Brain Scans

At about the 13 minute mark in Scott Murray's webinar for CLLN, he showed this slide and used a medical metaphor to describe the different sets of strengths and weaknesses that people with different educational backgrounds and skill sets have as "reading diseases" and posited that these different diseases need different interventions.

For example, uneducated immigrants have a different "reading disease" than a Canadian-born person with no high school education.

People should be "diagnosed" and an intervention should be aimed at their zone of proximal development to move them along efficiently, rapidly and effectively.

We were also told that the brain scans show that Level 1 and 2 people use less brain energy and use the back of their brain for recall and memory only when reading while Level 3+ readers use more brain energy and use the front of their brain for cognitive strategies such as inference.

Two responses:
Tonight I was doing one of the ESL Literacy workshops for the TESL students. I start with some stuff about the mainstream literacy discourse. I still use that Coors Foundation ad with the hole-in-the head family and the description of literacy as a genetic disease as one of the conversation starters. I usually say that this way of talking about literacy is not heard much now but that this idea persists. Tonight I said that until yesterday I THOUGHT this was a bit old-fashioned but then I heard Scott Murray describe students with different education experiences and histories as having different "reading diseases." 

He is using brain scans (from what research? conducted where? by whom? funded by whom?) that show level 1 learners use the memory part of their brain. My problem is not with the fact that scans show differences between people, but with the logical leaps he makes. Of course when we are first learning something we try to remember what we learned last time or most recently! Of course people who are more familiar with ANY skill would process information in a different way. That does not mean that brains are inherently different. Yet Scott has no trouble making that claim. This is seriously dangerous thinking.

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