Saturday, April 24, 2010

Think About Thursday: Teaching Disabilities

I have worked with a number of children who have been diagnosed with, or otherwise identified as having learning disabilities. It has always been curious to me that this label appears so often. In my experience many of these learning disabilities are not the real problem. The more relevant problem is teaching disability.

It is a fact that children learn in different ways. Some learn better through reading and writing, others through hearing and seeing, and yet more need to do something in order to learn it. The real problem is the "one size fits all" education. The current education system, designed in the 19th Century, draws children together at a time early in the morning and has them perform repetitive and often mindless tasks for several hours before they are allowed to go home and continue performing repetitive tasks that we call homework. It is an education system that is ideal for an industrial society wherein one must rise early in the morning, be at work on time, perform mindless repetitive tasks all day and then go home.

That society does not exist anymore. Today we need an education system that promotes creativity and innovation. One that allows children to develop their own unique talents, strengthen their academic weaknesses, and grow their general knowledge. I can recall that in 8th Grade my history teacher had me speak to the class about the pros and cons of the 17th Amendment (to the US Constitution). My classmates were astounded. In my high school government class I was one of seven students who passed the US citizenship test and the first student in that schools history to earn a 100% on said exam. Meanwhile, it took me two years to complete Algebra 1 with barely passing grades, the less said of Geometry the better!

Why can't we have an education system wherein a student who has a talent for history can advance at their own pace and take more advanced classes when they are ready for them, while also taking math a little slower? A system wherein a child who is an audio-visual learner can receive help in learning through reading and writing.

The fact is that our current education system has several serious teaching disabilities. It cannot adapt to varying learning styles. With 30 children in a room there are too many students to receive individualized instruction. It cannot offer instruction in the audio-visual, reading-writing, and doing learning styles for each subject.

A change needs to be made.

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