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Tuesday, 26 September 2017 09:10

Why removing the barrier does not work

After careful consideration, I decided on this topic as the ideal way to restart my blog.

It starts with ensuring that all students are ‘equal’, you must remove the barrier (the social, behavioural or learning ‘problem’), instead of allowing children to face it. I cannot agree with this notion, it goes against everything I believe. Children need to face adversity and challenges. This builds character and improves their problem-solving skills. Not only that, but we are not all ‘equal’, we are individuals. We are not all made the same and every child’s situation is unique.

I remember reading an article a while back where the author used three pictures which play on an image. In the first two pictures, three children are standing behind a fence. In the first picture, the tallest child can see right over the fence, the middle one is the same height as the fence and the shortest child’s sight is blocked by the fence. The second picture has the three children standing behind the fence again: the tallest remains the same as in the first picture, whilst the middle and shortest children are standing on different sized boxes so they can also see over the fence. Then there was the third picture, where the fence was simply removed. The author favoured this picture, because they believed the barrier had to be removed to provide the children with equal opportunities.

In my view, this teaches children, firstly, to rely on someone else to solve their problems, and secondly, that we should all be equal. But are we equal? Should we remove all barriers so our children never face challenges in their childhood? My answer to this is no. If a child wears glasses they do not have the same ability to see as a child who doesn’t. How do you remove the obstacle of visual impairment? Or if one child is taller but another child is shorter – can we physically change their height? No, we simply cannot. What can we do? We can teach the child how to overcome the challenge. A child who cannot see as well is given glasses. The shorter child can be placed in front of the class so that they can see the board, not at the back where the other childrens’ heads would block their view. We cannot make everyone equal, but we can aim to give everyone equal opportunities. Herein lies the difference: opportunities. Do not take the fence away – give children the boxes. Give them a toolkit to live life and to learn through adversity.

I strongly believe that each child should be given an equal opportunity to learn and to develop their own,unique personality. Adversity teaches children. It teaches us. Life will never be perfect – others will always be better or worse than we are. Life is unfair. If we are teaching children from an early age that we are all the same and there should be no barriers, we are doing our children a disservice. Children deprived of the opportunity to learn from adversity will not grow into functional adults who can face challenges like losing a job, getting a terminal illness or dealing with failure. Ultimately,most of these children will become parents – and here is the bare-faced truth: parenting is the toughest job in the world.

Can you imagine your child as a parent if they have no idea how to deal with the downs of parenting? Can you imagine them functioning as well-adjusted, competent adults if we did not give them the tools to overcome challenges? As a mom I want my daughter to be a healthy, functioning adult who knows what it feels like to be sad, that it is OK to be sad, and to possess the skills to handle any situation she may face. I would have my daughter embrace the good and work through the bad. I want her to have a toolbox of skills. I want her to be able to problem-solve and have the mental and emotional tools with which to do it.

Simply put, life is hard. How do you want your child to navigate it?