Three potential targets: why the Ariana Grande Concert?

Last week Manchester hosted three major public events:

  • 22nd May, the Ariana Grande concert at the Manchester Arena;
  • 27th May, the Arcadis Great CityGames which took place on the Great CityGames track on Deansgate in the heart of the city, and at the purpose built athletics arena in Albert Square;
  • 28th May, the Simplyhealth Great Manchester (half marathon and 10k) Run.
  • Many people attended each of these venues and therefore any one of them could have been the target for the suicide bomber Salman Ramadan Adebi. So why did he choose the Ariana Grande concert as the right target? Four reasons stand out.

    • an enclosed space, therefore maximum impact
    • the Qur’anic belief that females are not as ‘worthy’ as males. The Arena is where the greatest number of young female victims were gathered.
    • pathological hatred of ‘Western’ music imbibed from his mother
    • present to his father, known as Ramadan Adebi, before the onset of Ramadan on Friday 27th May! Salman apparently told his parents he needed his passport back because he was going to Saudi Arabia which met with their approval

    What needs explaining is why only some Muslims believe that all non-Muslims or members of other sects have no right to live in peaceful harmony with themselves and are therefore legitimate targets for annihilation? Why do they scapegoat others for their own inadequacies? The answer clearly can’t lie in Islamic texts themselves, else all Muslims would act the same way.

    One explanation is that they are unable or unwilling to channel an ill-at-easeness within themselves. And what do we all do when we feel we cannot control our own lives? Simple: blame others! And what might one source of their ill-at-easeness be? Knowing that they are doing right with their ‘good, writing and rites’ hand’ (eg. holding the Bible or the Qur’an in the right hand to declare the truth of one’s utterances), when in fact their wright or adept hand is their left hand. As a ‘devout’ follower of one brand of Islam Salman Adebi would have followed a particular set of (anti-humanitarian) rites, as a ‘righty’ when in truth he was a lefty. For evidence, apart from the way he follows the pattern of other suicide bombers, watch the CCTV footage from The Daily Star

    Posted in Hands, Left, News, Radicalisation, Right, Suicide bomber, scapegoat | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

    Take back control and controlling hands: mirrors to the psyche of Trump, Hitler & Daesh?

    What do Donald Trump’s hands tell us about his thinking? Are the President Elect of the USA hand gestures designed to distract us from what he says, are they unrelated to what he says or are they an integral part of his thinking: twitching and switching, flipping and flopping this way and that, all over the place?

    Turning to an earlier period, we know how Adolf Hitler used his hands when speechifying and parading. He used his raging and often flailing raised fisted right hand to express his ‘anti-leftist and anti-semitic passion’ and his open handed outstretched arm, to signal allegiance to his cause. Although aware of Hitler’s pathological anti-left sentiments, which he associated with Judaism, few have commented on what his left hand was doing at the same time while he right was in the pubic eye. In numerous situations his left hand is holding onto or clutching -as though for dear life- lectern while standing on the rostrum, his gloves, coat, belt, hat, windscreen of open-topped car, and to brush his hair. However, in his final days, with little or nothing both literally and metaphorically left to hang onto outside his Berlin bunker he’s filmed with his empty left hand trembling behind his back, while stroking with his right the cheeks of Hitler Youth cadets parading before him. All a coincidence or something else? Perhaps having been suppressed for so long in promoting the right, but out of sight ‘it / he’ was no longer able to control itself / himself when there was nothing left to hang on to.

    Clearly hand use and hand gestures are an integral aspect of thinking. They provide at least as good a mirror into the psyche as the eyes are said to provide a mirror to the soul.

    Where does this take us? Well, we know that the right cerebral hemisphere operates in synchrony with the left hand and the left cerebral hemisphere in synchrony with the right hand. And if we’re lucky we’ll notice the right working in harmony with the left to common purpose and in reciprocal harmony. It follows that observing which hand is doing what when talking or doing manual tasks tells us how the brain is organized and tries to manage the body while acting and interacting. We also know that saying something is one thing and doing another is something else. Extreme examples would be saying “I love you” in a raging tone and with raised fist. Less extreme examples would be having a clear mind’s eye-image of what one wants to say but having difficulty re-presenting it on the written page.

    In literate societies, sense of self is determined largely in terms of literacy. The case of writing, but not with the adept hand is associated with a general sense of ill-at-easeness. And since the correct source is seldom identified it is outsourced to others who are held responsible and must be replaced or punished. Hence flipping one way to ‘take back control’ as with Brexiters and Trumpists or flopping the other to impose the Caliphate on others, as with Daesh .

