Throughout time, there have always been children that have had emotional or social problems. At one time they went largely unnoticed by the parents because in some circles children were seen and not heard (although the nanny's could have shared horror stories) in other circles the sheer number of offspring in the family may have masked the peculiar behaviour of one particular child.
Once children were shipped off to school and the teachers started to complain about inappropriateness, it was the heavy hand of discipline may have "cured" some of the disruptiveness, but it was most certainly not discussed outside of the family home.
Today if it is not exactly a badge of honour, it is not a stigma to have a child declared problematic or labeled as defective. While in principle this seems like a very good thing for the self-esteem of the affected child - and let's face it, the acceptance of all differences amongst us without prejudice is a win/win for humanity.
The problem is that it gives parents an "out" when it comes to explaining the behaviour of an unruly child instead of dealing with underlying issues. If a child can't read, it is easier to blame a learning disability than to admit that we didn't have the time or patience to help our children learn. Of course, there is an added financial bonus to hang a classification on your offspring - the monthly cheque from the government to compensate... for life. You also never again have to pull your hair out at the kitchen table trying to help them with their homework - there is school staff and in-home care if you need it. That's a lot of incentive! All the perks of parenthood with none of the responsibility or work.
People who learn differently are nothing new. It is part of what makes our world so wonderful. We simply could not function if it weren't for people with unique learning styles and interests. Imagine for a moment if we all were good at science - we would be overrun by doctors and scientists but there would be nobody to work in the stores or fix our cars. But does that make the doctors smarter? NO! They just learn differently with different parts of their brain.
I admit that when I went to school, there were kids that we called the "dummy's" that didn't go to the same high school as everyone else, they went to the trade school. We were conditioned by our parents and teachers to believe that they were dummys - of course, nothing could be further from the truth. If we had the acceptance of today back then, it could have been the best possible scenario for society as a whole.
The trade schools provided a far superior education for anyone interested in the construction, mechanical or beautification trades. They had the equipment, the hands on learning, and the professionals who knew more than the academic found in a text book. Meanwhile the bookies may have struggled with academics that they found no interest in, the history and geography courses that they had no interest in, and then with the diploma in hand could not find a space in a college, university or the work force. Our apprentices in the neighbouring school however were out earning a good wage and with time possibly even becoming entrepreneurs and business owners! I've known many with University Diplomas gracing their walls that wouldn't know a Philips from a Robertson and couldn't put together a simple piece of furniture even after reading the directions.
If having a learning disability means that you have emotional or social problems, well I think that more than half of the worlds population can fit into that category at some level. Parents and teachers have called these students difficult to teach and control.
My university educated and successful son would be included here if I had listened to the teachers. He challenged what the teachers said and questioned most of what he was taught as to its relevance to his life (he was going to be a professional baseball player at the time). I was called into the principals office more often than I care to recall - he wasn't the model student. He was a thinker outside of the box. He didn't conform and fit into the mold of the majority of his classmates. When one teacher saw potential and had him tested for giftedness instead of labeling him as disruptive, he intentionally failed the test because he didn't want to be forced away from his friends to attend another program. I suggested that perhaps he could be challenged in the mainstream classroom - what a novel idea. Except for the fact that the school policy was to give extra work to the ones needing a challenge instead of harder work! Now think of yourself in your job, what kind of a reward or incentive would it be to do your work efficiently and promptly only to get more work added to your load? Maybe if you were paid piece work wages - but otherwise we would all balk at the notion.
Working in the system I suppose made me a bit jaded. Throughout all the grade levels I saw students who used the label they were given as an excuse not to try. Let's face it, we are all lazy by nature (why else would we continually strive to invent gadgets to make life easier?). If I can talk someone else into doing it for me and they are willing (or paid to do it) why shouldn't I. Henceforth, why should someone who has made it to grade 10 without learning to read bother to make the effort now. Technology and support staff will do it for us in the school system and the sympathy of society for the disabled with help you out in the real world.
Indeed a very dedicated grade 2 teacher that I worked with was very concerned about the high level of illiteracy in the classroom. She devised a program where the students were provided with ability level books to read. They read them once in class, once at home to a family member, once again to the teacher or myself. What a difference between the students who read at home and those that didn't, it was incredible!
If only all parents realized how spending a little bit of time giving our children attention could impact their learning. But it is easier to brush them off, sit them in front of the television or gaming system and take care of our own needs. I mean after a long day at work, we deserve some TLC too right? The difference between parenting of today and the parenting of 25+ years ago is the commitment to the children.
Our childrens' behaviour is no longer our problem, we can blame society for all of it. The media they are exposed to, the red "X" on their test paper, the prospect of being left behind a grade, being chastised for not completing assigned tasks all bruise their fragile little egos, making them woefully ill-prepared for the real world when and if it comes knocking. And it may still be knocking on Mom and Dad's door since these coddled children are 35 and still living at home. Unable to accept the challenges of the real world.
Ultimately, I think that the best of all worlds scenario would be to accept everyone for the uniqueness in all areas including learning styles. It is possible to teach to the masses regardless of style but it may take more effort and possibly creativity on the part of the educator.
It has been determined that there are 3 types of learning styles. Kinesthetic, Visual and Auditory. Visual learning is obvious, they learn by seeing it - whether the information is in print or on the chalkboard. Auditory as the term suggests involves hearing the lessons. While the information is being written on the chalkboard it could be verbal expressed at the same time, or printed material could be read aloud. A teacher who abuses the photocopier and hands out flattened trees of work to read and do silently so they can relax behind the desks are not doing their students or the environment any favours. Kinesthetic learning is a little more difficult because it is a hands on, tactile experience to really understand. Science, math and geography studies lend well to kinesthetic teaching - English and reading not so much. But it's possible.
While we all typically fall predominantly into one category or another, we would all benefit from the combination of all three - would certainly stave off boredom in the classroom and possibly get us up and active. Just from personal experience I learned that the combination of learning styles is present in music education. It has long been advocated that musical lessons can increase ones intelligence level. Now I don't have any proof of that but, it certainly does tap into all three learning styles. You read the music, hear the music and play the music!
Learning is a life-long 24/7 challenge. Of the 365 days in a year, children are in school less than 190 days if they are never sick of course. Education of our children must occur outside of the concrete walls of the classroom as well. That seems to be a concept that has been lost among the work schedules, extra-curricular activities and personal work-out time. It's a shame!
One last bit of my experience that I want to share: If you believe that the institution of the School Board has your childs' best interests at heart. Think again! They are a business concerned first and foremost with the ultimate prize $$. Don't fool yourself into believing anything else.
The quality of education at a particular school depends entirely on the heart and style of the current governing principal. He/she hires the staff and sets the expectations. At one school I was at, teachers were passed over for promotion because they didn't have the right personality to bully and badger the staff under their umbrella. Sad eh? But true!
I have witnessed schools cheating on the standardized testing to ensure that their school comes out on top. I have seen money funneled from classroom supplies to the sports teams - especially football at the high school level.
There are some good, exceptional, quality educators that are deeply concerned for the welfare of your children - but I sense they are in the minority with many new hires being brought on board not because of their abilities but rather nepotism. And I won't even get into how and why teachers move up the ladder to administrative positions. Your performance in the Snoozling Room may have more impact than the diploma on the wall. Not every school board perhaps...hopefully! But that was/is the operating procedure for the school board where I worked.
Children of today are the future of tomorrow. The health of the nation and its' people depend on them as our ancestors depend on us.