The Absence of Critical Thinking

The Absence of Critical Thinking

The best education I received was led by exceptional Nurse Teachers and Leaders.  They had PhDs and they taught us to think, question and evaluate carefully the information that was presented to us.

Yesterday a bizarre collection of statements was compiled in a document and published, then seemingly inadequate reporting of this followed making me aware again, of just how fortunate I have been with this element of my education.

It struck me that both the document and the reporting of its findings by the media lack the most basic levels of critical thinking.  

Take this for example:


My initial thoughts are as follows:

  • Were pupils misdiagnosed?
  • How was this ascertained?
  • How many years of training, and at what level does it need to be at, to enable you to decide that a fellow expert has misdiagnosed?
  • How was it determined that the cause of this was the parents?
  • How does a parent meet the criteria of ‘pushy’ and is the underlying methodology for determining this reliable (in the scientific sense….)?

Let’s assume for now that the misdiagnoses were determined via expert and comprehensive second opinions, and that the pushiness of parents was carefully categorised and reliably tested…..

My second layer of thoughts are as follows:

  • If there are teams of experts ‘out there’ that are misdiagnosing children then I assume that there has been an investigation?
  • Professional bodies have been informed, I imagine, and a review of procedures has been carried out?

So that is the first sentence considered.  I then move to the second.

  • How were the parent’s wishes determined?
  • How did the authors reach the conclusion that parents wished to have a label for the behaviour over and a above a desire to understand the behaviour?
  • What other motives were considered and how were these ruled out?

I have taken a look at the published report.

I am intrigued to know why  “GL Assessment commissioned researchers YouGov to ask teachers if they thought there was a misdiagnosis of SEN in children and specifically what part, if any, parents played in it.”

  • What is it about the teacher training that qualifies teachers to have an opinion about the quality and accuracy of the diagnosis of disabilities?
  •  What was the purpose of the ‘loaded’ second part?
  • How did the teachers involved in the study accurately determine what part the parents played in the thinking of the clinicians during clinical decision making process that preceded diagnosis?

Without any apparent regard to critical thinking the authors conclude: “Misdiagnosis of learning difficulties and barriers to learning is clearly a big issue for schools”

  • Remind me again how the misdiagnosis rates were determined?
  • Take me though the thinking behind the link between misdiagnosis and the issues schools have?

“Parental anxiety, however understandable, may lead to some children being misidentified as having a SEN”

  • So teachers in this poll think that the expert multidisciplinary teams lack competence to such a degree that they are regularly unable to accurately assess the needs of the children in their clinic; because of the interactions they have with the parents?
  • If there is nothing wrong with the children why is it understandable that the parents are anxious?

Moving to a more important issue; the professional accountability of the teachers that have uncovered a considerable degree of unsafe clinical practice:

  • What have these teachers done to formally report these high rates of misdiagnosis?

Then this gargantuan leap in thinking and attributing cause and effect: “and consequently others who genuinely need help missing out because resources are limited.”

….. you get the picture.  Enough questions.

If our education system is churning out graduates that lack the ability to question and think to the degree demonstrated by these reports then it seems that there are failings in the system.  On that maybe we can agree?

There are two more points on which I think that we can agree: 

“There is a difference between issues that should properly be tackled by health experts and those that can be addressed by teachers and education specialists in the classroom.”

  • Diagnosing and second opinions should perhaps be left to health then?

“Robust, objective assessment, therefore, is the best way to determine what each individual child needs – or does not need.”  

  • So a rather unscientific poll isn’t really a great way to determine this then is it?

Seven days ago I wrote a blog about school staff ‘refusing’ to accept a diagnosis and the devastating fallout that this can lead to.  I knew it happened, I have experienced it and it is widely documented in Peter’s records.  Since publishing that post many others have come forward to describe similar stories.  Well now we have it directly from source.  Teachers do widely refuse to accept the validity of diagnoses regardless of their credentials.

I really don’t mean to attack individuals, but sensationalist information of this kind, harms, not helps, children.  Until the culture of blame is addressed and genuine team working with mutual respect developed then our children will remain the casualties.

Please click here to see a linky blog hop that bring peoples’ posts together: on SEN & labels, difficulties with getting diagnosed, pushy parents, private assessments, and other challenges in getting SEN support for children in schools.

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20 thoughts on “The Absence of Critical Thinking

  1. Couldn’t agree more! My nephew is about to qualify as a teacher, due to the type of course he chose he will have NO SEN training whatsoever before he’s released into the school environment. Many teachers I know have had one day allocated on their teacher training to the whole of SEND. I realise some will of course have gone on to complete courses in specialist SEND areas, perhaps even postgraduates and more (lovely people!) BUT how on earth can GL Assessment say how well placed these teachers are to comment without this data. I have asked GL Assessment this question, it will be interesting to see what they come back with.


  2. I’m both a parent and a professional and am so upset reading the report which is poor quality….and the subsequent reporting in the press is horrendous. The teachers opinion is that these children have been misdiagnosed because of over anxious pushy parents….where is the EVIDENCE that the the children have been misdiagnosed!!!!! Diagnosis as a clinician comes from standardised tests, observations including school, and clinical assessment. I’m totally frustrated with the view that a professional clinician would give a diagnosis because a parent wants them too. The research has very clearly demonstrated the discrimination these children face…..if you have needs (diagnosed by a professional) and the parents happens to ask for those needs to be met then the diagnosis must be wrong, it must be the parent…..couldn’t possibly be the school who are getting it wrong?

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Spot on! We discuss critical thinking here a lot… glad we’re not the only ones 😉

    One thing this ‘research’ or ‘paid opinion seeking activity’ also had me wondering about = if these teachers feel other pupils are ‘losing out’ (for whatever reason) then WHAT are they doing to raise/address/remedy this? Surely THAT also falls within their remit? Or perhaps that’s “someone else’s” job?!


  4. As you’ll probably know, I’ve dealt with a couple of those issues on Nancy’s blog:

    Your breakdown of this topic is sharp and spot on. As an autistic who was not diagnosed but whose mother was seen by a child psychiatrist as one of those ‘pushy mums’ … and who is now a psychologist himself … I thank you directly (and other bloggers indirectly) for tackling this ‘report’.


    1. Hello, and thank you! Yes I did see and read your other posts – answering my questions on Nancy’s blog! Small world. I can only imagine what your mum must have been through without the benefit of networking like we can now. 😦

      Liked by 1 person

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