    Posted in Brexiter, Hands | Leave a comment

    He wanted to be right …

    In the FT Weekend Books (8 October 2016) John Plender essayed Sebastian Mallaby’s biography of The Man Who Knew: The Life and Times of Alan Greenspan. It is headed “A rock-star Fed chairman whose reputation was tarnished by problems stored during his tenure. Alan Greenspan emerges in all his contradictions..”

    Plender reports;

    In Mallaby’s account, the shy and introverted young economist craved control over a confined domain. He wanted to be right, and to know that he was right; and he thrived on problems that he could solve alone, without seeking others’ opinions. His unyielding individualism made for an uncomfortable first marriage that lasted less than a year, after which he became for decades an eligible bachelor who dated news anchors, senators and beauty queens.

    Can it be that here we’re witnessing the hegemony of the ‘right’ operating at its quintessentially best: a personal existential crisis later followed towards the end of his 18 year tenure by the 2007/8 financial crises!

    Apparently he secured a place at the Juilliard Music Conservatory where he played the tenor saxophone and clarinet. He soon dropped out however and joined a second tier jazz band as a sideman. Those familiar with these two musical instruments will know that the left hand is held closer to the face and the left hand thumb is placed over the octave or register key. In some sense then, the left hand does greater transformative work when playing! Maybe this is why Greenspan was so insistent on being right early in his career in economics and finance.

    Posted in Biography, Hand, Hegemony, Left, Right | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

    Looking nervous, and gesturing with her left hand, she continued…(Baroness Chakrabarti)

    I watched Robert Peston interview Baroness Chakrabarti on Peston on Sunday (ITV) and noted that she ‘spoke’ mostly with her left hand. This would make her a leftie, in the true sense of the word were she to also write with her left hand.

    But I’ve not watched her writing so it’s not possible to say whether she is a true leftie or a converted / latent left hander; or just talking ‘emotionally’.

    What is intriguing is that when Peston put it to her that she would be accused of hypocrisy for sending her own son to a private school she said she believed that many people were “deeply scarred by the 11-plus exam and that kind of segregation”.

    It was equally intriguing the way she played around with ‘left’ and ‘right’. Taking the phrases out of context we have:

    • All I will say is that I live a charmed and a privileged life, much more than I did as a child. But people on the left have often had charmed lives.
    • This thing about selection: if you have got money, you will always be all right. If you don’t have money in this country you are increasingly not all right and that’s why I have joined the Labour Party.

    And the final intriguing fact is that Lucy Fisher, the Times Senior Political Correspondent commented with forensic detail on Peston’s interview with her, (October 10) noting her left hand gesturing!!! It is unusual for a journalist to comment on hand ‘use’ when reporting on an interview. I don’t know whether Lucy Fisher realized the full significance of her observation!

    Posted in Education, Hand, Left, forensic | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

    The EU Referendum: the devil is in the detail, god is in the bigger picture: Pepper, Moscovici, and the EU Referendum

    It still is commonplace to try to resolve arguments by claiming that the detail lies with the devil. In the EU Referendum debate, the detail is the unarguable sought for fact. But to date, I’ve neither read nor heard any ‘fact’ that has not been argued over by Brexiters or Remainers.

    And this, for the simple reason that the difficulty in persuading us against our better, initial judgment is that we all don’t hold the same world view. Pepper argued that whether what others present as facts are accepted as evidence for a particular course of action or belief will depend on the world view of the recipient. It is useful to recast Pepper’s initially six world-views in terms of parts (details) and wholes (bigger picture) and align them with Leave / Remain positions in the EU Referendum debate:
    • the part is the same as the whole: the similarities between us all are greater than the differences, therefore why isolate ourselves?
    • the part is greater than the whole: alone, the UK (including Scotland?) can take on and ‘beat’ the world!
    • the whole is the whole: we, the United Kingdom are (currently) the whole: no need to be a mere part of a larger whole!
    • the whole is the sum of the parts: Leavers – we’re not part of the whole: Remainers – we are!
    • the whole is greater than the sum of the parts: there are unforeseeable benefits of being part of a greater whole.
    • the whole is greater than the whole: even when we think we’ve grasped the whole of the problem / picture, there’s always a bigger problem / picture: a United Europe against DAISH, instead of against each other?

    The problem for persuaders then is how to target holders of these different world views. We could start by seeing where we do find agreement. What about asking Leavers and Remainers whether they believe we live on a single whole planet: where looking from the moon, continental land masses may be visible but all national boundaries are invisible. Then using this wedge, seek to establish at what point boundaries become ‘visible’ and therefore ‘actionable’.

    Shifting focus somewhat, many years ago Moscovici argued that propaganda is defined by sticking to a fixed content, eg immigration and varying the form of the argument- sometimes rhetorical, sometimes emotional, sometimes rational. Fixing the form of argument and varying the content defines modes of operation eg, science, art. In so far as those trying to persuade us to Remain or Leave focus on single but different issues (immigration vs the economy or sovereignty vs joint decision making) they’re operating as propagandists. And if you wish to discover how propaganda works we have only to remind ourselves of Hitler and Stalin’s use of it in the 20th Century.

