Better bad than dumb

On Children of the Code, Rick Lavoie, an advocate for children with learning disabilities, talks about the shame children suffer when they have trouble learning to read.

. . . at any given point in time, any kid will prefer to be viewed as a bad kid than a dumb kid. If you put a kid in the position of choosing between looking bad or looking dumb, he will choose to look bad.

Students who don’t master reading by third grade rarely get effective help to catch up, Lavoie says.

About Joanne


  1. Wait, wait, wait.

    Is Lavoie saying that when a kid isn’t learning they start acting bad to disguise the fact that they aren’t learning?

    How can that be? Every time I read a comment from a teacher they always say the opposite. Kids don’t learn because they are bad and/or unmotivated.

    Could it be that the quality of the instruction affects student classroom behavior?

    Let’s see how that plays out in your typical heterogeneously grouped classroom using, say, an “authentic literature” based early reading program that has a phonics component that is neither systematic nor explicit:

    In the heterogeneous classroom, instruction is geared toward the students in the middle. The kids at the top are bored. The most vulnerable kids at the bottom are performing at the edge of their knowledge at a too-fast pace, i.e., they are working at their frustration level. At the frustration level, students make more errors and learning is more labored and difficult. It also doesn’t help that the instruction is less than clear with the use of readers which weren’t designed for instructional purposes, which aren’t decodable, and which the phonics rules must be inferred. Making lots of errors and not being able to keep up with the instructional pace sends a clear message that to the student — I am dumb — killing his self-esteem and leading to a student that is unmotivated to learn.

    Gee, it all makes sense. Bad instruction leads to unmotivated students.

    Now, let’s sit back and wait for the educators to respond with their variation on why bad instruction is not their fault and why the student (and his lazy parents too) is really to blame for lack of learning. Let me start them off, the student isn’t learning because he’s:

    1. learning diabled
    2. not smart
    3. won’t behave
    4. isn’t motivated
    5. brain damaged
    6. not developmentally ready
    7. won’t take tests
    8. tests don’t accurately gauge what he’s learned
    9. doesn’t get parental support
    10. won’t do the work

    Did I miss any?

  2. Andy Freeman says:

    11. the good kids (who he was beating up), have left for another school.

  3. 12. Too poor.
    13. Too black.
    14. Too Hispanic
    15. Too many.

  4. Too smart/too gifted.

  5. Indigo Warrior says:

    Has a nervous system not synchronized with educratic theories of clockwork development, and no amount of physical abuse or guilt trips will ever change.