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Dyslexia just a cover-up for bad education, says Labour MP

15th January 2009

A Labour MP has claimed dyslexia is a myth to cover up bad teaching of reading and writing.

Graham Stringer, MP for Manchester Blackley, also suggested there was a link between illiteracy and crime - as prisons were full of people unable to read and write.

He describes the condition as a "cruel fiction", claiming it is "no more real than the 19th century scientific construction of 'the aether' to explain how light travels through a vacuum."

"The sooner it is consigned to the same dustbin of history, the better."

Mr Stringer suggested the dyslexia "industry" should be "killed off" through the "magic bullet" of teaching children to read and write by using a phonetic system of sounding letters and words.

He made the comments while writing a column for Manchester Confidential, an entertainment and review website about the city.

Mr Stringer said he has visited Strangeways jail in his constituency and of the prison population, roughly 80% of inmates are functionally illiterate and a similar number are drug abusers.

"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.  Children who cannot read or write find secondary school a humiliating and frustrating experience. Their rational response, with dire consequences, is to play truant.

"Drugs, burglaries, robberies and worse, then, often, follow."

Mr Stringer claimed 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," he added.  "To label children as dyslexic because they're confused by poor teaching methods is wicked.

"If dyslexia really existed then countries as diverse as Nicaragua and South Korea would not have been able to achieve literacy rates of nearly 100%.

"There can be no rational reason why this 'brain disorder' is of epidemic proportions in Britain but does not appear in South Korea or Nicaragua."

He claimed this "fictional malady" has also been eradicated in West Dunbartonshire where the council has eliminated illiteracy, through a special programme for children.

Mr Stringer said the "magic bullet" was to use a system of teaching known as linguistic phonics where children learn words through the sounds of each letter.

Currently 35,500 students are receiving disability allowances for dyslexia, costing the taxpayer £78.4 million.

Mr Stringer added: "Certified dyslexics get longer in exams. There has been created a situation where there are financial and educational incentives to being bad at spelling and reading.

"This reached a pinnacle of absurdity, with Naomi Gadien, a second-year medical student initiating a legal case against the General Medical Council because she believes she's being discriminated against by having to do written exams.

"I don't know about anybody else but I want my doctors, and for that matter, engineers, teachers, dentists and police officers to be able to read and write."

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