December 16, 2008

From Laura Brose:

Re: Poverty may reduce kids’ brain function (Dec. 6): I believe it. I spent elementary school and part of intermediate school in special ed, and many of the so-called “learning disabilities” with which my classmates were labeled could be traced back to poor nutrition, in addition to culturally-deprived home and/or institutional environments (it was a lot more common for “special needs kids” to have spent time in institutions or at home with no formal schooling back then, federal special education legislation having just been passed a few years before I entered special education). It was also common to blame learning disabilities and hyperactivity on head injuries back then (the jury was still out on whether things like dyslexia and ADHD were hereditary or acquired) and misadventures which led to head injuries seemed to be more common among the lower socio-economic classes.

The more time I actually spent in special education, the less I ended up believeing in learning disabilities! In fact, I became convinced that learning disabilities were a socially-created condition, and the special ed system was an elaborate means of creating and enforcing a modern day caste system: providing children who were academically behind and belonged to the lower classes with a separate sub-standard education in an effort to prevent social and economic mobility from occurring. I never saw a rich kid in special ed. In fact, I did not believe that rich people could _get_ things like dyslexia or Down’s Syndrome until W. Bush became president.


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