That well known fount of educational knowledge and expertise, Labour MP Graham Stringer (check the Wikipedia link to see his professional education experience) has claimed dyslexia is a myth invented by education chiefs to cover up poor teaching methods.
That’s right. The 6 million or so people in the UK and no doubt the millions of others around the world who struggle with their dyslexia every day are suffering not from any kind of learning disability at all. This well known educational expert goes on:
[Mr Stringer] describes the condition as a “cruel fiction” that should be consigned to the “dustbin of history”.
He suggests children should instead be taught to read and write by using a system called synthetic phonics.
Mr Stringer claims the reason so many children fail to be taught to read and write properly is that the wrong teaching methods are used.
“The education establishment, rather than admit that their eclectic and incomplete methods for instruction are at fault, have invented a brain disorder called dyslexia,” said the MP.
“To label children as dyslexic because they’re confused by poor teaching methods is wicked.
He claims the “fictional malady” has also been wiped out in West Dunbartonshire where the council has introduced the synthetic phonics system of teaching, also known as linguistic phonics.
“Certified dyslexics get longer in exams,” he said. “There has been created a situation where there are financial and educational incentives to being bad at spelling and reading.
“It is time that the dyslexia industry was killed off and we recognised that there are well known methods for teaching everybody to read and write.”
Well now, where to start?
If you checked Mr Stringer’s Wikipedia profile you will see that the only educational experience he appears to have is that he received during his formative years. Nowhere else is anything mentioned about any teaching or academic experience which provides a sound basis to make such claims. Analytical chemistry to local councillor to chair of Manchester Airport to Parliament.
I don’t see anything there which explains Mr Stringer’s qualifications to make such a statement.
Perhaps Mr Stringer hasn’t had the time (hardly surprising given the plummeting popularity of the current “government”) to engage in dialogue with the numerous dyslexia charities around the world. It’s not difficult to go to your favourite search engine and type in “dyslexia charities” – it’s a very easy way to get started and one which Mr Stringer has missed completely.
If Mr Stringer is convinced that dyslexia is something that can be eradicated anywhere in the world then perhaps he should talk to the Learning Disabilities Association Of America as well. I’m sure they would be delighted to hear from him.
But they might do the same as I am and ask “On what basis, from what expert knowledge, does he propose this belief?”
Mr Stringer is critical of the education system. I say this to Mr Stringer:
This is the same education system that his party’s “government” has interfered with, messed around, chopped, changed and fouled up since it came to power. This is the same education system that they have overseen which has left teachers fearing for their safety, unable to enforce any kind of discipline in the classroom, unable to exclude badly behaved pupils for fear of upsetting them or their parents or (God forbid) breaking exclusion targets and unable to do anything about incompetent head teachers. Teachers advising colleagues who are stressed and needing support that “It is the way it is and there’s nothing you can do about it.”
Does Mr Stringer deal with such issues regularly? I’m not sure he does, especially if he feels this one thing can make such a huge difference.
Then there’s the ever rising exam results. How can Mr Stringer be arguing for a change in teaching methods if the exam results are always improving?
Mr Stringer uses the population of the Strangeways prison as evidence to back up his assertion:
I don’t believe in panaceas but I am confident that if the rate of literacy were improved there would be an inevitable decline in crime.
Well Mr Stringer, I am confident that if discipline were improved in schools then there would be an inevitable decline in crime. But Mr Stringer’s “government” isn’t interested in improving discipline in schools and improving childrens’ respect for and desire to actively and positively participate in society. With improved classroom discipline comes a better environment for learning, ergo literacy improves. But, as you will see later, literacy on its own will not solve the condition of dyslexia. For someone who doesn’t believe in panaceas (defined as “a remedy for all diseases, evils, or difficulties; a cure-all”) Mr Stringer seems to be advocating a panacea.
Mr Stringer advocates the use of a system called synthetic phonics. Why? And why now? What has he read or seen to suddenly declare dyslexia to be “a cruel fiction” that can be solved by this one approach. Surely Mr Stringer should know that people, especially children, are individuals and that one size can never fit all.
The British Dyslexia Association had this to say:
The British Dyslexia Association (BDA) campaigns for the use of phonics and multi-sensory teaching to help solve child literacy problems, but said the MP had failed to grasp the issue.
“Mr Stringer assumes that literacy will solve the issue of dyslexia, however although many dyslexics have acquired the skills of reading, there is no doubt that they still remain dyslexic,” a spokeswoman said.
“It is concerning that an MP does not recognise dyslexia, which affects 10% of his constituents, even though his government have taken steps to make sure dyslexic children and young people with dyslexia are recognised and supported.”
If Mr Stringer wishes to present his experience, knowledge, and expertise in a proper academic paper clearly and cogently arguing his position then I am sure that dyslexia charities all over the world will be delighted to read what he has to say. Do please check out the comments after the piece to see what others have had to say.
What I will say is this:
Mr Stringer’s column is an example of why my partner and I will not be voting for Labour at the next election. I’m not sure what planet Mr Stringer is on, but then I have been wondering what planet his “government” is on for a long time now.