Is it fair to the good kids that the “Bad” kids hold them back?

 I’d like to take a different tone today. Today’s post isn’t about technology in education. It is related to education, but it is more personal than professional. Today, I want to talk about something that’s been bothering me for awhile.  This might be too personal, but I need the write this as cathartic release; luckily, very few people read my blog. Its a bit scattered; please bare with me.

It hurts me to hear teachers say things to the effect of:  its not fair – the “bad” kids are holding everyone else back.  This hurts me because, in at least in 90 % of cases, my son will be worse.  When my autistic son enters school, should we place him in a regular class, he will be disruptive, frustrating- he will require more attention than anyone else, maybe than everyone else.

I am a teacher and I understand why it is said.  I kind of agree. I sometimes say the same thing. I am a horrible hypocrite. However:

It’s true that it’s not fair to the good kids but it’s also true that it is even more unfair to the “bad” kids.  Did they choose to be bad?  It’s holding them back even more then the good kids.  Why are they bad? Do they have free autonomous choice to be bad?  Of course not- we don’t let children enter contracts or be alone or drive or vote or be charged with a crime because we recognize that a child’s autonomy is limited at best.  So why are they bad?  If it’s not truly their choice then it’s something else? Economic? Family problems? Medical condition? Who are the victims- the good or the “bad” kids? Who’s really being held back and why?

This is what being inclusive looks like.  We don’t leave people behind.  We help and support.  We do that in all aspects of our society.

 My son will disrupt the learning or others.  He will push children out of the way.  He will scream and cry in class.  He will have accidents and need to be changed.  He will run away.  He will disrupt every assembly – everyone will stare.  Kids will laugh at him, make fun of him, make fun of his brother because if him.  He won’t have any friends.  He’ll spend the day looking for the missing letter from a puzzle instead of what is is supposed to do.  He will need someone to help feed him.  He won’t be able to sign his name on the art he was helped on.  He will need help washing himself after art.  After school he will have 4 different types of therapy – physio, OT, speech, ABA. 

While things will improve as he ages, they will never go away.  I hurt when I think I have to add the resentment of parents, students and teachers to the list if difficulties – I can accept other students resenting him as they’re still learning too – but adding parents and teachers, while understandable, hurts me.

Maybe it won’t be so hard; maybe he will learn to cope with school as long as people learn to cope with him. 

He might be a more extreme example but hopefully, he can demonstrate a principle – it’s not fair to the ‘bad’ kids that they hold people back; its not fair that they are themselves held back; it’s not fair that they absolutely require the empathy of others – or maybe it is fair – all kids are learning; all require empathy.


  1. #1 by Heather Durnin (@hdurnin) on November 13, 2011 - 8:11 pm

    As educators, it’s our job to model and teach our students to not only “cope with him” as you wrote, but interact with, and support your son in his learning. The benefit of this learning for our students, contributing members of our community, is invaluable.

    I sincerely hope whenever a discussion around “fairness” comes up, people understand that fairness does not, and cannot, look the same for everyone.

  2. #2 by Amy Murray (@happycampergirl) on November 13, 2011 - 10:27 pm

    I have to open with a confession: I have a soft spot for “challenging little boys,” and a tendency to fall in love with them not long after they walk in my classroom door. Thus, I find myself with perhaps more than my “fair share” of them. With that as background: It has become my belief that the challenging kids come along to help make me a better teacher. With them, I have to be my best, most focused, calmest, kindest and most understanding self. On the same lines, they also give other students a chance to be compassionate, patient, generous, and gracious. I teach my kindergarten class that “Fair doesn’t mean equal. Fair means everyone gets what they need.” With practice and support, they get it, and so do their parents. I am not only teaching children to read and print and count. I am also teaching them to be human beings who live in a world with other human beings. My hope is that your son will have at least a few teachers who share my soft spot.

  3. #3 by Leigh Sanger on December 6, 2011 - 4:13 am

    I’m moved by your post about your son. Our world is so concerned with achievement and competition that we are at odds with the need to live with and care for one another. My question then is, what kind of education can we, as educators, provide that helps the next generation to make sense of this dichotomy? Well said Heather and Amy. Hopefully concepts such as fairness comes up daily.

  4. #4 by Lena on February 11, 2016 - 9:56 am

    I don’t think you can say that any kids are good or bad. i don’t think the “bad” kids are really doing anything or holding anyone back, they most likely have some problems (like you said with your child) or harder time then our so called “good” kids. The good kids might also have some major problem that we are overlooking because they are “good” kids and we are worrying on these “bad” kids. I don’t believe that we can say either side.

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