    If you want a version of the bigger picture you could read Donald Rayfield’s Stalin’s Henchmen, the FT obituary of Margot Honecker and the review of Second-Hand Time by Svetlana Alexievich. The lesson? History does repeat itself because there will always be some who resolve their own ill-at-easeness by scapegoating others for their condition, then setting out to convert or eliminate these ‘external causes. Because we focused on our differences more than similarities, Europe was not united at the end of the 19th and beginning of the early 20th Century. Playing one nation off against another enabled Stalin to impose his reign of terror in the Soviet Union, with catastrophic consequences for millions of peoples. There was a perverse symbiosis between him and Hitler, allowing the latter to act equally diabolically.

    Svetlana Alexievic, recorded those who bore witness to a particular passage in their and their country’s lives. Her major theme is the lost moral order of Soviet communism. She reports that running through many of the narratives, alongside regret that great power status was lost, is self-contempt: and the conviction that Russians need a vozhd, a leader to discipline them into greatness. Hence the current popularity of Putin amongst Stalinists.

    Margot Honecker who recently died was the wife of Erich Honecker, the communist supremo of the German Democratic Republic. 8 years before Erich had gained party and national power Margot had been education minister, a post which she retained throughout their rule. This gave her the chance to propagandize successive generations of young East Germans that communism was everything and that everything else was nothing. Incidentally she was responsible for the construction of the infamous concrete wall between the Western and Soviet zones of postwar Berlin. Unsurprisingly she was wildly opposed to Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev’s reforms, preferring total control. It seems beyond comprehension that anyone even vaguely familiar with how Stalin obtained and maintained power, as she must have been, to have wished to emulate any totalitarian regime.

    There is a scapegoating thread running through the actions of those who see themselves as being fundamentally different from others and therefore worthy of isolation or elimination. In the context of nationhood – to quote from Michael Burleigh’s The Third Reich: A New History. -“All people had to do was to make the quantum leap of faith; unified national self-belief was the solution to every mundane problem” (p. 12) and earlier “The united nation, purged of all racial or political contaminants, and bereft of any external moral reference points, became a congregation of the faithful, with ‘new’ leaders, who spoke with an emotional power best described by one willing Italian participant as an ‘extraordinary rape of the soul’. (p. 10)

    Just to demonstrate there’s little new under the sun, “civil life is understood as something dependent on the extension of selves, into communities, and which is discovered in the collaborative, multivalent, and never ending work of perpetual enlargement.” This is the concluding sentence in Andrew Wadowksi’s Bryskett, Spenser and The Discourse of Civill Life, an article in Renaissance Studies on the New English Polity in Ireland. The Discourse shows the complex and contrasting ways in which two figures at the vanguard of Elizabethan moral philosophy (Lodowick Bryskett and Edmund Spenser) and on the fraught and violent front lines of Elizabethan imperial power, sought to mediate humanist ideals about the nature and practice of civil life with the daily exigencies of establishing and maintaining the early modem colonial state.

    So what is more important, the detail or the bigger picture? And what is the picture, the bigger picture or the biggest picture? Who will we scapegoat for failure to tackle and resolve issues concerning: immigration, the economy, climate change, DAISH, water scarcity and a potential internicine European conflict on the scale of World Wars I and II? Or are they all interrelated?.

    Posted in Brexiter, Common Ground, EU Referendeum, Pepper, Remainer, scapegoat | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

    In education, testing does not raise stated standards

    Those who believe educational performance can be raised to standards by frequent, more rigorous and robust testing are using a non-pedagogic definition of education. Were they to do so they would know (a) that standards are stated eg. run a marathon in under 3 hours, recite the alphabet forwards and then backwards in under 2 minutes and (b) that teaching and testing are but two faces of the same page; for what sense does it make to teach tomorrow without founding it on today’s performance?

    The media are as complicit as politicians in confounding standards and performance, as are many so-called educationists!

    Posted in Assessment, Education, Labelling, Pedagogy, Teaching | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

    Stuttering, dyslexia and science, what science?

    On 2 APRIL 2016 the New Scientist published an article by Norman Miller entitled, “Getting the word out”. I sent the following ‘letter’

    Letter to New Scientist
    Note the similarities between his (Miller’s) account of stuttering and Samuel Orton’s 1930 account of reading difficulties. The backcloth to both is that the right cerebral hemisphere controls the left side of the body and the left cerebral hemisphere the right side.

    First Orton’s account, from Wikipedia, ( accessed 6 April 2016).

