O.K.I’ll admit it.I spend way too much time on the Internet.Am I alone?You might be thinking the same thing at this very moment.
A colleague of mine who refuses to “surf the web” defends his objection to the World Wide Web by declaring cyberspace a “black hole”.There’s no end to where you can go once you get in and no easy way out once you’re hooked.I counter that it’s all a matter of balance – and finding productive sites to spend your time on. But oddly enough, I’m fairly neutral about many of items I read online.In other words, I neither agree nor disagree with the perspective, but for some reason still read on to the bitter end.
Occasionally, I come across an item that makes my blood boil.Lately, I’ve stumbled on several stories that I feel compelled to comment about. They surround the issue of educating those with special needs.
While most people’s comments about this matter center more about kindness and society’s moral obligation, several offer perspectives akin to what many people privately think, but are just too politically correct to say in public.
The comments go something like this:
Special Education is expensive and we shouldn’t have to pay for it. Or even more charitable: Special needs kids are a drag on the system and bring its overall quality down for everyone [translation: the normal ones] else.
Of course, as a parent of a child with a disability, my first reaction is to respond angrily on my organization’s web site. After some reflection, though, I realized it would be an exercise in futility.How would my comments persuade my antagonists to alter their bias?Would I be successful?As they say in the United Kingdom: Not bloody likely!So, instead, let’s take the emotion out of the equation and objectively address some of the specific comments.
I begin with the premise that those who make the negative statements are neither bitter or vile people but rather, that they are simply ignorant of the facts and unfamiliar with the world of special needs children.By simply acknowledging this point, the tension is immediately diffused.This is a good thing.
Now, a few facts.
Did you know that close to 10% of everyone in public school will drop out? Another measurable percentage will never master reading.Others will fail in math. So why do we teach them all math and reading, science or even physical education?Why don’t we identify strengths and ignore their weaknesses and simply avoid the wasted effort of time and resources?
The fact is, we don’t know who will thrive and who will struggle with certain subjects or overall, so we strive to educate them all equally in the hope that they will each find their specific talents and gifts.
Now, some will say that special needs children aren’t ever going to excel.But have you ever read the story of Helen Keller? Some say Albert Einstein showed signs of having Asperger’s Syndrome. Had these two been given up on as quickly as some say we should give up on those who are labeled “disabled”, the world would be a much darker place. The reality is that we have no idea which child will be the one to make the great discovery of our time, unless we do our best to give them all the same chance at success.
What is the real cost of educating our children? Better put, what is the cost of ignorance?
In our district, they recently elected a new school board. The new board didn’t like the district superintendent because the last board had been the one to hirer him. So what did they do? They bought out his contract for one million dollars to simply go away!
I’m stating the obvious, but an enormous amount of educational dollars throughout the United States is wasted on numerous matters completely unrelated to the actual education of our children.
Why can a private school educate children for less than half of what the public school spends? Because they’re not overrun by a bureaucracy beholden to unions and runaway egos.
The education of our children is really not the issue. The funds for music, sports and fine arts programs - as well special education dollars - is not a question of spending more but of spending what we have more wisely.
Finally, in the greater scheme of things, we need to step back and consider the long-term view.Throughout history, there have been cultures that sought to make a better world in various form and fashion. Some have attempted to do this by noble means while others have wickedly attempted to purify the races by engaging in unspeakable acts of barbarism.These societies have had to make choices about life and death and its true meaning.Their conclusions reflected on how they treated their own people.Those who chose to devalue the “lesser”ultimately and thankfully collapsed.Why?They buckled under the weight of their own expectations of perfection.
We are all imperfect and laden with some form of dysfunction and disability.This is what makes us unique – and human!This is what makes our world work.All men [and women!] are created equal.And on our shoulders rests the obligation to educate our children and see every child as God sees them – wonderfully and fearfully created –and worthy of a fair share of public education dollars.