News Dr Andrew Davis claims rival camps in the debate over how to teach children to read are acting like 'religious fundamentalists'

Children who are fluent readers are being damaged by the Government’s insistence on using synthetic phonics in the classroom, a leading academic warns today.

Food for thought

The musings of the ancients: What can dead thinkers teach us about modern life?

Matilda Battersby meets the new philosophy clubs

Mr Gove’s drive to promote academies and free schools helped prompt NUT strike demands this Easter

Oliver: 'Gove is playing with fire over nutrition'

School meals campaigner Jamie Oliver has warned the Education Secretary, Michael Gove, he is endangering the health of millions of children.

Gove's nutrition policy risks child health, says Jamie Oliver

Jamie Oliver has warned Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, that his school meals policies are endangering children's health.

Philosophy: Far more than a witty remark

Studying philosophy equips you with an adaptable mind and vital life skills, writes Russ Thorne

Circulation: William Harvey's Revolutionary Idea, By Thomas Wright

How anyone recovered from serious illness in the 1600s is beyond me. According to Thomas Wright, diagnosis consisted of urine-sniffing and treatments included leeching, belly rubs and (most useless of all) abstinence from alcohol. William Harvey (1578-1657), the subject of Wright's book, was responsible for helping to bring about a world in which these so-called cures would be exposed as quackery.

Book Of A Lifetime: The Bell, By Iris Murdoch

The respectable titles to give would be 'Middlemarch' or 'Howards End'. Both pulled me up short in my late teens with their ability to make me care deeply about the emotional lives of unimportant people. Until then I'd thought novels were purely for bravura storytelling. I hadn't noticed that, at their best, they involve a curious chain reaction of empathy linking reader, writer and character which leaves the reader not simply moved, but somehow altered. But I fear having to dissect and write essays about Eliot and Forster made them less an influence on me than they might have been.

Book Of A Lifetime: The Bell, By Iris Murdoch

The respectable titles to give would be 'Middlemarch' or 'Howards End'. Both pulled me up short in my late teens with their ability to make me care deeply about the emotional lives of unimportant people. Until then I'd thought novels were purely for bravura storytelling. I hadn't noticed that, at their best, they involve a curious chain reaction of empathy linking reader, writer and character which leaves the reader not simply moved, but somehow altered. But I fear having to dissect and write essays about Eliot and Forster made them less an influence on me than they might have been.

The Monday Book: Pantheon by Sam Bourne

Britain in 1940. Europe is torn apart by war, but America is not persuaded that it should join the fight against the Nazis.

Cioffi: he persuaded many students at Essex to pursue philosophy

Professor Frank Cioffi: Philosopher and authority on Freud

Frank Cioffi was a remarkable member of the early-1950s Oxford generation of philosophers. In his later career he was known for the fresh, original, combative precision of his essays and lectures, his half-century of critical engagement with Freud and his illuminating explorations of often neglected aspects of Wittgenstein's later works. The enormous range of his reading and conversation provided a wealth of accessible examples, often humorous or earthy, to anchor difficult philosophical points. His explorations of the character, scope and complexity of humane knowledge offer strength to those who seek to develop a philosophy of the humanities to supplement or rival the philosophy of science and expand our philosophical understanding of human knowledge.

Soko is about to release her debut album - see the video for 'First Love Never Die' at bit.ly/Ah8kem

Agenda: Clarks; Soko; David Lynch; Jack White; The Thirsty Bear

Fashion: Clarks goes back to the bronze age

The Doors: A Lifetime of Listening to Five Mean Years, By Greil Marcus

Greil Marcus records that, in 2010,listening to the radio on a regular car journey around San Francisco revealed that The Doors got more airplay than anyone else of their era, and with a greater number of songs - though they weren't a Bay Area band. As Marcus tells it, this drove him to re-assess their work and to reconsider the grotesque fetish status the 1960s have acquired as the enviable Neverland of stalled possibility, used to render impotent all that comes after.

Harvey does not care about critics

All hail the 21st-century Socrates...

...or, rather, don't, says the novelist Samantha Harvey, in explaining to Danuta Kean why we prefer not to question our beliefs

All is Song, By Samantha Harvey

After her first novel The Wilderness, an extraordinary exploration of Alzheimer's, was showered with critical acclaim, the subject Samantha Harvey would tackle next has been much anticipated. All is Song begins with Leonard Deppling returning to London after nursing his dying father in Edinburgh. In mourning and lonely, having split from his partner, Leonard stays with his brother William, his wife and three children. He hopes to rebuild intimacy with his only living relative, but one who was absent from either the care or funeral of his father. Despite his brother's eccentricities and his own frustration and resentment, Leonard wants to recreate "the island of understanding" that defined their relationship in the past.

Editor-At-Large: Bin those useless self-help books and tuck in to a pie

January is traditionally the month of deep self-loathing. Big bills and big bellies inevitably lead to thoughts of new beginnings, a chance to mend our ways, and start afresh. Turn on the television, open any newspaper or magazine and you can't ignore exercise DVDs and diet books. Davina McCall (slender mother of three) reigns supreme at the top of the bestsellers (again), and even the comical Towie mob is flogging a keep-fit routine, complete with extras such as "what to wear to work out in Essex". Ignore them. Here's how to deal with windy and grim January: eat the same food as in December. I've enjoyed macaroni cheese, fish and chips and fruit cake, done the same amount of walking, played the same amount of tennis. When appearing in public, I wear a pair of buttock-clenching pants.

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Day In a Page

Independent Travel
Burgundy, the River Rhone & Provence – Five-star MS Swiss Corona 7 nights from £999pp
Lake Como St Moritz & the Bernina Express 7 nights from £809pp
Vietnam
Lake Maggiore, Orta & the Matterhorn 7 nights from £939pp
South Africa
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Prices correct as of 19 December 2014
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there