Thursday, October 01, 2015

disingaged and difficult...

Richard Bazeley sent this image of a ship made by a boy who had been termed a "difficult or disengaged student," one that in the US we might call special needs.

I am reminded of three things. One is that some children walk at 10 months, and some as late as 18 to 24 months, and the pediatrician will assure the parent that everything is fine. There is a normal range at which children take to their feet. Can there not also be a normal range at which a child is ready for classroom learning? If the range is so great at such an early age, is it not likely that a particular range of development would widen rather narrow as a student reached school age? And if that is the case, one might wonder what  damages are done as we force children to fit.

Years ago one of my early mentor's in education had referred to Procrustes, a Greek monster who had a bed upon which he would invite guest to lay. The bed was equipped with chains to stretch those who were too short, and a giant knife to trim the legs of those who are too long. My friend John described education in the US as a "Procrustian bed." It may be perfectly comfortable if you are one of those lucky enough to fit.

I am also reminded of a hand-made book that I purchased for a dollar at the Carnegie Public Library book sale a few years back. It is a book of tiny etchings on hand-made paper, hand-bound and printed in a tiny limited edition as a graduate's thesis in the arts. The woman who made it had been diagnosed as severely retarded and placed in an institution. After several years there, a nurse noticed the 4 year-old child under a table having made a tiny dog sculpted from a small scrap of modeling clay. The nurse immediately recognized from that tiny sculpture that  the girl was not retarded. Further investigation led the staff to the realization that was deaf.

The book was the story, told in images of her being awakened from the hell in which she had been placed. I'll not say that schools are quite that bad. But I will inform you that when we place children in untenable situations that do not meet with their levels of readiness to learn, we have done them a disservice. Children do not mature at the same rate, and just as one child walks at one age and another matures to that at a slower pace, children's brains do not mature at the same time either. Schools could do a better job of easing up and making allowances for children to fit in at their own paces, and we would all be made better for it.

Make, fix, create, and assist others in learning likewise.

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