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.

Exercising mind and body: Figure skating championship in Moscow, 2001

A Philosophy of Sport, By Steven Connor

To note that a particular coach has a philosophy of football is a staple of sports reporting. Suggesting something grander than a mere approach and less technocratic than a theory, a philosophy of sport hints at meanings beyond the winning and losing of games. Touchline philosophy it may be, but our sporting conversation is preoccupied with question of rightness and wrongness, of beauty and ugliness - the core concerns of ethics and aesthetics. For the Ancient Greeks, the relationship between sport and philosophy was obvious. The basis of a classical education was the alphabet plus swimming. The habits and discipline of preparing the mind and body were parallel and complementary. Plato, his name derived from platon or broad-shouldered, was an accomplished wrestler. Aristotle, an avid fan of the beauty of the pentathlete, taught at the Lyceum – itself a gymnasium.

Andre Villas-Boas directs his players at the Bridge last night

Villas-Boas uses Mourinho template to ensure progress

At last, Andre Villas-Boas's tomorrow has come. The Chelsea manager did not wish to discuss what comes next before the visit of Valencia, the first truly pivotal moment in his nascent British career at the elite level. "We cannot speak about that," the 34-year-old said, when asked what might happen in the event of failure in Europe. The future was another country, alien, stark. Comfort lay in the past.

Socrates in action during the 1982 World Cup finals in Spain

Socrates: Footballer who led one of Brazil's greatest sides

The charismatic Brazilian giant Socrates, a legendary figure of sporting cool in the 1980s, when he enjoyed his regal pomp and his colourful personality was showcased in successive World Cup tournaments, was a footballing force of nature. Hailed in some quarters as one of the finest players of all time, he was a visionary midfield general who could slice apart the most clamlike of defences with his incisive, imaginative passing. He was equally revered for his swashbuckling yet somehow relaxed style, the sudden savage strikes on goal with either foot vying for attention with his delicious trademark backheel flicks and his piratical appearance, usually complete with beard, headband and flowing locks.

Album: Baloji, Kinshasa Succursale (Crammed Discs)

Konono No 1's rumbling, tumbling, distorted thumb-piano-led music was ripe for hip-hop appropriation, but at least this Belgium-Congolese rapper actually returned to Kinshasa and recorded live with the musicians rather than just sampling and looping.

You Talkin' To Me?, By Sam Leith

Politics is pursued through rhetoric, which makes rhetoric just about the mightiest force on earth. Barack Obama is the contemporary case in point, because it is his rhetorical prowess that has made him the most important person around. Sam Leith analysed Obama's oratory for a newspaper feature before becoming fascinated by the broader territory of rhetoric, and this book is the result.

Album: Kelly Clarkson, Stronger (RCA)

As the winner of the inaugural American Idol series in 2002, Kelly Clarkson has managed to sustain her singing career with far greater success than most talent-show contestants; though it's hard to see why anyone would want to own another of her albums besides Breakaway.

Photography: Philosophers, By Steve Pyke

The British photographer Steve Pyke is famous for his series of portraits of film directors, astronauts and Holocaust survivors, but most of all for the project which began in 1988 with a commission to photograph AJ "Freddie" Ayer, the author of Language Truth and Logic.

Scott Taylor signs new Robins deal

Hull KR's promising forward Scott Taylor has signed a new two-year deal with the club.

What? By Mark Kurlansky

What's the point, and why bother?

Roy Hodgson wants to mould Liverpool team

Beleaguered Liverpool boss Roy Hodgson is still hoping he gets an opportunity to shape his own side at Anfield.

Round-Up: Redpath praises team ethic after Gloucester's try glut

outside centre Jonny May scored three of Gloucester's 14 tries as they completed a resounding 90-7 victory over Rovigo at Kingsholm in the Amlin Challenge Cup on Saturday. Olly Morgan scored two tries, as did wings James Simpson-Daniel and Lesley Vainikolo.

Plato cuts a dash to close in on title

Jason Plato moved a step closer to securing the British Touring Car Championship title with victory in the final race at Knockhill yesterday.

Complaint, By Julian Baggini

The British philosopher Julian Baggini wants to raise complaining from its reputation as the whingeing about trivial matters that cannot be altered, to a new ideal as a serious, political, even beautiful way for the disenfranchised to make themselves heard.

Simon Rice: Let's get ethical at the World Cup

When England inevitably crash out of the competition and you need a new team to support – who should you go for?

The Book of Dead Philosophers, By Simon Critchley

"He who would teach men to die would teach them to live", wrote Montaigne, quoted in "That to Philosophize is to Learn How to Die", the epigraph to Critchley's informative, entertaining if at times bewildering book. He believes that we live in terror of annihilation, and that such fear is folly, and an evasion of the real business of living.

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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
Spain
Prices correct as of 19 December 2014
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas