What do you think about labeling children or ability grouping them?

Brian Rose
Psych of Edu

3. What do you think about labeling children or ability grouping them?  What are the pros and cons?

  Labeling is very complex and often misunderstood, it is not a universal good or bad, there is depth and nuance to be considered. At first thought the idea of labeling being bad is self evident. Emilie Durkeim and George Herbert Mead told us so very early on, their labeling theory states that self identity can be swayed in the direction of the label given. This principle is the reason youth are juvenile delinquents instead of criminals and they are petitioned instead of arrested in America, we do not want them to live up tho the labels they are given. There is a flipside to labeling, the idea that young people can find pride and motivation in a label and that education can sweep away the negitives of a label a child may have inherited through no fault of their own.

  It is important that we do not stigmatise young people by putting a label on them that can lead to being a self fullfilling prophecy in the lives. When a young person is caught in response to a crime they have committed there is a very clear path in statute that they shall not be arrested or charged with a crime or labeled as a criminal in their record. Minnesota statutes, section 260 and 260B make it very clear juveniles are petitioned and if found guilty they are found to be ajudicated. The terms charged and criminal already carry the baggage of adult offenders, it is believed that putting them on young people will cause two things to happen. Firstly they will live up to their label, they will see themselves as a criminal, an example of the problem associated with this is the prestige of the “criminal” in the culture of urban America, simply turn on the TV. A criminal is an anti establishment hero. Secondly, the oppertunities of young people are greatly diminsged when these labels are stuck to them. A young person never gets to address their label when the school or hirer sees “Criminal” or “charged” on their public record.

  The otherside of labeling is the empowerment that can come from being part of a group. Young boys and girls who are non-hearing and hard of hearing take ownership of the lable deaf. Their pride in their culture and supercedes any negitivity the hearing world attributes to this label. Among students who are deaf their first expierence of this is often when they go to schools for the deaf for the first time. A student who is deaf in a public school will often shy away from identifying as deaf, but when they move to “the institute” or Gallaudet they are taught that this is their team colors and pride swells. The label becomes an emopwering force to those out to solve the problems of audism.

  The lesson to be learned with labeling is to be sure and understand the positive and the negitive. Imagine the power of a label to raise a group up. Imagine the power of a label that has been a negitive being turned into a positive. You really don’t have to imagine to far, young native youth are being taught to take pride in their heritage. Often they are being told this for the first time and it is having an effect. The idea of “I am less than because I am a native” is being reforged into “I am more than because of my Native heritage” because of young people and teachers taking ownership of the label Native.

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