Tuesday, June 8, 2010

An Inconvenient Truth

photo credit-newagecrap
creative commons license

Unfortunately, one of the things that has become obvious to me over the years is that the general public doesn't have a clue what it's like to raise a special needs kid, has no real desire to know what it takes, and when times are the least bit tough the public is especially willing to throw our kids under the bus if it will help their own situation in any way. This is true, whether it's a smaller, relatively well off district like the one we live in, or a large one such as Los Angeles.

One might expect that the Superintendent for one of the largest districts in the country would be a little savvy when it came to talking about how resources were allocated during an economic downturn, and would refrain from saying things that were just REALLY STUPID. When L.A. schools Supt. Ramon C. Cortines was talking about a school for the blind in the LA Unified School district he recently said,

"Some of those are very, very severe cases, but you have to look at it in perspective. When you fund some of the special ed things, you're taking from regular kids."

Aside from it being blatantly against the law for economic considerations to be driving who gets what services, there is the whole "attitude" thing. The attitude that says that special needs kids are not "regular" children. The subtext that assumes that they won't become productive members of society, so why invest any money in them. When such attitudes result in self fulfilling prophecies, they are felt to be proof positive that they were right all along. The attitude that while "regular" education is a right in this country, that special education is a privilege that can be easily revoked at the first sign of money trouble. The attitude that my kid (and millions like him) just aren't worth it.

I have found, as I stated, that such attitudes are not limited to uneducated or poor people. Indeed, my personal feeling is that such attitudes get worse, the higher up the socioeconomic scale one is on. It doesn't matter what overall political viewpoint you hold. Platitudes regarding equality rapidly fall apart when it comes to spending a dime on special needs education instead of the football team.

I don't know what the solution is. I'd like to think that the only solution is success. Being out there, in the public eye, as much as possible. Expose the public to successful former special ed. kids as much as possible, and eventually they'll change their mind. And holding them to the letter of the law until then.