Thursday, June 2, 2011

Labels That Can Hurt

Note: I am trying once again to publicize ideas in teaching English from past professional articles in publications of the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE)  and the International Reading Association. I am beginning with a disturbing problem, the problem of defining problems in reading and learning. RayS.

Question: What exactly do labels involving reading difficulty mean?

Answer/Quotes: “Professor Higgins of musical comedy fame (My Fair Lady) comments, ‘The French don’t really care what they say so long as they pronounce it properly.’ One sometimes gets the feeling that this same attitude permeates people involved in diagnosing and theorizing about youngsters with reading or learning problems. Terms such as dyslexia, minimal brain damage, specific learning disability, and others with similarly formidable implications are being tossed around with greater frequency not only among educational specialists but also among teachers and the lay public. Such diagnostic categories when used with the same precision which went into their initial formulation can be of great help in simplifying communication between specialists. There is, however, real danger in the inexact application of diagnostic categories, and a number of problems are created by the use of diagnostic labels as the end product of a diagnostic evaluation.” P. 331.

“Conferences which involve discussion of reading and reading disability grow more numerous each day. It would seem high time to organize a symposium to develop some standard terminology which could have broad acceptance among educators and facilitate communication abut, and understanding of, learning problems. That this would be an extremely arduous task is clear to the author on the basis of a two-day conference which attempted, without success, to arrive at a definition of the term ‘severe reading disability.’ ” P.335.

Comment: Add “ADD” and “Autism” to the mix. The problem is the same. Do specialists and doctors agree on what they mean? RayS.

Title: “Word Games in Reading Diagnosis.” Stanley L. Rosner. Reading Teacher (January 1971), 331-335.