Learning Disability

I am losing my faith in science.

My father — a Doctor of Biology — and my mother — a nurse — are probably shocked. They raised me to believe in examining evidence and using the Scientific Method to test and understand the universe.

But that’s just the problem, you see. I’ve been doing that, and I’m finding science not to measure up to its own standards.

It’s accepted scientific theory that children are wired to learn. You always hear about how you should teach your young children a foreign language, because their brains are much better apt to learning that sort of thing in elementary school than when they get to high school or college. The young mind questions how everything works. The teenage mind questions why he or she has to work.

But, frankly, my obsevations show little evidence to suggest young minds are wired to learn. There certainly doesn’t seem to be a lot of learning going on around my house.

The Boy has two bad habits. He leaves his dirty clothes in the bathroom. But he takes his towel with him and leaves it in a wet pile in his room. Thus, everyone has to look at his dirty underwear, and he doesn’t have a towel the next day for his shower and has to either ask someone to get him one or borrow someone else’s.

Apparently, standing there cold and wet without a towel every morning isn’t enough to teach him he should alter his behavior.

The Girl takes great exception when he “borrows” her towel, since he doesn’t ask permission and she wouldn’t give it if he did. He takes it anyway, and then she screams and throws a fit about him using her towel. So I yell at him not to use his sister’s towel. This does not seem to dissuade him.

Yesterday, he had to “borrow” his mother’s towel, because his towel and his sister’s were in a wet pile in his room. Naturally, he left his dirty clothes in the bathroom but took his mom’s towel without returning it. This despite being yelled at for leaving his clothes behind the two days before and his mother sternly telling him he wasn’t allowed to leave her towel in his room.

See what I mean? There is no learning going on here. Telling someone the same thing over and over again should cause even the dimmest person to learn it. The Boy learns nothing.

So I forbade him to watch his favorite TV show this week and made him put everyone’s towel back and clean up his dirty underwear. He was stunned — stunned! — that I could conceive such an inhuman punishment.

This morning, I found his dirty clothes on the bathroom floor and his sister’s towel in a wet heap next to them. So the question is: Did he really use his sister’s towel and not hang it up again less than 24 hours into his punishment for doing exactly that?

Or did The Girl leave her towel in a wet heap on the floor only hours after watching her brother get punished for doing the same thing?

More importantly, why isn’t anyone learning around here?

I thought perhaps it was that these two children just have learning disabilities, but I saw the same thing in my daughter when she was in elementary school. It was amazing how every week she was required to clean her room, and every week it was a three-hour, arduous chore, and every week she trashed it again anyway after getting it clean instead of just picking up after herself so that Saturday wouldn’t be horrible.

And before her, my friends children, whom I used to babysit, were constantly getting in trouble for getting up out of bed and other crimes they committed over and over again.

If children are wired to learn, how can this happen? How can they keep making the same mistake, even after suffering consequences for it?

Science is failing me. Either the Scientific Method of observe, record, and draw conclusions is flawed, or the scientists who posited children are wired to learn didn’t know what they were doing.

There’s a lesson here somewhere. There has to be, right?

But, just like the children, I have no idea what it is.


2 thoughts on “Learning Disability

  1. “Telling someone the same thing over and over again should cause even the dimmest person to learn it.”

    He knows what he’s supposed to do…but there’s no real consequence (until just recently) for not doing it. It’s easier to tolerate a bit of lecture or even yelling than it is to wrangle dirty clothes and wet towels. Until there is a motivating reward for doing the right thing, or a dire enough punishment for doing the wrong thing, nothing will change because the benefit to effort ratio isn’t high enough.

    It isn’t that the kids aren’t smart enough to learn…it’s just that what they’ve learned is that chores aren’t fun, and that only grownups seem to appreciate them being done.

    • Jill,

      I think you’re missing the “Cosbyesque” humor intended in the piece. I know full well why it wasn’t being done. The curmugeonly humor I found in the situation was the towel being on the floor again after consequences had been applied.

      I’ve been parenting for a long time now, and the longer I do it, the more I hear Bill Cosby’s routine about “brain-damaged” children in my head.

      Anyway, the children are a constant source of amusement to me. They give me great joy . . . even when they are doing foolish things. At the very least, they give me blog fodder. 😉

      Thanks for the comment!

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