Volume 9 • #72 • May 2008


Maybe it is my Scottish ancestry, or maybe it is the mindset from years of public
school teaching, but when I have a problem, I first try to find a solution that is CHEAP and EASY.  One of my favorite characters is a gent who lived in the 1400’s named William Occam who taught the principle that still bears his name, Occam’s Razor.  His theory was that to solve a problem, you should first cut to the core of the problem and look for the simplest solution.  Never mind the if’s, the maybe’s, the probably’s, and the but suppose that’s, and get to the heart of the matter.  This procedure now bears his name as Occam’s Razor, and I love it. See whether there is a solution that is cheap and easy.  Try that first.  (Actually he said simple.  Cheap and easy works for us teachers.)

I bring this up because of the problem that must be solved to cure dyslexia:  how to get only one signal to the left language area of the brain instead of the two that are normally present.  I found early in the game that kids could learn to read if they did not use the corpus callosum, but couldn’t learn to read if they did use it.  I had no idea why.  But the obvious solution, using Occam’s Razor, was just to by-pass the trouble-making CC. It worked. It cost the price of two tape recorders, a pair of stereo earphones, and a piece of cardboard bent so that one side occluded the inside of the left retina.

Now watch what happened over the next forty years as technology got fancier and fancier, and more and more expensive. Fancy brain scans did ultimately find and measure the timing problem in the CC. But it had already been found and measured by a clever psychiatrist using nothing more elaborate than high speed photography.  Cutting visual signals down to one was also achieved by a scientist in California by grinding contact lenses for an individual with half of it blackened to occlude the inside of the left retina. But the I-card we use in Reading from Scratch does the same thing for the price of a piece of cardboard.  One researcher, to attack the slow transmission across the CC, developed an elaborate computer program to slow down input artificially and gradually speed it up to normal.  But just by-passing the CC does the same thing for practically nothing.

Why do Americans insist on doing something the expensive way?  I have two guesses. One is my conviction that this country has gone totally doodad-happy and nano-nuts. Ultra hi-tech must be superior because it is the latest sneeze and is produced by ultra experts.

The other guess is more down-to-earth.  Something that is cheap and easy will not make money.  Brain scans will measure speed of transmission, involving many PhD’s, high costs, and scientific reputations.  High speed photography only needs one man and a good camera.  Individually fitted contact lenses require a hefty government grant for research..  A piece of cardboard doesn’t have much pizzazz. It is hard to believe that anything that cheap and easy can actually work.

Teaching Tip:     Use the I-card.




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