    “Orton set up a 2-week mobile clinic in Greene County, Iowa to evaluate students referred by teachers because they “were retarded or failing in their school work.” Orton found that 14 of the students who were referred primarily because they had great difficulty in learning to read, in fact had near-average, average, or above-average IQ scores.

    Orton’s study of reading difficulties in children led him to hypothesize that these individuals have failed to establish appropriate cerebral organization to support the association of visual words with their spoken forms. He termed this difficulty strephosymbolia, meaning “twisted symbols”. This term stemmed from Orton’s observation that many of the children he worked with tended to reverse letters or transpose their order. Orton also reported that some of his research subjects could read more easily if they held pages up to a mirror, and a few were rapid mirror writers.

    Working in the 1920s, Orton did not have access to modern brain scanning equipment, but he knew from his work with brain damaged adults that injuries to the left hemisphere produced symptoms similar to those he observed in children. Many of the children Orton studied were also ambidextrous or had mixed handedness. This led Orton to theorize that the children’s reading problems stemmed from the failure of the left hemisphere to become dominant over the right. [my italics]. Some of Orton’s theories about brain structure and organization would later be confirmed by modern brain researchers, such as Dr. Albert Galaburda, who compared the brains of deceased dyslexic and non-dyslexic adults in the late 1970s.

    Dr. Orton’s key contribution to the field of education was the concept of “multisensory” teaching–integrating kinesthetic (movement-based) and tactile (sensory-based) learning strategies with teaching of visual and auditory concepts. Dr. Orton wanted a way to teach reading that would integrate right and left brain functions. [my italics] He was influenced by the work of fellow psychiatrist Grace Fernald, who had developed a kinesthetic approach involving writing in the air and tracing words in large written or scripted format, [comment: presumably with the right hand!] while simultaneously saying the names and sounds of the letters.”

    And now from Norman Miller, “Getting the word out” New Scientist 2 APRIL 2016.

    “But studies that show stammering is related to connection faults in speech-producing networks of the brain raise a question: why do some people overcome the condition? To find out , Christian Kell ot the Brain Imaging Center in Frankfurt, Germany, has been comparing the brain functions of stammerers with those of recovered stammerers.
    We know that among fluent speakers, the left hemisphere of the brain takes a dominant role in speech production. In stammerers, the right hemisphere activates more strongly when speaking, even if they aren’t stammering. Kell thinks their brains are attempting to compensate for malfunctions in the left hemisphere. [my italics].“To some degree, this could reduce symptoms – but only partly, because their right hemisphere usually is not specialised in speaking” he says.

    Among recovered stammerers, however, Kell found that some left-hemisphere networks were working again – in particular Brodmann Area 47, or BA47. This is known to be involved in various speech mechanisms. In persistent stutterers, scans show BA47 as one of the areas that doesn’t activate properly, but among recovered stammerers it appears to work.
    So what causes these brain difference in the first place? “It isn’t clear yet whether disfluencies in early childhood create the anomalies as the brain is developing”, says Watkins. “The differences are there in young children close to the the time that stammering starts, but most of the data acquired has been from adults who have stammered all their lives,” she says. The best way to solve this mystery will be studies that follow children who stammer over years or decades”

    What is intriguing is why both sets of reported ‘facts’ are cited as evidence for a weakness or malfunction in the left hemisphere rather than as evidence for right hemisphere dominance, ie. left handedness. Four (overlapping) hypotheses can be forwarded. The first is because all studies in the English language take place within a ‘right bias’: otherwise known as handling the hegemony of ‘human rights’ ie right, write, wright and rite. The second is that they take place within an atomist and mechanicist mind-set which treats ‘dysfunctions’ as separate conditions, each requiring separate explanations. The third is they ignore the role of hands in literally and metaphorically handling what the world throws at us. And fourthly it is seemingly easier to look under the street-light instead of looking more widely in the unchartered dark. If Mendeleev had adopted this approach chemistry would not have made that rapid advances it did make once he had formulated his period table of elements.

    It follows that any solution to reading problems and stuttering / stammering will not be found by focusing on ‘specific difficulty’ studies taking decades. It can already be found using a holistic mindset which treats the physical, intellectual, emotional and social not as separate components but as different facets of single entity. One implication of this model is that if any single facet is found to be out of kilter then, often on deeper probing, other facets will be found to be out of kilter too.. And to see why speech / thinking is affected we need to draw on an analogy between the communicating brain and the evolution of computing. In computing, chip design (hardware) and programming (software) have and no doubt will continue to co-evolve. Brains, however, unlike computers, are hard-wired right, left or rarely right and left. Moreover, the programming software is couched in the backcloth of ‘human ‘rights’. This means infant brains, adapt to the demands of the environment, initially through mimicry and repetition. The key feature in handling the hegemony of the ‘right’ is that they have to cope with being shown how to do things generally right (handedly) and correctly (right). And since in our literate world, sense of self is defined largely by our ability to read and write fluently, writing with the non-adept hand will constitute an additional problem for the writing hand’s ability to effortlessly read the mind’s-eye-image.

