People learn to talk simply through listening — to our parents talking to us and to each other, to the TV talking to the ether, to strangers on the street. But that’s not how people learn to read. People need to be taught to read. And the trouble is, educators, parents and politicians can’t seem to agree on the best way to do that.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee (R) submitted a bill to his state’s legislature this year that would command all Tennessee school districts to rely on phonics for reading in kindergarten through third grade. More than 30 states and D.C. have taken this approach, instituting various degrees of phonics instruction on their turf. Yet teachers unions in many places have been resistant, and some politicians are on their side.

The so-called reading wars have been raging for decades now, sometimes pitting teachers against publishers or publishers against academicians — and also sometimes, as too many things do these days, pitting progressives against conservatives or Democrats against Republicans. That’s unfortunate, because — as perhaps too few things do these days — the debate over how best to teach children to read lends itself to a conclusive answer. That’s phonics…