Good educators are always seeking new information–whether that information is to learn better ways of serving their students, learn more about a topic or technique, follow how the latest research-based techniques are working elsewhere, etc. To good educators, an 8-hour workday and a five-day workweek are wistful bucket-list items for some future that never seems to arrive.
A favorite way to learn when conferences are few and far between are one- or two-hour presentations that are presented by experts. The problem, I have found, is that many people claim to be experts in fields in which they have no legitimate claims to back up the expertise. Such people–especially when they can produce no credentials to back up their claims–often lead the audiences astray, mainly because they, as the presenters, know less about a topic than some people attending the presentation who would never dream of calling themselves experts. Presentations–whether to an audience of professional educators, pre-service educators, or (especially) parents–must present accurate information.
The other day, I posted this blog on another site. There are some spelling errors, which I’m never happy about, but my computer and spelling are not the concern of this post. What is of concern to me is perpetuation of misinformation and disinformation related to education in general, but very specifically to special education, which has taken a beating globally because of what I can only call world-wide fiscal difficulties. It is always the neediest children from whom the most promising programs are taken away. And special education–in this case, the very specific topic of dyslexia Wha–has been hijacked and misconstrued by persons who believe that a non-programmatic class or two, or a “swing through the Caribbean” gives them the “expertise” to pass on to others their own confused notions that usually are not based on an historical perspective or serious research on a topic.
[BTW, click over to this little video on what a person with dyslexia might see while reading: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gwZLFTW4OGY]
Link over to my other blog, below, in which I describe a seminar on dyslexia presented by a person whom my neighbor labeled a charlatan. We went together–he the parent of a diagnosed dyslexic child and, like his child, afflicted with dyslexia; me, a duly trained reading specialist and learning disabilities specialist, as well as an experienced educator of emotionally disturbed children, a trained educational researcher, and the earner of the title Doctor of Educational Psychology. I have always been reluctant to label myself as an expert in dyslexia and learning disabilities; if anything, I have a tendency to consider myself an expert in the education of moderately to severe emotional disturbed children (which includes expertise in classroom management). Yet I completed in-depth academic study in both reading disabilities in particular and learning disabilities in general that would put many modern programs to shame, and that are the core elements for academic advance for the emotionally disturbed child. Part of my original teacher training–all done at the postbachaloriate level–was the importance of identifying solid researcher, and the greater importance of following the (academically recognized) newest research findings in the field of interest. This is what convinced me to study for my doctorate, where I added intense study of cognition and cognitive theory, cultural bases of education, language disabilities that complement the study of both reading disabilities and specific learning disabilities, self-concept versus self-esteem as elements of both special education and general education, the influence of visual disabilities on children’s learning, and much mush more. Because of the relationships and inter-relationships among all these areas, as well as influences of environment, parental and community support. Still, even after earning my doctorate, I had trouble calling myself an expert. Instead, I continued to see myself as a learner as well as a teacher. I continue to learn from true and recognized experts both directly through classes and conference attendance, and personal communications with academically and professionally recognized experts. It has been my ecological and eclectic view on education that has kept me from calling myself an expert in the education of special needs and culturally diverse children. This one “seminar” aimed at the topic of dyslexia among students of Caribbean countries that has made me realize that I truly am an expert in special education. But read on for what I consider a horror story. Decide for yourselves who is an expert and who is not, even if it is a mere comparison between a speaker’s claims and my publically available academic credntials, as a trainer and consultant, as a graduate education professor, and personal research in fields related to the teaching of unique individuals, whether K-12, undergraduate, graduate, and post-graduate learners, and non-educational audiences of parentts and student support personnel. If enough of you want to see my credentials, I would be delighted to share my transcripts and my curriculum vitae. Then you can decide if, as this one speaker has helped me define myself, an expert with a capital E.
( http://blog.emillereducation.com/2013/09/26/dangerous-speakers/ , if the link does not work correctly, or your computer would rather have the complete site address)
Eleanore Miller, Ed.D.