    Note, the core processing problem is not being right or left handed (with the mirrored brain) but writing with the non-adept hand, whether left or right: for the image is being read by the hand indirectly, from the ‘wrong’ hemisphere.

    It is intriguing to see how close Miller got to this hemisphere / contra-lateral hand ‘truth’ when he used the word ‘tangible’: “Now, with developments in brain imaging and genetic techniques, a new picture of the condition is emerging, one that suggests a more tangible [my italics] explanation. “There is something fundamentally different about the brains of people who stutter,” says Scott Grafton, a neuroscientist at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

    At best ‘neuroscience’ will provide only correlational and not causal evidence for brain-behaviour conditions. And of course the brains of left handers will be ‘fundamentally different’ from the brains of right handers!

    Letters published in the New Scientist 23 April 2016 p52.

    Stuttering and brain hemispheres, From Margaret Scott, I was interested in Norman Miller’s article about stammering and particularly the discussion of the role of the left and right brain hemispheres (2 April, p 34).

    I am a fluent speaker and hear equally well in both ears. However, when using the telephone I infinitely prefer to listen with my right ear. I am right-handed. So writing anything down involves curling my left arm round to hold the phone, an awkward posture. I have tried to use my left ear on the phone, but I can’t stand it even for a minute.

    Observing colleagues suggests this listening preference is unusual. Has any research been done into its causes? York, UK

    From Guy Cox I am very glad to know that speech impediments are now getting the benefit of scientific research. But while Miller has a stammer, I have a stutter. For a stammerer certain letters or words are hard to get out. A stutterer repeats syllables or words.

    Many of my academic colleagues wouldn’t know of my stutter, whereas my immediate family would tell you it is terrible. This leads me to suspect that stuttering is strongly emotionally triggered. Whereas stammering is not. This is not to deny biological causes of either, although it has proven easier to propose biological causes for stammering. Sydney, Australia

    Where’s the science? Neither Scott’s nor Cox’s letters takes the ‘science’ of stammering / stuttering any further. Indeed Scott is a fluent speaker so raises a non-relevant issue ‘not being able to stand using her left hand to hold the phone to her right ear, while writing with her right hand’. Cox on the other hand makes a distinction between stammering and stuttering (for which he posits an emotional link) but makes no reference to left / right hand or hemisphere.

    I was intrigued as to why you published the letters that you did on April 23 p.52, as two follow-up letters to Norman Miller’s article about stammering and the hemispheres (2 April, p 34). Interesting though they were, they did nothing to further the ‘science’ of stuttering / stammering.

    On the one hand Scott stated she was a fluent speaker and could hear equally well in both ears. However, when using the telephone she infinitely preferred to listen with her right ear. She is right-handed. So writing anything down involved her curling her left arm round to hold the phone, an awkward posture. She has tried to use her left ear on the phone, but couldn’t stand it even for a minute.

    Observing her colleagues (taking notes while on the phone) suggested to her that this listening preference is unusual. She wondered whether any research has been done into its causes.

    Cox, on the other hand was very glad to know that speech impediments are now getting the benefit of scientific research. He pointed out that while Miller has a stammer, he himself has a stutter; and that stammerers find it hard to get out certain letters or words, while stutterers repeat syllables or words.

    He went on to claim that many of his academic colleagues wouldn’t know of his stutter whereas his immediate family would tell us it is terrible. This led him to suspect that stuttering is strongly emotionally triggered. Whereas stammering is not. He did not deny biological causes of either, although it has proven easier to propose biological causes for stammering.

    Apart from Scott’s reference to right and left brain and hands, her letter has nothing to do with stammering / stuttering so is irrelevant to the issue of the causes of these speech impediments. Surely there is no puzzle as to why someone holds the phone to the right ear with the left hand, presumably only when writing notes with the right hand? The puzzle would be if they held the phone to her right ear with their left hand when not note taking.

    Cox’s is at least relevant in so far as he suffers from one of the conditions which his colleagues wouldn’t know about but his family would. Presumably this is the basis of his conjecture that stuttering is emotionally triggered, while stammering isn’t. However, he failed to question why it should be emotionally triggered in the family but not amongst colleagues (when one might predict the opposite). As a reader of his letter it is worth pondering why he believes the condition he doesn’t suffer from has a biological cause whereas the one he does suffer from has a (presumably non-biological) emotional cause. He cannot be unaware of the fact that both conditions will have biological / brain ‘correlates’. He makes no mention of his handedness or left right brain.

