White’s section in Learning Differences was sort of new territory for me. It’s not that I haven’t worked with students who have LD issues; it’s that I never questioned the validity or the nature of being categorized LD. I was intrigued with the notion that LD students are socially constructed. I am playing with the ideas of basic writers being socially constructed in my research paper. I am not quite sure I follow her argument, though. I feel like I need to read more on the topic before I come to any conclusions. I was sort of confused about the studies she cited. I wasn’t quite sure how they supported what she was arguing—but, again that goes back to my unfamiliarity with this topic. Most of the ideas here were new to me. I was appalled by Boston U.’s president’s comments and was glad that he was taken to court and penalized for her comments and actions. I think White shows that rather than accepting LD as a plain neurological fact that categorizes students into the “less than” pile, we should create opportunities for engagement for all students. The reported testimonials show that teacher reflections on his/her classroom activities will enable are more encompassing and participatory learning experience for all students. I am not exactly sure how this is down besides using a variety of genres such as films, audio, text, handouts etc. along with engaging classroom activities that can reach a variety of types of learners. Overall, I can see where it benefits the dominant culture to offer an “excuse” for LD learners and to set them apart as “others,” but I am not quite sure that I am willing, at this point, to forget the numerological issues that have been discussed by scientists and behaviorists. Again, I think I would need to study the topic more. I do agree that there is a narrative of overcoming that leaves those who struggle way behind. I do agree that if one cannot overcome, then it benefits the dominant culture and the message of individualism and success to have these particular students filling “other” roles.


Anne's Response
I've actually thought a lot about learning disabilities as a new teacher. I do not feel like I have the training to identify a learning disability. Even if I had the training, I do not know how I would approach a student about getting tested for an LD. My other concern is that I have never had a student identify themselves as having an LD. Out of my 100 or so students. How would I know the difference between a basic writer and a writer with an LD?

This article, while about neurological learning disabilities, really made me think about all disabled students have that can impair their learning. I kind of felt as though the author over generalized about students with LD. I would have liked more explaination about the specifics of learning disabilities she was discussing - besides dyslexia. That is probably why I kept drifting off thinking about disabilities with all students. What happens to students who have both a handicap and an LD? Aren't they even more marginalized?

The author said that "writers with LD are more priviledged that basic writers; "learning disabled" is a middle-class, white identity" (180). Ok, so here's my question: aren't most LD students placed into basic writing classrooms? Maybe I am over generalizing, but that's what I would assume. Although I do realize the difference between having an LD and being a basic writer, I would assume that standardized test takers may not. Even then, I don't even have the training to tel the difference.

I'm really interested in this idea about the priviledge difference between both.


The students I had last semester were very open about their learning disabilities, and I kind of feel that because I treated everyone equal that they were able to blend in with the rest of their classmates and do well in my class. I am not trying to boast; I am simply saying that I didn't know how to deal with LD students, so I treated them like everyone else. But I did notice one thing--I saw that they worked harder than students without learning disabilities, and I made an effort to understand these students because of the effort they exerted. So in my short expereince with teaching, I have not met the student who feels that "not learning is often a better, safer bet than learning" (184). Like I said, I had very little training in the LD area, and I guess that's a reason why I treated them like everyone else--I didn't know what else to do. But I think it helped. When you stop focusing on reading and writing per se, the class takes on a whole new meaning. Students with learning disabilities seem to stop focusing on what they can't do and start looking at what they believe in, who they are, and what they can do. I had one student last semester who was dyslexic, but she was a great debater. She enjoyed speaking her mind and engaging in debates with her peers. Because our class was very discussion-oriented, the writing classroom became a place where she felt comfortable and intelligent. She enjoyed writing because what she wrote about reflected her opinions and beliefs. I sort of think that's what White was taklking about when she that when critical pedagogy is enacted, reading and writing become about meaning. I really like that idea.

Melanie Mayer ENGL 5361 Reading Response April 10, 2007

TDW, White’s “From Learning Disability, Pedagogies, and Public Discourse”

“No Child Left Behind,” like much of the research and pedagogy in education, is good in theory. There is a breakdown, though, between theory and practice, which we see again and again. This is the first problem. The second is a tendency to overreact and err too far on one side of an issue, then rebound by erring too far in the other direction. Education has not been exempt from this pendulum. Both of these problems are evident here: White responds to Wrestling, who was responding to the over-assigning of alphabet letters to any person who could not sit still, or who refused to study or do homework, or just generally accept accountability, when he said that we had “[replaced] academic rigor with excuses” (175). And who suffers from all the gaps and the roller coaster dips and turns? The students, and the authors like Wresting (he was sued, you know) who, by attacking political correctness, become blatantly politically incorrect.

