Friday, April 13, 2007


I'll try to make this brief, as my last muse turned out as a filibuster that never got posted...

It's not so hot at this precise moment, but there has been a lot of controversy both within the frum world and without over the correctness of "labeling" people, particularly exceptional children.

On one side, you have a lot of very heated people shouting that it will stigmatize the labeled individual for life, that it will limit their ability to expand their potential by reducing optimism and accountability, and that it will cause others to look at the person differently. In short, to label is to condemn.

On the other hand, identifying and facing a difficulty is the biggest step towards remedying it. Furthermore, if a person has no label, the unusual behaviors are attributed instead to the individual himself, harming his self-image and others' perception as well.

As an educator, I see both sides pretty clearly. Here's my humble opinion:
I am in favor of labels. However, they must be used properly:
@ The student should not know his label. Most are not equipped to deal with it properly, it only confuses them and/or gives them a good excuse to cop out (I had an elementary school student once whose favorite line was "I can't, I'm hearing impaired." She wore hearing aids that enabled her to hear just fine -- but so many people just took her word for it. It was turning her into a spoiled brat). They can be told along the lines of "Morah sees ___ is very hard for you. But don't worry, you're a smart kid and we're going to help you get better at it."
@ The point of the label is to communicate efficiently in order to get services and information in order to overcome the problem. Parents and educators must not view it as a prognosis. This can be hard work but you must do it.
@ No one, but no one besides the student's parents and educators should know about this. They are not close enough to the child to use it productively.

It might help to think of it as a "diagnosis" rather than a "label." It is a description of a problem, not of the person.

Frankly, a child who could be labeled but isn't has the same problem anyway. Except no one's quite sure what to do with him because they're too busy avoiding saying anything that could be taken negatively. This irks me greatly. The kid feels terrible because they don't know why they keep on failing...don't have friends...get in trouble so often. They thin they're bad, stupid, or just doomed. This sticks with them for ages. Furthermore, the teacher, despite her superhuman efforts, doesn't see any concentrated effort from the parents to face the problem and therefore doesn't have as much patience to deal with it herself. Or, she may simply not be able to figure out your child's problem withing the busy, crowded classroom setting and would benefit from knowing what you know. There is not much that is worth hiding from the people who spend almost as much time caring for your child as you do.

So what do you think? Do the potential gains outweigh the potential losses?


......................................................Photo credit:

OK, due to procrastination, I haven't posted here in nearly a month. :O
Not that the old mind's stopped churning -- not for a second!

Just I had a post baking... and it was droning on.... and I don't like to post too long because I can't stand when a blog post sounds so interesting but turns out to be a megilla that makes your eyes spin and head hurt from staring at the screen so long...

So now there's a new post on the way, it's ready today, just I have the perfect pic to accompany it but I need to edit it a bit first. So that's later. Maybe even later because I don't want to obscure this one.

Now here's the question...

Does anyone really want to hear the filibuster post? Should I bother finishing and posting it?
It was a response to the rash of pessimism in the J-blogosphere about three weeks ago.
Cast your vote in the comments.