    Hence my puzzle, not about the letters themselves, but why they were published in a ‘scientific’ journal. For one refers to brain / hand orientation but has no speech impediment, the other has a speech impediment but makes no reference to brain (hemisphere) – body (hand) organisation. Enlightenment please!


    Posted in Dyslexia, Hand, Right, science, scientific, stammer, stutter | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

    Dyslexology: more in common with astrology than with forensic anthropology?

    Two weeks ago I attended a lecture on ‘the real world of forensic anthropology’ by Prof Sue Black at the Royal Society of Medicine in London. It was truly inspiring. Prof Black is a leading forensic anthropologist and director of the Centre for Anatomy and Human Identification at Dundee University. Her forensic expertise has been crucial to a number of high-profile criminal cases, including the conviction of Scotland’s largest paedophile ring in 2009. In 1999 she headed the British Forensic Team’s exhumation of mass graves in Kosovo.

    Prof Black founded the British Association of Human Identification in 2001, the same year in which she received an OBE for her services to forensic anthropology in Kosovo. She received the Lucy Mair Medal from the Royal Anthropological Institute in 2008.

    Travelling home from her lecture I realized how it was that Prof Black had been able to make so much progress in such a relatively short time in establishing forensic anthropology as a force to be reckoned with, while dyslexologists had been so unsuccessful over a much longer period in helping those children and adults with reading difficulties to overcome their difficulties.

    Dyslexologists are those immersed in the discipline of dyslexology, defined by their belief that dyslexia, aka reading difficulty, is an immutable condition of nature and not nurture. In this respect their dogmatic ‘wor[l]d’ mind-set view has more in common with astrology (note: not astronomy!) than forensic anthropology.

    How did this difference arise? The answer is almost too simple. First, Prof Black considered her primary duty was and is to the court and not so much to one adversarial party or the other. Of course the evidence she presents to court is used by one or other party. Second and perhaps more importantly she recruited into her teams those who had a science degree but not in forensic anthropology. Her rationale being that she wanted those with a scientific mentality rather than those with blinkered ‘scientific’ knowledge. So she recruited from physics, chemistry, geology graduates.

    This strategy guaranteed that forensic anthropology was and is a progressive problem shifting enterprise (Lakatos’s characterisation of scientific research programmes) rather than dyslexology’s regressive problem shifting maintaining vested-interest enterprise.

    Contrast Prof Black’s positive message with the ‘uncertain’ in Elliott and Grigorenko’s concluding paragraph of The Dyslexia Debate, published in 2014.

    Whether science will ultimately resolve the many contradictions in the field of reading difficulty is uncertain. However, it is hoped that the present book will, in some small way, help contribute to this end, for clear, rational, and rigorous understandings will surely prove essential in our ongoing attempts to serve those who struggle to master the reading process.

    The obvious question to ask of Elliott & Grigorenko, is “If science cannot resolve the contradictions in the field of reading difficulty what enterprise will?” magic? Less obviously Elliott & Grigorenko failed to spell out what constitutes ‘science’, because invoking the label ‘science’ for an activity does not guarantee that the enterprise is engaged in a scientific manner. Here the label ‘science’ is used as a rhetorical device to confer a spurious authenticity.

    The equally important difference between the two is that while the primary duty of forensic anthropologists is to the court, the primary duty of dyslexologists is to themselves, in order to sustain the multimillion pound dyslexia assessment and treatment industry, or to those who benefit from receiving a diagnosis of dyslexia – it is not to the court or indeed to any court. The overcoming ‘reading difficulty’ task is not to please all the stakeholders to the “is dyslexia a specific difficulty of biological origin or inadequate nurturing debate” but to the task of overcoming reading difficulties.

    Posted in Change agent, Cognition, Crime, Dyslexia, Dyslexic, Innovation, anthropology, dyslexologist, dyslexology, forensic, scientific | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

    From psychology as a discipline to psychology as a profession

    When psychology changed from being an academic discipline to a profession, it incurred many of the negative attributes of commercial organizations; the principal one being a shift in focus from subject expertise, silo thinking and regulatory rituals.

    The general assumption under the ‘discipline’ mindset was that psychology graduates would use the insights they gained from their study of psychology to enhance their on the job performance, whatever that job might be.

    Concomitantly there was a shift from awarding masters and doctorate degrees on the basis of supervised research to predominantly taught courses. One consequence has been the stifling of innovatory practices: the assumption being, if it hasn’t been learnt by being taught then it is not worth knowing!

    Posted in British Psychological Society, Innovation, Psychologists | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

    America’s reading problem vs the dyslexia debate: the hegemony of the /right/, institutional inertia and radicalisation

    In literate societies writing (and reading) defines our sense of self. It is therefore worth taking Gillian Tett’s ‘America’s reading problem’ FT.COM MAGAZINE December 19 /20 2015′ further in a wider educational, economic and political context.

