Ethics and the anonymous dyslexic

August 11, 1995

In a letter to the (THES, July 14) Professor Pointon used my article about dyslexia and students' undertaking of initial teacher education to advertise his work and to make some empirical assertions about people with dyslexia.

My pedigree is not as well established as Professor Pointon's and unlike him I have not undertaken "work" in this area. However, as a professional educator who for many years was involved in special education, I have had some familiarity with dyslexia since I discovered it as a young teacher in 1976. Like Professor Pointon I could list people I have known who have achieved academic and professional success in spite of, perhaps even partly as a result of, their dyslexia. But Professor Pointon's letter has caused me some worry.

First, I can see no justification for him to refer to my article as being "misinformed".

Second, as a professional educator, whose published work has included a book on Reading, Writing and Reasoning, in which my colleague Professor Winch and I offer advice about the construction of arguments, I would be interested to know why Professor Pointon believes my article is badly argued.

Third, and most important, as a professional ethicist, I would like to know why he believes my article "may be unethical". Admittedly, had I named the institution in which the student "almost identified" in my article, is studying, or had I named the student, ethical questions might have been asked. But to address an issue which impinges on the lives of schoolchildren seems ethical enough in the same way that publishing Integrating special children: some ethical issues does. This is a book that I co-edited with Susan Fairbairn which raises issues of equality of opportunity for pupils with disabilities. Here I argue strongly for the inclusion of such pupils in the mainstream, which seemed at the time, to be ethical enough.

Finally, my article made no adverse comments about the intellectual quality of people with dyslexia, or about their professional and academic potential. It focused on the validity of admitting such people onto a course leading, not merely to an academic paper in the theory of education, but to a qualification in teaching young children to read, write and spell, to use and record numbers, as well as other aspects of the primary curriculum.

In relation to my rather briefly stated arguments about this, Professor Pointon has yet to speak.

GAVIN J. FAIRBAIRN

Whalley Range, Manchester

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