Why the unions are making a stand over Sats

10th April 2009 at 01:00

The tensions around Professor Julian Elliott's challenging arguments about dyslexia were graphically played out in last week's TES magazine. While the possibility that "dyslexia" as a coherent diagnostic category might not actually exist is occasionally raised, the article essentially assumes uncritically throughout that it does.

However, the deterministic assertion that dyslexia is some kind of genetically determined neuro-biological condition, which brain scans can somehow unambiguously account for, is far more about culturally constructed, interest-driven storytelling than scientific fact.

If one uncritically assumes that a quasi-medical syndrome termed "dyslexia" is scientifically valid, all of one's subsequent research effectively becomes a circular exercise of "discovering" that which one has already assumed to exist. It will also tend to downplay the key role of unmanaged anxiety in reading difficulties, which offers a far more fruitful approach than does a neurological explanation.

Moreover, what if the neural processes that are a precondition for successful reading actually constrain, or even rule out, other kinds of consciousness evolution? Treating dyslexia as some kind of disorder to be cured at all costs may well blind us to the deeper evolutionary meaning of some children not taking naturally to reading.

Dr Richard House, Research Centre for Therapeutic Education, Roehampton University.

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