“It would be good if your training programme presented a more balanced view.”
This oft-posed challenge to those who propose an effective approach to teaching reading, i.e. one that is both rationally and empirically sound – was also put to us recently.
The logical implication of the statement is that our course is not balanced. Presumably, as in a news article, this means that a training programme should present competing points of view and leave trainees to make up their own minds by evaluating the relative merits of the different approaches. However, this would also imply that the competing views must therefore be of equal value if they are to take up equal amounts of time. And this raises two questions: what ‘balance’ really means; and what we are balancing.
Consider the age-old image of Justice, blindfolded, with a sword in one hand and a set of scales, or balances, in the other. If something is not ‘balanced’ then it is by inference unjust. But the purpose of the scales is not to ensure that they are even. It is to assess the weight of one’s testimony against another, and by a process of examination, against the truth. The question is whether, in the balances, your testimony carries weight or whether it doesn’t. If it doesn’t, you go up in the scales, and the sword of Justice comes into play. Invoking the analogy of balances is inviting judgement.
Which raises the question of what we are being asked to balance. If what we are presenting is empirically supported, logically and rationally coherent, with ample anecdotal evidence as well as systematically gathered achievement data, should we then give time to explaining other approaches which have limited support, are logically inconsistent and have clearly failed many children – in the name of balance?
‘Balance’ between competing views is something people call for when they don’t like the evidence. It is the opposite of blindfolded justice. It is doing children an injustice to suggest that approaches to teaching which have been weighed in the balance of truth and found wanting should be given equal standing with those which are proven to be effective.
We are open to debate: there is a page of links in our professional reading section on The Reading Debate. But we will not endorse, through words or time wasted, approaches which have failed children. That would not be balance, but injustice.
You may also be interested in: