Take time to deliberate, but when the time for action has arrived, stop thinking and go in.
- Napoleon

Friday, December 15, 2006

Dyslexia (Part 1)

Years ago, when I was in college, I dated a guy who had dyslexia. He had a horrible time in college, in every subject except his major: Computer Programming. He was a guru in that area. Where the letters got jumbled up in regular English, they were absolutely clear in any programming language. Rexx, Cobol, etc. flowed easily through his mind, but give him a book, and he was lost.

I thought about this for many years. How could a disorder which jumbles letters up in a person’s head confuse everything but computer language?

A few years back, I worked for a private school system and part of my job was doing research for the president of the company. During some research on progressive education, I took it upon myself to look into the history of dyslexia. I found some very interesting information. For instance, dyslexia was almost unheard of prior to the early 20th century. And it is primarily an American problem (or if not strictly America, then more concentrated in English-speaking nations).

Hmmm. Oddly enough, round about the onset of dyslexia came the push for ‘whole language’ learning in America. (Or look-say reading… Or word-guessing, if you will.)

Now, my college psychology professor was always fond of saying “Correlation is not causation”. While this is 100% true, it doesn’t mean one should never consider correlation when looking for a cause. So I followed the trail. As early as the 1920s word-guessing was being pushed as the best way to teach children to read. Dyslexia cases grew during this time. Then in the ‘50s, word-guessing fell out of favor. New cases of dyslexia fell during this time. Word-guessing came back in the ‘70s and guess what? Dyslexia cases rose along with it.

A big flashing light bulb went off over my head.

That’s one hell of a correlation to be just coincidence. So I scoped the internet to see if anyone else had seen the light bulb, and I found an article by Sam Blumenfeld. Huzzah! (I can’t find the original article any longer, but there’s a reproduction of it here: http://www.home-school.com/Articles/BlumenfeldDyslexia.html ) I don’t agree with everything he says, but he’s so much closer than 99% of the so-called educators out there, I was cheering in my chair.

What did I do with this? I sent a post to a mailing list I used to belong to. I got some excellent feedback, and a few nasty-grams from people who were… you guessed it… Educators. The best thing about it all was: it got picked up by a gentleman in NYC who is now using this knowledge to push for reform in his area.

Why am I posting about it now? As a lesson for all of us, once again, to look for the causes behind what people are saying, to research everything thoroughly, and to stick to your guns even when your theories go against the norm.

(More on this topic later…)

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