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The "Labeling" of America

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by , 03-28-2012 at 05:45 AM (1023 Views)
The Labeling of America
by Jamie


" It seems that America has fallen in love with the stamp of medical authority. Increasing numbers of children are given increasingly specific labels..." ~ Washington Post

"Overall, assignment of the learning disabled label is associated with teachers’ lowered expectations, as well as more negative stereotypes and attitudes toward the labeled individual." ~ Study on the Effects of Labeling Children

What is all the hype about "labeling" America's children? Have you ever wondered why the 1950's didn't hold as many learning disabled children? I sure have... People have blamed this increasing "rise" of learning disabilities on everything from preservatives to video games and the decay of our society. Sure, the 1950's didn't have Lady Gaga, Xbox, and ipads... yet, can we blame it all on things outside our educational system? Though each of these things may contribute, I don't believe they are the root.

As a tutor for many public school children, I think about this issue a lot. I firmly believe that our children are being labeled simply because they don't fit in the box of what government schools have deemed "normal." Why does a child have to read by first grade, know their number concepts 1-20 by kindergarten, or speak eloquently by age 6? Granted, there are disabilities that need medical attention, and finding a diagnosis will help parents better educate their child. However, there is a balance and the evidence suggests that we have gone far beyond that point.

Do all children look alike? Do they act alike? Do they have the same personality? We can all answer resoundingly, "NO!" So, with that in mind, why is it presumed that they will all learn in the same way? The disheartening thing about this is that if a child doesn't fit into that big box that government education has labeled "NORMAL", they have to explain them in some manner. The manner that they choose to do that is through "labeling" them with a specific LD. Because these children innocently learn at a different rate or in a different way than the "normal" child they are permanently labeled. These labels don't just affect them for a little while... Once labeled, the child carries this with them for life. How sad... Here is a quote about the effect labeling has on students at the college level...

"Minner and Prater (1984) asked college teachers to judge the academic promise of a
student portrayed as having learning disabilities, as well as their own ability to work successfully
with such college students. According to the researchers, “the LD label significantly and
negatively influenced faculty members’ initial expectations” ~ Study on the Effects of Labeling Children

As homeschooling parents, we have a great opportunity. We can take our children that just don't "fit" into the box, and treat them as they are... normal, healthy, learning children. Whether your child is faster or slower than the so called "norm"... homeschooling fits! Parents can be the means to which children are encouraged and allowed to bloom in their own individual, unique, and wonderful way!
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  1. Mandy in TN's Avatar
    I agree that there is an over-labeling crisis. It is an easy out for the public schools that are bound by testing and no-child-left-behind policies. If a child has a label, then rather than expectations for that child being lumped with the rest, there is an IEP (individualized education plan). The schools may even receive additional funding for these labeled children. Teacher reviews, when based on student performance, may not include the performance of labeled children. Through all of this a situation has been created where, for the adults employed by the system, it is to their benefit to label children. This is an abuse of power where children have no say and parents, who perhaps don't understand this or who perhaps just want an easy reason for why little Johnny isn't doing well in school, often are quite content to have their child labeled and medicated.

    Now, while I agree that labeling is being misused, I also want to play devil's advocate. Years ago some of these children who are now given labels and a chance at an education would have just been told they were stupid or incorrigible and failed repeated until they dropped out. Before compulsory education, they would have been told they were stupid or incorrigible and kicked out. In both cases there would have been paddlings and dunce hats or other forms of public humiliation by the teacher. This would not only have been considered appropriate, but also in the child's best interest.

    Now, the pendulum has swung too far in the other direction. However, as the parent of a child who has over a 16 point spread between his verbal and written IQ, I must say that I appreciate his label. I didn't need for him to have a label to know that he struggled with encoding and decoding written communication. I didn't need a label to know that he was an auditory learner who was able to provide much more detailed, complex answers orally than on paper. I knew these things before he entered kindergarten. The school, however, needed this documented and him labeled before they could discuss an IEP. He also needed his specific label to attend The Bodine School, a school specifically for children with encoding and decoding differences- dyslexia. Bodine doesn't work with children who have behavior problems or below average IQ, so I needed that psychological-educational evaluation and label just to fill out the application.

    So, while college professors may frown on labels, I don't know that my son would have made it to college without his. (Also, times have changed since 1984. Now, college professors probably shrug off labels as commonplace.)
    Mandy
    Updated 03-29-2012 at 07:01 PM by Mandy in TN
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