Connecting pens, mice and the length of skirts

17th October 1997 at 01:00
Reading of Stephanie Thomas's investigation into the connection between writing technique and educational achievement (TES, October 3), had me wondering whether the real decline in education is not in schools, but in educational research.

The connection she draws between pen-holding techniques and poor spelling is marred by a failure to recognise that correlation does not imply causality.

There is no reason to suppose that because bad spelling and poor writing are present together, the latter is caused by the former.

It is perhaps more sensible to believe that the links are casual. It is similar to the statistical link established between the length of hemlines on women's skirts and the mouse population. It would be ridiculous to suggest that mice dictate ladies' fashion. In fact both were connected to the weather; when it got cold the mice died and women wore longer skirts.

Without being able to challenge Ms Thomas's research methods, (unfortunately, the news report does not go into enough detail on this), it is possible to criticise the amount of inference and innuendo which she passes off as serious research.

We have yet to be provided with any evidence that handwriting style seriously impedes learning. No attempt has been made to link writing style and either learning ability, exam success or general employability.

And furthermore I would like to know about the "other characteristics which inhibit learning".

If someone could explain to me how poor posture will get in the way of good A-level grades and a place at university I would be grateful.

JAKE MIDDLETON Langwith College University of York Heslington York

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