Learning Disabled or Teacher Disabled?

When I was in secondary school (high school), I was placed in a learning disabled class.

It was fairly brief, but I never quite understood why I was there. It seemed like a mistake (although some of you out there may disagree!). But when you’re labelled by someone of “authority” you tend to believe that to be true.

As kids, we decide (or someone else does for us) what we’re good at and what we’re not. I’m good at sports. I’m not good at Maths. We then accept that showing little resilience in the face of adversity or struggle. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

What would happen though if we were to push through and get back on the saddle? Or perhaps just get help in the areas where we really need it and in the way that makes sense based on our own personality, dispositions, and passions.

Recently, I was listening to an interview with Eric Weinstein, managing director of Thiel Capital and Ph.D in mathematical physics from Harvard, where he said:

“What you’re always looking for is an education which makes students unteachable by standard methods. This is where we get into the trouble which is, we don’t talk about “teaching disabilities,” we talk about “learning disabilities.” And a lot of the kids that I want are kids who have been labeled learning disabled but they are actually super learners. Learners on steroids who have some deficits to pay for their superpower. And when teachers can’t deal with this, we label those kids “learning disabled” to cover up the fact that the economics of teaching require that one central actor, the teacher, be able to lead a room of 20 or more people in lock step. Well, that’s not a good model.”

Think about some of the names in recent history who struggled at school due to disabilities: Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison, Richard Branson, Jamie Oliver, Steve Jobs, etc. But, what about those people who weren’t as fortunate as them? Who couldn’t navigate the schooling system and just accepted that they weren’t intelligent?

[FB] Everyone's a genius, but if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will spend its whole life believing it is stupid.

This shouldn’t be misconstrued to knock teachers who are vastly undervalued and have incredibly hard job’s – but the methodology around education is so stagnant. The system or approach has barely changed in 100+ years!

Surely we can expect technology to play a huge part in allowing us to scale one-on-one teaching with the aid of artificial intelligence. Let’s hope. Evolution depends on it.


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