synthetic phonics argue it should be followed strictly and not be mixed with other approaches.

Why can't I stop laughing whenever I hear about the next "one best method' for anything in education? Because laughter seems to be the most academically rigorous response. Here's a prediction: this method is adopted (probably not immediately) slightly watered down from the way its proponents want to assuage critics, it does no particular harm but it fails to radically improve functional literacy rates (although it may have some effect on spelling). It will come to be seen as 'failing' some children and alternative methods taking into account 'children's motivation' will come forward finally prevailing for a brief period of time after which it becomes to be seen as 'failing some children' and be followed by a period of eclecticism until it is time again to resurrect good traditional educational values and we have synthetic phonics again. This cycle might take about 50-70 years but it will happen. Over that period literacy levels will remain more or less constant their increase or decrease dictated by the availability of important reading material. The current new technologies could shift the balance either way. Either they will lead to the resurrection of the oral culture (as audio archives become searchable and much of the narrative moves into audiovisual media - books on tape, podcasts, etc.) or they will radically expand readership through the availability of new ways to take written content away from source (smart book readers). Or nothing at all will change.

This is a pretty safe prediction, one might object, because it covers all bets (if I had spent more time with my notes on history of education, I could have refined it considerably). But that is exacly the point. We, as social scientists, know (if we are willing to admit such knowledge in our struggle to emulate the natural scientists) the overall shape of things that can happen (the attractors, if you will) but our ability to predict and much less influence how the exact patterns within that shape is limited. The question is not whether synthetic phonics is a good way to learn to read ENGLISH for all or even most children. It is whether it can be purposefully and successfully introduced as a transformative agent with impact beyond its immediate scope - ie. influencing the educational system and ultimately society. (Not an important question in itself but because these are the implicit claims made for it.) And to that second question, the answer is 'no'. We can even hardly make those claims for an individual child, let alone society. We can only make them for test groups compared with control groups. This is of course pretty good way of knowing things and 'accurate' to a certain degree but our 'randomized controlled experiment' method has not improved that much over the centuries (or decades if we're more conservative) to discount the fact that this way of knowing has been used to justify pretty contradictory claims over the years.