    However I’d best start by framing the ‘message’ within the work of Karl Popper, Stephen Pepper and a particular holistic view of the human attributes.

    1. Popper is to be noted for his claim that (a) there are no such things as theory-free [culture-free] observations (b) that academic disciplines [silos] arose through historical accident and are maintained for primarily bureaucratic reasons, and (c) that ‘What is ….?’ essentialist questions are unscientific since they don’t lend themselves to being straightforwardedly operationalized. In summary he characterised scientific progress as being problem-driven rather than discipline-based.

    2. In 1942 Stephen Pepper wrote a generally ignored but seminal work entitled World-Hypotheses: a Study in Evidence!!! To be noted are three aspects (a) he postulated that there are three cognitive attitudes – dogmatism, scepticism and reasonable scepticism, (b) nothing can or will convince dogmatists and [utter] sceptics against their better judgment. Reasonable sceptics are those open to being swayed by evidence and (c) of all the objects that are in the world they reduce to six core and incommensurable world-views. Here he was anticipating Mary Douglas’s How Institutions Think, which explains why experts, ostensibly working in the same field so often disagree with each other – they hold different world-views.

    3. Viewing human attributes. There are two core world-views about the relationship among human attributes: atomistic and holistic. The former hold that the physical, intellectual, emotional and social attributes exist as separate components which may or may not interact with each other for better or worse. The latter hold that these attributes reflect observers’ focus of attention and are therefore better regarded as different facets of a single integrated entity. This core faceted world-view implies that if anything is found to be out of kilter with one of the facets then (often as the result of deeper probing) something will be found to be out of kilter in the others too.

    America’s reading problem vs the dyslexia myth. It is worth noting that Tett didn’t follow the ‘dyslexia’ trail in her piece, which is what Labour MP Graham Stringer did in 2009. In a column for the website Manchester Confidential he said millions of pounds were being wasted on specialist teaching for what he called a “false” condition. (Intriguingly his column forms the opening paragraph of the first chapter in Elliott and Grigorenko’s The Dyslexia Debate.) As a visitor to Strangeways Prison in Manchester Stringer noted the link between incarceration and poor literacy which Tett also commented on. What intrigued me more were the comments (ignored by Elliott and Grigorenko) provoked by Stringer claiming the correlation was a consequence of poor teaching. To quote Stringer: “The education establishment, rather than admit that their eclectic and incomplete methods for instruction are at fault, have invented a brain disorder called dyslexia, … 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. … Currently, 35,500 students receive disability allowances for dyslexia at an annual cost of £78.4m… 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… 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.”

    Although I disagree with Stringer’s faith in phonics as a remedy, I agree totally with his view that there is a dyslexia assessment, teaching and honours industry which covers up inadequate teaching and evaluation. The tone and content of the comments following his piece evidenced the presence of the usual vested interest groups, with those supporting him being in the minority. They were preoccupied with asserting the existence of dyslexia. The abuse, much of it vitriolic, ranged from; if his view represents the Labour Party’s view they would be revoking their membership of the party, all the way to the claim that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about. It’s no surprise to learn that the majority of such comments were from either teachers who denied the role of poor teaching, or from those proclaiming personal testimony to their dyslexia.

    I wonder what comments followed Tett’s America’s reading problem ? It would be interesting to compare them.

    At the heart of the multiplicity of issues, lies the hegemony of the right / write / wright / rite and media and institutional inertia. And at the heart of this hegemonic quartet, to repeat, is the fact that in literate societies sense of self is determined to a large extent by our ability to read / write. To illustrate: quoting feedback from Judge Mort, in a case involving a repeat young offender “Why don’t all psychologists know about this (the implications and consequences of not writing with the adept hand)? The judge had requested an evaluation specifically to determine why all previous psychological evaluations had failed to identify the condition and thus why all previous sentencing ‘treatments’ had failed. Whilst his comment is still true in the Anglo-Saxon speaking world it isn’t true in Germany. (See Dr Johanna Barbara Sattler’s work on Converted Handedness: )

    The ‘argument’ is two-fold: some people are born naturally right or left handed and a very small minority equi-handed. This natural hand can execute complex manipulations (of which writing is one instance) with seemingly effortless ease; it can be called the adept hand. However for a variety of complex cultural and familial reasons many individuals have been induced or coerced into writing with the non-adept hand. The majority of cases involve writing with the right hand when the left is the adept one. However there are also many cases involving writing with the left hand when the right is the adept one. The argument is not over whether one is right or left handed but whether there is a mis-match between the writing and the adept hand. If there is, the person will suffer an ill-at-easeness, not being in harmony within themselves and with the external world (of writing).

