Defining Difference: Historically Speaking
Joanne Robertson, Department of Human Services and Counseling, School of Education
Current federal and state initiatives target children classified as "at risk" of academic underachievement in literacy and learning. A myriad of labels have been placed upon these children in attempts to define their difference, such as "struggling," "reluctant," "disadvantaged," "resistant," educationally deprived," and "educationally under prepared," and include populations of students who come from a disproportionate number of low socio-economic status families and ethnic and linguistic minority groups. What if the contemporary system we call "school" is actually "disabled?" Might the symptoms of its disability be reflected through the labels it assigns to its children? In this research analysis, I present an historical overview (1926-2006), of the ways we have labeled culturally, linguistically, cognitively, and physically diverse populations of students according to specific theories of teaching and learning, and the ways classifications of exceptionality or difference impacted upon students' opportunities for learning.