I’ve written here before about my concern that traditional schools do a poor job of accommodating perfectly normal children whose brains process information in ways that are not conducive to learning in the educational model of sitting quietly at desks facing forward. It frustrates me that we feel a need to hang labels on them like “ADD/ADHD,” “OCD,” or “autism spectrum disorder” as a way to blame the child for his struggle to learn, rather than take critical look at how we are trying to teach these children.
Experts estimate that some 20 percent of professional athletes could be diagnosed as ADD or ADHD, which is four times the rate of the general population. All of us are genetically programmed to learn, and because these kids learn best by using their whole bodies they are often drawn to sports. The theory is that the focus required to develop physical skills has a calming influence on their minds allowing them to learn some remarkable things.
I have no way of knowing this, but I suspect that there were more than a few adults who tried to hang a label on Drew Brees as a boy. Not only has his body learned to do things that seem superhuman, he has also come to a practical understanding of physics that is far superior to anything the rest of us ever learned from textbooks:
The same could also be said of Sasha Vujacic , who can do blindfolded what most of us could never dream of doing period:
I wanted to share these videos with you as examples of the extraordinary things that can be learned by not sitting at a desk facing forward. And this is just athletics. Artists, dancers, circus performers, and musicians have also learned remarkable things by using their whole bodies instead of just their eyes and ears.
Preschools are full of children who think best on their feet. I spend my days surrounded by kids who use their whole bodies to learn.
We live in an era when school districts are choosing to cut physical education, sports, art and music budgets in favor of yet more sitting at desks facing forward. Sadly, we are instead increasingly segregating or drugging children who need this kind of education; treating them as if their struggle to learn is their fault rather than ours.
As I’ve suggested before, I believe that we do a good job of accommodating a full spectrum of learning styles at Woodland Park, but each year we send children off to kindergarten who I know are going to struggle with the status quo. The advantage these kids have is that their parents are aware, engaged, and able to advocate for their child’s educational needs.
Not all children are so lucky and only a tiny number will become professional athletes. So we label them. We can do better.