Neurologist Dehaene Calls Out Bilingual Education Group for Spreading Misinformation

Neurologist Stanislas Dehaene criticizes California Association for Bilingual Education's webinar for spreading false information about the science of reading. The Reading League responds, supporting Dehaene and emphasizing the importance of evidence-based literacy practices.

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Bijay Laxmi
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Neurologist Dehaene Calls Out Bilingual Education Group for Spreading Misinformation

Neurologist Dehaene Calls Out Bilingual Education Group for Spreading Misinformation

Stanislas Dehaene, a renowned neurologist and member of nine academies including the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, has criticized the California Association for Bilingual Education (CABE) for spreading false information about the science of reading during a recent webinar. The April 24, 2024 webinar, titled "Debunking SoR Neuroscience Claims," featured speaker Dr. Steven Strauss making misleading claims about the limitations of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) technology in studying reading.

Why this matters: The accuracy of information about the science of reading has a direct impact on the education and literacy of students, particularly those from diverse linguistic backgrounds. Misinformation can lead to ineffective teaching methods, hindering the academic progress of students and perpetuating educational disparities.

Dr. Dehaene strongly disputed these claims, stating, "What the speaker says is so utterly false that it betrays a dramatic lack of knowledge of the scientific literature." He emphasized that hundreds of brain imaging studies have routinely used sentences and texts as stimuli during fMRI scans over the past 20 years. These studies have provided valuable evidence on how brain circuits form and function during reading, regardless of the specific material being read.

"For more than 20 years, we and many other researchers have routinely used sentences and texts as stimuli during functional MRI, both written and spoken, shown how written and spoken texts activate extremely similar brain circuits for meaning, and used fMRI to dissect the brain circuits for reading at various levels from single word processing to syntactic and semantic integration," Dr. Dehaene explained.

The Reading League (TRL), a nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing evidence-based literacy practices, responded to the CABE webinar on May 13, 2024. TRL expressed support for Dr. Dehaene's response and emphasized the importance of grounding reading instruction in scientific evidence. The organization remains committed to its mission of using research to meet the unique needs of English learners and bilingual students.

TRL called for continued collegial conversations based on truth and evidence to address the persistent spread of disinformation in education. The organization stressed the need to rely on rigorous scientific research to guide literacy instruction and support the success of all students, including those from diverse linguistic backgrounds.

As the debate surrounding the science of reading continues, Dr. Dehaene's criticism of CABE's webinar underscores the importance of relying on well-established research findings rather than misleading claims. With organizations like The Reading League advocating for evidence-based practices, educators and policymakers have a responsibility to critically evaluate information sources and prioritize scientific evidence in their decision-making processes.

Key Takeaways

  • Dr. Stanislas Dehaene criticizes CABE for spreading false info on reading science.
  • Inaccurate info can lead to ineffective teaching methods and educational disparities.
  • fMRI technology has been used in hundreds of studies to understand brain circuits for reading.
  • The Reading League supports Dr. Dehaene and emphasizes the importance of evidence-based literacy practices.
  • Reliable research findings should guide literacy instruction, not misleading claims.