Affirmative view of dyslexia
Once identified, though, the case isn't hopeless - quite the contrary if this cheer-leading film is to be believed. At the Old Rectory School in Suffolk, pupils man an amateur fire-brigade, learning skills of teamwork and sequential operations - both difficult for dyslexic children. When not quenching burning caravans they concentrate almost entirely on literacy and numeracy. The results appear to be good, though you soon got the feeling that the film wasn't exactly eager to deliver bad news - it took a doggedly affirmative view of dyslexia, even ending up with that peculiar modern piety, the privilege of disability.
Dyslexics, it seems, are not only not stupid, they're positively blessed. A benign fellow from America advanced the theory that the spatial skills of dyslexics will equip them perfectly for cyberspace, a new world based on visual perception rather than literacy. I'm not sure I believe that, any more than I believe that it's possible to confidently assert that Leonardo da Vinci was a dyslexic, but if it cheers people up in difficult times it seems harmless enough.
There was a similar air of special pleading about "Better Dead Than Gay", a Witness (C4) film about the death of Simon Harvey, a young Christian unable to come to terms with his homosexuality. Christopher O'Hare's film used Simon's agonised diaries, his suicide letters and the memories of friends and family to mount an arraignment of the church's attitudes to gay believers. The resulting film was partly theological debate (does sin lie in thought or deed alone), partly a well-crafted addition to the martyrology - with testimony to Simon's integrity and faith alongside an account of the forces that finally did for him. "Why?" asked the programme, deciding to locate the answer in social attitudes rather than the unfathomable psychology of an individual.
But the film did provide a fascinating portrait of Simon's father - who had responded to his son's death by setting up U-Turn Anglia, an organisation dedicated to the "cure" of homosexuals. "There's no freedom in homosexuality," he said resolutely. "It's like being in chains, it's like having your soul in a steel clamp." This level of denial is a startling thing to see, and suggests that Simon's hopelessness had its roots at home, not in church. Unlike the parents of dyslexic children, Simon's father appeared to have decided that his son was sinful, not simply different. His pious complacency (he was confident that both God and Simon had forgiven him for paternal shortcomings) made you long for a fierce Christian contradiction. I found it, by pure coincidence, a few hours later in a letter by William Blake. "No discipline," he wrote, "will turn one Man into another, even in the least particle, & such discipline I call Presumption & Folly. I have tried it too much not to know this, & am very sorry for all such who may be led to such ostentatious Exertion against their Eternal Existence itself, because it is Mental Rebellion against the Holy Spirit, & fit only for a Soldier of Satan to perform."
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Five-year-old Iris Grace is raising awareness of autism through her extraordinary paintings
- 2 HeForShe campaign: Iceland to follow up Emma Watson speech with UN women's rights conference – for men only
- 3 Car tax disc changes: Two days to go - and they affect you much more than just not displaying a piece of paper
- 4 Teenagers irritable because early school hours mess with their biological clocks
- 5 Now we know whose fault it is if you end up being murdered in Thailand
Before They Pass Away: In pictures
Pride: Are US film censors pandering to homophobia?
Kylie Minogue Kiss Me Once tour, London O2 - review: Pop princess still reigns supreme
Miranda Hart and Sarah Millican named highest-selling female comedians
'Before They Pass Away': Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'
Isis, we are told, is a 'clear and dangerous threat to our way of life'. I’m sorry, but I just don’t buy it
Exclusive: 'Putin's Russia has been my biggest regret,' says Nato's outgoing Secretary General
The Osborne Ultimatum: Chancellor’s benefits freeze bombshell will affect ten million households
There’s no excuse for Dave Lee Travis’s behaviour, but we need to keep a sense of proportion
Should gay sex be illegal? 16% of Britons think so
Mark Reckless becomes second Tory MP to defect to Ukip in a month
- < Previous
- Next >