“Dyslexia is a Myth” or “Spelling ‘ANGER!'”

I’m angry, and I can spell it.  Labour backbench MP Graham Stringer has claimed in his column in the Manchester Confidential paper (“Dyslexia is a Myth“) that dyslexia does not exist as a condition, and that it is used to blame for poor teaching practices.  He also claims that children should instead be taught to read and write by using a system called synthetic phonics.

Hello Mr Stringer.  I was taught to read and write using a system called ITA English back in the late 70s and early 80s.  ITA was another poorly thought out Labour change to education which, since I’d been reading “proper” English prior to schooling, left me showing symptoms of dyslexia and word blindness that linger to this day.  I know that my confusion was caused by teaching, but I also know that the students I shared a classroom with in several “Remedial” or “English for Dyslexics” classes suffered a true and debilitating condition.

Mr Stringer’s reasoning that dyslexia is an educational excuse used to cover up poor literacy figures is highly insulting.  Dyslexia and illiteracy are two separate problems, much as illiteracy and criminal behaviour are two separate issues, however both these statements seem to have escaped Mr Stringer’s notice.  His continued quotes of;

There can be no rational reason why this ‘brain disorder’ is of epidemic proportions in Britain but does not appear in South Korea or Nicaragua

are as ridiculous as me stating the fact that;

North Korea and Cuba do not suffer from the debilitating condition of idiotic backbench Labour MPs making fatuous comments in the media.

but we’ll leave the mud slinging for a rainy day and get back to the rant.  I agree with Mr Stringer’s expectation that doctors should be literate, and that a lawsuit for discrimination from a second year medical student against the General Medical Councilis a waste of time and an insult to common sense.  However, don’t leap to far with your ire.  Improving literacy may reduce crime, but as any first year psychology student can tell you “correlation does not prove causation”. Stalin, Hitler, Harold Shipman, Nick Leeson, in fact a very long list of criminals and monsters were all literate.  Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison, Alexander Graham Bell, General George Patton, Andy Warhol, Dr Fred Epstein (ground breaking neurosurgeon), and Winston Churchill all suffered from dyslexia (Famous people with the gift of Dyslexia) and none of them were known for their criminal tendancies!  Improving society cannot be easily achieved by a single step, and although improving literacy is a noble cause, it won’t cure dyslexia.

Back to my starting point though.  To say that Dyslexia does not exist, that it is an excuse for bad school figures and criminal behaviour shows a dire lack of research, understanding, or compassion.  When Prince Harry can be lambasted in the tabloids for a single racist comment can we expect a similar lambasting for Mr Stringer for discriminating against the approximately 6 million dyslexia sufferers in the UK?

BBC News – MP brands Dyslexia a “fiction”

Telegraph Online – Why dyslexia is not a ‘cruel fiction’

Telegraph Online – Dyslexia is a wicked myth created by by bad teachers, MP says

The British Dyslexia Association

Dyslexia Action


One comment

  1. uphilldowndale · January 14, 2009

    The man is an ignorant fool. I surprised I managed to write something as restrained as that, in truth it’s not how I feel about his comments, but then he is a politician so one has to make allowances.
    My teacher never hid behind the ‘myth of dyslexia’ for it hadn’t been ‘invented’ in the 60’s, he just shouted at me louder and more often, he belittled and humiliated me. I spent endless playtimes, redoing work I didn’t understand and therefore never had a cat in hells chance of improving on no matter how long he ‘kept me in’. Actually, I can see a pattern emerging, that teacher, just like Mr Stringer was an ignorant fool.

    I’ve a few posts on the subject of dyslexia on my blog

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