Rod Liddle Rod Liddle

From now on, we must all be equally stupid

Students emerge with useless degrees and not the remotest prospect of employment

A lecturer at a reasonably well-respected northern plate-glass university was somewhat perplexed by a student who complained about her poor marks for an essay. She had a statement of Special Educational Needs. She insisted that this had not been taken into account in the marking of her paper. My acquaintance was hauled before the university authorities to explain why he had marked her so low. ‘Because it was awful work, the work of a cretin,’ he replied. Ah, perhaps, they told him. But you haven’t taken into account the fact that she has Special Educational Needs. That’s why the paper was awful. So you need to allow for that fact and mark it as if it had been better.

That is, the exasperated lecturer told me, as if it had been written by someone who wasn’t thick. We have to pretend.

You can get one of these statements, or their replacement, the Education Health and Care plan, apparently, for a whole host of real or fictional disabilities — i.e., things that mean, quite simply, that you aren’t very good at academic work. Dyslexia is the main one — a diagnosis which in nine out of ten cases these days simply means: middle class but really not very bright. Indeed, my acquaintance’s gripe came to mind this week because my daughter has just taken her 11-plus and I know for a fact that up and down our county, Kent, middle-class parents have been desperately trying to get certificates proving that their brats are ‘dyslexic’ rather than stupid, so that they can have an extra 20 minutes to complete the exam and have all the questions read out to them nice and slowly. I’ve cited plenty of scientific evidence before suggesting that both dyslexia and its lumpenprole counterpart ADHD are now so overdiagnosed as to make both terms almost meaningless.

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