We recently took a trip to visit colleges for our daughter. There are a few schools she’s excited about, and this was a chance to do a little exploring. It was interesting to watch these colleges put on their show for us, trying to sell us on why they are the best option for our child. They made a point of all the activities my daughter could be involved in. They showed us the dorms she would stay in, telling her how fun it is to stay in dorms, while reassuring Mom and Dad that she would be safe. They fed us in the cafeteria to make sure we liked the food; we actually heard one student say the food was better than usual on visitation day. They then had us attend a presentation about the specific major she is interested in. They got all the prospective engineers in a room and told us about the program. Meanwhile, we parents wanted to know one thing: the employment rate of kids coming out of the program.
The college, of course, is going to give you glowing numbers, and I am sure that they do everything they can to help kids get jobs. it looks great for them if they have a high placement rate. The problem with this school was that they claimed a 100% placement rate last year.
I am skeptical by nature, so I immediately scoffed at that number. How can they place everyone? I thought through the possibilities; engineers are in high demand, and the school probably uses a very generous classification to arrive at that statistic.
Another thought came into my mind, however, as I tried to rationalize the perfect placement rate. Why am I so doubtful that everyone could find a job in the field they went to school for?
Every weekend we video chat with our son who is away at college. He is doing great with his schoolwork, which we knew he would do. And even thou he has cerebral palsy he is figuring out all the life skills issues which to us was the bigger issue.
One of the reasons he chose the school he is at was because of the strong debate team. He has always been involved in speech and debate and wanted to be able to continue competing at the college level.
A few weeks ago, we talked after he had competed over the weekend in a tournament. He had not done as well as he had hoped for. If you are unfamiliar with how these things are run in each round they are given a topics and they are put on either side of the argument. They then have to defend or speak against the issue. While most of the questions are on serious in nature, they also throw in a few less serious ones. In my son and his partner’s last round the question was, should the government spend money to encourage inter-racial marriages.
He didn’t tell us what their arguments were but at the end of the round the judge gives each of the teams a critic of their arguments and lets them know what they did well and what they can improve upon for next time.
This judge informed the teams that their mistake in defending the issue was that they argued as if marriage had some intrinsic value other than economical.
While my son told of the shock of this judge’s evaluation, it made me think. I believe marriage has more value than both parents ability to work and help to better their economic standings, but can I articulate what those reasons are? I think I can, and I think that Families dealing with special needs are the greatest example of the value.
I’ll admit it. But please, don’t tell my mother.
I wasn’t much of a student in high school. It’s not that I couldn’t do the work – or even that the work was very difficult. The reality was that I exerted the least amount of effort, and did the minimum amount of work, expecting only to get by and do only what was required of me.
Looking back now, my whole high school career could probably be summed up with a variation of a famous quip:
I did so much, with so little, for so long, that I learned how to do practically anything better than anyone else with nothing.
Of course, my parents gave me “the speech” on numerous occasions. Teachers cajoled and encouraged. They all lamented my wasted potential, but I regularly thought they were wasting their time reminding me of the facts.
Curiously, I find myself giving my son the same speech – even using some of the same words. Shockingly, my inspiring pep talks often seem to fall on deaf ears.
But there was one teacher with whom I connected and whose influence left a lasting impression.
My science teacher, Mr. Boomer knew how to motivate his students. His enthusiasm was contagious. Truth be told, he was an eccentric and the kids were drawn to him. He loved what he did – and it showed. He presented things in a fresh way and communicated more effectively than my parents and every other teacher – combined. He had that almost magical quality that every teacher wants to possess.
Or did he?
Although I didn’t know it at the time, Mr. Boomer was mentoring me. He took an interest in what I was doing and personalized the lessons to connect with my temperament.
Although he’s been dead for over forty years, I’ve been seeing and reading quite a bit about the Reverend Martin Luther King in the popular press lately. Much of this is attributable to the classification of February as “Black History” month -- but the majority is connected to America’s historic election of its first African-American president.
Many of the stories reference Dr. King’s soaring “I have a Dream” speech. If you’ve never heard or watched it, I would suggest you do. You can pull up the file on youtube.com or download it on iTunes. It is awe-inspiring not just for its words, but also given the time in which it was given.
It was August 28, 1963. America was in a time of great social upheaval. The Supreme Court had only recently order the desegregation of the public schools. In Washington, the Civil Rights Act was still a year away from passage. Racism was alive and well. Hundreds of thousands of citizens descended on the Mall in D.C. to make their case for racial equality. Prior to the Reverend King’s speech, musicians Bob Dylan and Joan Baez performed. Actor Charlton Heston spoke. It was a scene!
Admittedly, I wasn’t even born at the time of the address, but as I grew up, I was able to see some of the changes that King helped the country make. Because the Reverend King stated the problems and spoke of solutions, Americans were finally able to catch a vision for what needed to be done.
I think the disability community is in need of an “I have a dream” type moment.