Friday, April 13, 2007

Any Explanation Except Discrimination

When you find people searching for any explanation for a problem caused by discrimination except for discrimination, the explanations can get odd.
For example, think of two hypothetical dyslexic people who are traumatized by school (these are based on many people I've somehow found out about).
The first one goes through school undiagnosed. All through school, xe's wondering why xe's so different. The teachers keep saying xe needs to work harder because they know xe can do better, xe knows xe's working as hard as xe can so xe thinks xe must be stupid. Xe is also made fun of by the other kids, who have reached the same conclusion. Much more emphasis is placed on how xe has trouble reading than xyr strengths in (to pick a very common example) spatial skills. Reading is assumed to be more important, and 'there is only one right way to learn to read.'
In adulthood, xe finds out about dyslexia, recognizes xyrself in the description, and seeks a diagnosis. The diagnosis helps xe to understand xyrself and gives xe power to request accomodations which are truly helpful. Xe thinks 'If only I were diagnosed as a child, my life would be so much better.' Xe then goes out and advocates for early diagnosis of dyslexia, trying to raise awareness of dyslexia and the whole thing.
The other dyslexic person is diagnosed in grade 2. Xe then gets modified classwork and various accomodations. However, xe doesn't understand what dyslexia means beyond the simplistic 'you have trouble reading'. The other kids notice xe is treated differently and conclude xe is stupid, and xe thinks maybe dyslexia means xe is stupid too. The teachers know, intellectually, that dyslexia doesn't mean they're stupid but is focusing on weaknesses and thinks that the child is inferior. Xe grows up feeling bad about xyrself.
As an adult, xe finds out xe is capable of doing some things very well. Maybe xe becomes an artist, for example, or an engineer. Thinking back on xyr childhood, xe feels that if xyr teachers hadn't labeled xe dyslexic, xe would have been better off because xe would have been treated like the other kids. So, xe starts advocating that teachers shouldn't label children.
As a result, those two dyslexics end up giving completely contradictory advice. Neither of them knows what it's really like to grow up a different way than they have grown up, and neither of them realizes that kids who are treated the way they are advocating are often not any better off. They experience some of the same problems, and those they don't experience are replaced by other problems. The thing is that neither is trying to change the system, just change how certain children are identified by the system. Undiagnosed dyslexic kids may be thought of as stupid or lazy while diagnosed ones are thought of as disabled. Neither is considered a good thing in our society.


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