Rod Liddle

Is there anything that can’t be put down to a ‘condition’?

24 August 2019

9:00 AM

24 August 2019

9:00 AM

I suppose it is overstating the case to suggest that dyslexia is simply a term coined to assuage the disappointment of middle-class parents faced with offspring who are considerably thicker than they fondly imagined them to be. There was an interesting report a few years ago by Professor Joe Elliott of Durham University. He wrote: ‘On the basis of current research, there are no meaningful grounds to differentiate between so-called dyslexic and non-dyslexic poor readers. Genetics, neuroscience and cognitive science can help us better understand the underlying nature of reading disability, but they do not offer means to make a dyslexic/poor reader distinction.’

Well, quite. The dyslexia industry — by now substantial — is angry that a new emphasis on spelling, punctuation and syntax in exam marking is discriminating against this vulnerable, and I daresay vibrant, section of the school population. Perhaps it is. But simply to define a condition is not remotely to alter it. Indeed everything, in the end, might be documented as a ‘condition’.

I performed very badly in several exams back in the 1970s, as the consequence of a debilitating condition known as ‘utter and complete bone idleness’, a venerable Liddle trait stretching back through the generations. Others failed because of a condition known as ‘stupidity’ or ‘pig ignorance’, which will undoubtedly have both genetic and socio-economic components.

We are what we are and should be wary of this cringing obsequy, which seeks to affirm that everyone is exactly the same, except for these unfortunate ‘conditions’ which append to them. It is a tautology, no? Back in 2016 my daughter, Emmeline, was irritated to discover that nearly half of the pupils taking the 11-plus examination alongside her had been documented as dyslexic, allowing them extra time to complete the exam. That’s not fair, she complained. No, it isn’t — and thus a good introduction to the world, I reckon. It didn’t do any of them much good, in the end. They still failed.

Emmy is now in her third year at grammar school and had rather hoped to take religious education (or studies, or whatever they call it now) as a GCSE option because she adores the subject and gets very high marks. We have had to stop her in a manner probably best described as authoritarian. I would keep your kids away from the subject too, if they are of independent spirit. One hint of what might lay in store came when she was asked to write an essay explaining why Islam was a ‘religion of peace’. This she did, but added a couple of surahs from the Quran which seemed to challenge that perspective. She was told to do the whole thing again, omitting the caveats and the verses from which they were drawn. Islam is a religion of peace and that’s it. And of course its pacific bounty is something the world experiences more or less every day of the week, somewhere or other.

Her experience was nothing, mind, compared to that of Abigail Ward, aged 16, in her GCSE RE paper this summer. Abigail is a vegetarian and objects to the Muslim practice of halal slaughter, and described the reasons for her disaffection in her exam paper. The examiner disqualified her entire paper, deeming it full of ‘obscene racial comments’ when it was nothing of the kind. She had simply described the method of slaughter as being ‘disgusting’. The examining board has since apologised to Abigail and awarded her a grade, but has not confirmed that the uberwoke moron who marked her paper has been sacked.

As Brendan O’Neill wrote this week, this affair is symptomatic of the idiocy and doublethink which accompanies that confected outrage, Islamophobia, holding us all to account should we ever venture to say anything which might be construed as critical. It goes without saying that if Abigail had chosen Roman Catholicism as her exam question, and questioned the social effects of its opposition to birth control, she would not have been called ‘racist’, still less ‘obscenely racist’. My suspicion is that she would have been commended and probably awarded a few extra marks, although this is only a guess.

But because of the growing shrillness of the pro-Islam lobby and its increased political weight, all this gets a free pass from any and every criticism — and those who draw attention to its possible defects are accused of committing hate crimes and being racist. Quite often this mindset leads its adherents — such as the examiner — into absurd paradoxes, for example over homosexuality, women’s rights, freedom of conscience and apostasy. It is the mindset which leads woke homosexuals to demand a boycott of the winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, where homosexuality is legal, while saying nothing about the ICC World Twenty20 cricket competition being held around the same time in Bangladesh, where it carries a mandatory life sentence. They will work themselves into a frenzy when a couple of Christian bakers refuse to make a cake decorated with the words ‘Support gay marriage’, but pass no comment when gay people are pushed off high buildings, beaten, imprisoned or otherwise discriminated against in virtually all parts of the Muslim world.

Hideous atrocities carried out by right-wing extremists are quickly identified as such and the ideology behind the atrocities rightly eviscerated. But when atrocities are carried out by Islamic terrorists the ideology is never mentioned and instead it is usually assumed that the perpetrators are suffering from a kind of ‘condition’ which made them do the stuff they did. The problem of course is that woke liberals see the world not how it is, but how they wish it to be — and when reality comes along and demonstrates how incalculably wrong they are, their worldview begins to disintegrate.

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