    The heartfelt antipathy toward poor teaching being a cause of poor reading problems can be illustrated best by citing Uta Frith’s comment on Elliott & Grigorenko’s work, “It makes me feel ill.” (Frith is a much honoured psychologist, latterly cognitive neuroscientist for her work on autism and dyslexia.) But as anyone who has ever watched television trouble shooters, such as Gordon Ramsay or Alex Polizzi, at work will have noted that the physical, emotional, social and mental are but different facets of a single entity; and that fundamental change is never achieved without strong emotions being aroused – with social interaction often getting worse before it gets better.

    But there is a deeper systemic problem endemic within professional and academic institutions. To illustrate. In 2007, as a long standing Associate Fellow of the British Psychological Society with Chartered Psychology status I conducted separate evaluations on three primary school pupils. The outcome for the first two was typical. For one, I heard nothing further from the family after I sent them my report. The second involved two follow-up meetings with the family and one at the child’s school. It was the third that exposed the silo thinking within and the institutional inertia of the British Psychological Society (BPS). The simple facts were that the Mrs K Brown, headteacher of Sandiway Primary School, Cheshire complained to the BPS that the report did not conform to the format of Chartered Educational Psychologists (note I was a Chartered Psychologist, not an Educational Psychologist) and that the school had been maligned for not ensuring the child’s progress. She had sounded out other Educational Psychologists and none of them had ever heard of latent-handedness: the condition therefore did not exist, and even if it did, it wouldn’t explain the pupil’s need for special educational needs status! It is worth noting that during the hearing Brown did not show her face and that the parents had already changed the child’s school and were on the verge of moving the child again. Crucially, when the BPS became involved the child’s father Mark Sugden, remained silent, thereby compromising his personal integrity.

    During the ensuing disciplinary hearing into my professional competence, the psychologist on the panel (Prof McKay, former president of the BPS) noted: (a) that I had offered to run an in-house workshop for the school and the BPS to appraise them of the condition (b) that both the school and the BPS failed to take up my offer and (c) asked somewhat rhetorically whether all educational psychologists, counseling, forensic, indeed all psychologists need be appraised of the condition. He wondered how I discovered the condition. This rendered the failure of the appeal all the more puzzling and resulted in my Chartered Status being revoked for the reason that I would not retract the significance of the role of latent handedness in a variety of presenting problems. Not surprisingly I resigned forthwith from the BPS. I was granted Regional Fellow membership of the Royal College of Medicine, with full disclosure of the BPS case!

    At the parochial level it is easy to see why there is such institutional inertia. It is easier to say one person is wrong rather than the organisation is wrong! The ultimate paradox is that the BPS has chosen to resolve the cognitive dissonance by sticking with their ‘evidence’ rather than changing their minds!! One consequence of the BPS’s denial of the role played by the writing-adept hand mis-match in a variety of ‘psychological’ conditions is that they are willfully blocking access to assessments and treatments. Unfortunately the BPS’s intransigence has further global consequences.

    At the global level failure to emulate the work of Dr Johanna Barbara Sattler, and my own is much more profound. And here I draw an analogy between the ‘dyslexia debate’ and the ‘what is the mechanism of radicalisation towards, for example, Daesh’? Surely it is the fact that almost everywhere on the planet (see Conflict Conflict Tracker) there are those who ‘resolve’ the differences between themselves and others by at best intimidating them and at worst, torturing and exterminating them. A seminal case is that of Osama bin Laden. The FBI website identified him as left handed (presumably on the basis of his physical gestures, in particular holding his rifle with his right hand and pulling the trigger with his left. What defines Osama bin Laden as being out of kilter within himself (ie a latent left hander) is that he writes with his right hand! Contrast him with Barack Obama, a left hander who writes with his left hand. There are clearly other factors at play, in each case.

    One result of an unacknowledged mis-match between the writing and the adept hand is a sense of ill-at-eseness, which is resolved by ‘freezing’, ‘fleeing’, or ‘fighting’. It is probably being too cryptic to claim that bin Laden resolved his personal problem (ie the mis-match between writing and adept hand) politically by taking on, literally and metaphorically the might of the right (ie America). In short those who are ill-at-ese within themselves will locate the cause outside themselves. In many cases they acknowledge their non-identity with others by seeking banners under which to validate their actions, whether it be repeat offender, dyslexia or murderous Islam. Handling America’s reading problem, which represents the mere tip of a global iceberg, evidently entails handling this hegemony, or should it be the rhetoric, of the right!

    Posted in British Psychological Society, Dyslexia, Hand, Hegemony, Osama bin Laden, Psychologists, Radicalisation, Reading, Right | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment
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