The compliment that any commentator might make on a writer's voice that it is -˜inimitable' is usually dispensed via the back of the hand. But the satirical intent backfires, it falls flat, as being inimitable is, of course, what every writer wants: to have a voice that is so fully their own that no one else would be able to produce it. It also implies that one might find reason to want to imitate it. Finding such a voice, so I have read, takes training, working on your scales, night after night; it takes time shackled to the desk, tapping away with ideas that half work; it takes perhaps years of daily commitment to a form that eludes you only to wake up and discover (one morning) that the scales are automatic and that you can really sing.
At some point during the mammoth amount of work David has done on this hugely ambitious and quite brilliant book, he has awoken to find that the scales were automatic and that he can really sing. His work has always had the grain of a real singer, but the voice in which this is written is virtuosic, finely nuanced; it is elegant and, yes, it is inimitable.
There is little point, though, in wasting a good voice on a rotten song. And stronger even than the writing is the material that David has constructed, filtered, thought about, judged and very finely argued. Each paragraph contains at least one sentence that will have you putting the book down and thinking two things: firstly, “Man, that's a very fine sentence!” and, secondly, “Do I agree with this?”
The book presents the findings of cognitive psychology and looks at how they might affect educational policy and the practice in classrooms. He presents information that threatens value systems by entering a dialogue with the reader, meeting them half way in order to guide them to new understandings. The book is entirely on the side of the teacher and is expressly good at pointing out some of the fallacies on which educational orthodoxies are based: he takes on the cult of outstanding, the false deity of false interpretation of useless data, observation grades and the notion of learning as being observable: no darling is left un-murdered, no hogwash left standing on its three feet. And it is written in a way that avoids hectoring, or casual expressions of ideological bigotry. As a result, even the hardiest of progressive will find things to agree with here, or a subtle way of shifting their beliefs. I have closed the book twice in partially angered disagreement, and then gone back to read the section again and find that I was (probably) wrong.
I predict that this book will remain influential for many years, decades even. Posterity will judge it a seminal text, and it will remain on teachers' bookshelves even after someone has written a newer or better version of it. However, from this evidence, I think it likely that the only British educator capable of writing a more satisfying, more important, more tree-shaking book than this is Didau himself.