I agree with most of this article. “Students with LD [are] different from basic writers” but still “can have both identities” (180) and “it is cold comfort to a student who is not doing well” that his failure is due to a disability (181). White gets to the implications of her article on page 182 when she questions “why teaching fragmented skills was so often recommended for students with LD,” when the research indicates that it is not the best method, for teaching writing or reading. Holistic teaching works better, and requires less “accommodations” because students are not focused on each inadequacy or struggle but on the whole situation, one that they have an interest in. It’s like everything else in life: I have to care how to work the navigation system on the car to read the manual. I have to want to know how to distinguish wines and pair them with foods to buy the book or research online. It goes to meaningful instruction, which is bigger than teaching basic writing, or LD, or any one discipline at all.

Yet knowing this, what goes wrong? I even find myself doing this very thing – making it about the reading instead of the meaning (183) sometimes. I don’t want to, but if I don’t quiz, students won’t read it and I end up discussing it with myself! 1301 is no different than high school. So frustrating! So I compromise, quizzing first, then making meaning. But if you ask my students what their purpose is in reading something, they will likely say, “we are going to have a quiz.” And if you ask them why they are revising, and rewriting, they will say, “we have to turn in a draft.” I can’t get the majority of students to make any meaning whatsoever, LD or otherwise, and it just kills me, because I find so much meaning in all this reading and writing!

I know there are considerations to be made for LD, for basic writers, for background, for culture, for politics, for home language, heck, for eye color if someone sues. But teaching is teaching and right is right, and that goes a long way in all classrooms everywhere. The fictional Samantha may have “learned to sleepwalk in school,” as White contends, but I don’t think a boring class or less than perfect instructor gets all the blame in every case of a student who is “left behind.” White makes a good case for teaching LD students. But Wrestling has a point, too: there are too many alphabet kids now days. I think lots of labels were avoided and lots of Samanthas “cured” in my day by a good whipping. I know, I know – there are those who will reread that just to be sure I really said it. Just like the talk show host screamers for both parties – something like this is said and the message gets burned in the backfire. But still –our society could be less worried about political correctness in this world if we were more concerned with just correctness. --mm

Just as with Basic Writers, those with LD are often given "remedial" tasks that do not necessarily improve their writing. I understand that this article is arguing for mainstreaming. However, I was confused as to where the author stood on the issue of understanding or recognizing learning disabilities on the whole. I got that the author believed that assignments that require accommodations might not be good assignments, but I don't think she proved her point here. I fail to see how a timed test is something that is not good teaching practice for certain courses. The timing issue has to do with scheduling and how long a teacher has a classroom. I don't think something should be done away with because some people take longer than others to finish something (especially whenever there is an alternative for those who need longer). You could say that students could feel separate, having to go to another place to take a test, but if you are the last student in the class because everyone else finished already, it would be just as separate.

What I found very interesting was the student at the end of the article who turned in a paper that he was working on by himself. The line, "[N]ot learning is often a better, safer bet than learning" is so spot on (184). It really made me think about how we beg our students to get others to proof read their papers, and I wonder if this is a good thing for someone who has more than a few typos. I guess it depends on whether their proof reader is fixing their papers for them or simply indicating that something seems to be wrong. However, I think that our insistence on correctness and the fact that we judge their work with a grade, motivates students to do what is safe. Professors seem forever irritated at students' focus on grades, but I have to believe that this is because they are not the ones being graded. I have even heard people say that grades don't matter, that students should just learn. But as long as we are giving grades, they do matter. And it seems to me that grades eventually end up serving as a punishment for those who have not performed to our expectations. So if we want students to go beyond - and do something that is not safe - something that maybe even challenges them - we have to abolish grades (at least in the sense that we have them now)! Thank you for your time. Have a good night.

