The word ‘demand’ can certainly raise some emotions in people. I have been using it liberally lately in my writing and presentations and I’m finding that there is a little bit of knee-jerk, if not deliberate, misinterpretation of the term.
Let’s start with my quote, recently uploaded to Dyslexia Support Australia and Dyslexia Victoria Support on Facebook. It comes from my next book, Reading for Life:
“If you want to make a difference in your school, demand decodable readers and campaign to have levelled reading systems and predictable readers eradicated.”
If you wanted, you could choose the following OED definition:
ask authoritatively or brusquely:
[with direct speech]: ‘Where is she?’ he demanded
[with clause]:the police demanded he give them names.’
Contrast that with the definition that actually fits the context, and was, of course, the one intended, as anyone who doesn’t want to set up a straw man can see:
So, when I say ‘demand’, I don’t mean march into the principal’s office, brandishing swords and flaming pitchforks. I don’t mean be unreasonable, brash, rude, arrogant, selfish or aggressive. I simply mean insist on having better resources, better quality teacher training and a better deal for everyone.
Demand has a direct effect on supply. If you do not make your demand known, then suppliers of low quality resources are free to keep supplying them.
Because what is the alternative? A quiet request? A suggestion? These too have their place, but we have huge ideological, economic and political barriers to overcome if we are to achieve reading success for all. Unless we as parents and educators take a forceful stance, we will have little or no impact on the quality of supply. It requires demand. According to the OED:
“[mass noun] the desire of consumers, clients, employers, etc. for a particular commodity, service, or other item: a recent slump in demand”
You can demand a better deal by doing one or all of the following things:
- Sign the petition for decodable readers in Victorian schools or start one in your state/country.
- Support and advance non-profit organisations like LDA, SPELD and Code Read Dyslexia Network.
- Offer research-supported strategies on your child’s Individual Learning/Education Plan as an alternative to guessing, multi-cueing and other balanced literacy methods.
- Team up with other parents to increase the power of your voice (see the rope below).
And don’t be afraid of the word. Demand and diplomacy are not antonyms.