Dyslexia Awareness Week: Survival of the Species (41/52)

It is Dyslexia Awareness Week – #positivedyslexia2017 and World Dyslexia Day on Thursday 5th October.

Why might this be of interest to non-dyslexics and what has this got to do with survival of the species?

The publication of On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life by Charles Darwin on 24th November 1859 caused consternation. Nearly 158 years on, there is still debate in many parts of the world on whether evolution or creation theories should be taught in schools.

In popular culture, the notion of survival of the fittest (actually first used by Herbert Spencer in 1864 on reading Darwin’s work) has gain a strong foothold – not least in business (Survival of the fittest).

Just imagine if the survival, up until this point, of the human species was dependent on neural-diversity – that it is the collective abilities within communities (from tribes to nations).

This may seem a little far fetched – but bare with me a little longer.

Before the first great civilisations (in Africa, Andes, China, Europe, Egypt and Indus Valley), small communities were dependant on their combined abilities, including fine detail thinking and big picture thinking. I imagine it would be difficult to identify any reason why one might be favoured more than the other.

With the advent if languages systems this was all set to change. Initially pictographic (i.e. Aztec) and logorahpic  (i.e. Egyptian and Chinese) based systems probably had no or little impact on big picture thinkers. However, about 3,000 years ago alphabet-based languages emerged and with the aid of printing technologies, in wide use in Western Europe by 1500, came to dominate the sharing of knowledge (and power).

So, perhaps not surprisingly, over just 500 years we have managed to design education systems which favour the learning of alphabet-based languages and in in so doing have selected for negative attention our big picture thinkers.

If only I had realised this in my English class aged just 8! I could have stood up to Mrs W and said, “Could I remind you that big picture thinkers have insured the survival of the species to this moment in time and perhaps a little more respect of my superpower is called for at this very moment“.

Alas, with corporal punishment still widely in use, at that ‘moment’,  in the English boarding schools system, I may have been ‘rewarded’ for my insight in a less constructive way!

So, as we contemplate Dyslexia Awareness Week we should think how our society might be better served by embracing neural-diversity. That might mean reinventing the education system to celebrate neural-diversity.

On a practical note, this could mean introducing free (positive) testing for every child to identify the big picture thinkers and then support them in the development of their superpowers – remember our very survival might depend on it!

Nigel LockettThe Dyslexic Professor
University dyslexia support