Heather Dorn

White’s caution against letting pedagogy and discourse (mis)define student identity is a good reminder of the importance of recognizing the social forces at work in education. The way we construct student identities is based on the discourse or paradigm within which we operate; by contrasting the positivist/behaviorist paradigm informing LD research and pedagogy (176) and the social-constructivist research and pedagogy of contemporary linguistics and composition studies, White shows that LD pedagogy (like BW and L2 pedagogy) constructs the students as others, thus creating a self-fulfilling “success narrative” of the hard-working student that overcomes adversity, typically through the prescribe remedies (180-181).

White is motivated by the same contradictions I have been struggling with in my teaching: “I [White] then wanted to know why teaching fragmented skills was so often recommended for students with LD, when all that I knew about teaching writing had led me away from these methods”(182). Like White, I believe that we are indeed teaching difference and that we fail to turn the critical lens on our own practices: “Teaching that attempts to ‘remediate’ by focusing on what’s wrong with the way students are reading and writing only emphasizes their disability” (183). We would probably be better off looking for ways to understand the students and their needs that aren’t inherently “difference-making.” What would such pedagogy and practice look like?


Elva Martinez Response From Learning Disability, Pedagogies, and Public Discourse by Linda Feldmeier White

This article was different. I wonder how much is the Learning Disability (LD) been abused. White mentioned, “According to this argument, it is because their learning problems are biologically based that LD students deserve accommodation; without neurological impairment, they would be no different from other poor students” (176). Is LD a fraud in some cases? Is it the “invisible handicap” (177).

I did not like what Boston University (BU) historian Jon Westling did but I can understand that in 1995, the learning disable students were too new in the academic community. I know it is not fair but Westling was stereotyping and did not know much about the learning disable students.

As White cited, “Though we recognized students with LD as different from basic writers, it is important to notice that the same person can have both identities” (180). Just like in Bruch’s article, “Persons labeled as disabled may still be culturally marginalized, misrecognized, and disrespected” (165). All of the odds are against the disabled person.

I saw on page 180 how money talks. White mentioned “Writers with LD are more privileged than basic writers; “learning disabled” is a middle-class, white identity. But writers with LD are marginalized;”…. What writers was she talking about? Was she talking about the color, poor students, who did not have the money to get diagnosed with LD?

I was amazed of the “Lists of famous people who have been diagnosed or retrospectively (Einstein, Edison, Hans Christian Anderson, William Butler Yeats, among others)” (181). Are LD students a chance of been geniuses in their academic field?

When we went to our summer training session, a lot of questions were asked about students with learning disabilities. What happens if we have one? What happens if we get a student that we think has one? All this was a learning experience for me. When I worked at the Island Waves, I had a blind gentleman apply for reporter, and he was hired. However, some changes had to be made as far as how things were done. A lot of our editing is done electronically, our review sessions at the end of the week were done with a hard copy, so certain things had to be done to order to accomodate him. Of course, he didn't have a learning disability, but I think that we have to look at that in the same way. In some cases, it is just a matter of accomodation.

I think that some instructors do have the idea that some students using this as a crutch, but I don't think that we can write it off this easy. However, it is not fair to marginalize, duh, when is it actually ok to do something like that? Success narratives are never successful, they only breed resentment, so yes, while some people have come out and said they are dyslexic, but successful, that's all well and good, but we cannot expect that from all of our students. We also have to decide what our battles are. Spelling over content? Some people just aren't good spellers, but I think that you can be an excellent writer and a horrible speller. This goes back to what we think about what an actual writer is. What are we trying to drive our basic writers to do.

It is important for us not to create an identity around someone with a learning disability, but let them create an identity for themselves with their work. In an age when we want more students to come to college, and less of them to be kept at the gate, I think that it is integral and cruical for us to keep accomodation in mind. We should always be putting the student first.


I am nervous about how to handle the issue of learning disabilities in the composition classes, and unfortunately, White did not really help me. I have a brother who has learning disabilities, so I think of him when I think of LD students. He is so scarred by how he was treated in primary and secondary schooling that he did not complete high school and wouldn't even consider going to college. Now, it is difficult to even get him to open a book.

If White says that learning disabilities are socially constructed, I wonder how much of that is created by bad teachers? I've never had a learning disability, so I don't know what it's like to be marginalized in a class, but for those who have felt the neglect of teachers who do not want to deal with them, how to we get them past it when they get to our classes?