Tech — May 28, 2017 at 4:50 pm

Richard Branson’s plans for a dyslexia-only sperm bank look a lot less like a prank now


Sir Richard Branson has spoken candidly about his struggles with dyslexia.

Richard Branson’s latest quest is to get the world to perceive people with dyslexia in a totally different light.

We should see young people with dyslexia as being full of potential, not as having a disadvantage, the billionaire writes in The Sunday Times. He candidly describes his struggles in the column, published ahead of the launch of charity Made By Dyslexia on 2 May.

Branson says his teachers thought he was lazy or dumb. "Maths just didn’t make sense to me. I once did an IQ test and the questions seemed absurd. For years I hadn’t been able to work out the difference between gross and net," he said.

While people with dyslexia struggle with school, they excel at life, he said. He points out some of the famous minds who had dyslexia, like Einstein, Henry Ford, and Steve Jobs.

"The reason why I think people who are dyslexic seem to do well in life, having struggled at school, is that we tend to simplify things," he said.

He takes aim at the very structure of how students are assessed in school. "I’d probably fail school exams if I took them today. […] I never quite mastered my times tables, and remembering and regurgitating lots of facts and figures, and getting them on paper quickly for exams, was a nightmare," he said.

This isn’t how people are assessed in the real world, so why do we do this in school, he points out.

Changing that school-created perception of dyslexia is a mammoth task. Branson cites a YouGov survey that only 3 percent of people see dyslexia as a positive trait.

This isn’t the first time Branson has spoken about dyslexia. In 2015, he discussed how his dyslexia has informed his business decisions. For example, he needs things to be simple, so when Virgin launches a financial service they don’t use jargon; they keep it clear-cut. Branson also says that it’s also helped him be a good delegator, which is a good trait for any leader.

And then there’s his announcement of the "world’s first dyslexic-only sperm bank." On 31 March, Branson wrote that he was "one among hundreds of dyslexics taking part in the world’s first dyslexic-only sperm bank," and it would launch 2 May.

Given the announcement’s proximity to April Fools’ Day it’s probably a prank, but then again Virgin Galactic seemed pretty out-there. We’ll keep you posted.

In the meantime, you can read Branson’s entire column here (paywall).

Topics: Business, dyslexia, richard branson, UK

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