I once tested a student who I discovered, had a disability in spelling. He seemed relieved when I told him this. He had felt dumb because he could not spell no matter how hard he tried to memorize the words. Later, he showed me a composition he had written in which many words were misspelled. I asked him why he was handing in a paper with misspelled words in it. He replied that, since now everyone knows he has a disability in spelling, nobody would expect him to spell correctly anymore.
The same reasoning is true for schools. Schools now know that many of today’s children are born in poverty, are abused, and/or live in homes which are not intellectually stimulating. Such children come to school in poor health, with short attention spans, poor motivation, are behind their peers intellectually, and are passive learners. Just because everyone is aware of these deficiencies, does not mean that schools can use this information against the children by assuming they cannot learn. They probably cannot be taught using the same methods which work for children coming from supportive home environments. They can learn, however, with encouragement and the right program.
The type of thinking the boy with the spelling disability had, that he did not need to work to find ways to overcome his disability applies to schools. The schools perpetuate the myth that they are not responsible for deficiencies not of their own making. It is true that the schools are not responsible for the deficiencies but, like the poor speller, they are responsible for developing strategies which use knowledge and understanding to overcome these deficiencies.
If the poor speller does not develop strategies, the result will merely be misspelled words. If the school systems do not develop strategies, the result will be a whole generation of children condemned to poverty and to ignorance. Schools are the last hope for those children whom society and their families, for whatever reason, have failed. School systems have the potential to succeed, with our encouragement and our support both financially and emotionally, where other systems have failed. We will have failed a whole generation if we do not give the children and the schools that support now.
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