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.


Happy Elf Mom (Christine) said...

THAT'S RIGHT. It would also help to have a posse to personally smack certain people upside the head with a wet pool noodle when they make stupid remarks like that... but bummer that is also against the law. God bless you; this was a great post. :)

Niksmom said...

I like Mrs C's idea, though I'd probabl opt for something a smidge tougher than a wet pool noodle.

When I first saw this article in the news, I swear I heard the sounds of brakes screeching and the short bus going into reverse, erasing years of small but important progress. That a man in his position would have the temerity to voice such an opinion so publicly simply leaves me with my jaw gaping.

JoyMama said...

I was dismayed at the comments on the one newspaper article I visited, too. People were (rightfully) bashing the superintendant for the awful scapegoating, and then turning right around and (incredibly) declaring that the REAL scapegoats oughtta be: that's right, other kids. Brown ones, from south of the border.

Why, oh why, must we pit our kids against one another for funding? Sigh.

Unknown said...

The Helen Thomas of school superintendents.

Club 166 said...

@Mrs. C and Niksmom,
Fantasizing like that is fine, as long as you're not autistic and doodling on your test paper,

It's always those who are the "other" that receive our wrath, eh?

LMAO. Best response I've seen this week-anywhere.


MothersVox said...

Platitudes regarding equality rapidly fall apart when it comes to spending a dime on special needs education ....

Exactly. That's exactly what is happening in New York City, where the Mayor and his Chancellor have plans to radically reduce the number of children receiving special education services in publicly funded and approved private school placements (made available because the city didn't have appropriate programs to serve the children's educational needs).

They hope to save some short-term money by throwing them into public school programs where the classes are already overcrowded, and where the teachers have little or no special education training under the guise of meeting the "least restrictive setting" mandate of IDEA when the real concern is the city's bottom line.

I shudder to think about what will be happening to kids who endure this sort of forced mainstreaming.

These bureacrats work budgets with annual bottom lines rather than seeing the long-term gains of educating everyone well. (Not that our children should be reduced to a monetary calculus, but that is their preferred rhetoric.)

Okay. I'll stop. I'm on a screed and this is more than a comment . . . it's almost a post!

A BCPSS Parent said...

I agree with what you've said, but I think it's important not to generalize. There are places where these kinds of horror stories aren't the norm.

We live in Baltimore City. This is not a district known for excellence in education for any kids, let alone special needs...BUT I've found that beyond perceptions from people who don't live in the city and don't have special needs kids, there's a lot of opportunity here.

I think outrage over injustice is good and if there's a way we can help other special needs kids and parents, that's even better. I just don't want to paint too much of a doom and gloom story. It makes it hard to stay positive, which is essential.

As a mater of fact, you've inspired me to post something about why Baltimore has surprisingly good special ed opportunities on my blog.

Club 166 said...

Thank you BCBSS Parent for another view. I agree, we should try not to generalize with anything. There are certainly pockets of good located amongst the mediocre and downright lousy. And I don't have statistics to bear this out, but my gut feeling (I know, shouldn't go by that, but I'm not basing public funding or medication decisions on it) is that the majority of school districts don't really care about special ed, and would rather our kids didn't exist.

Now you may have noticed the sentence where I said that

Indeed, my personal feeling is that such attitudes get worse, the higher up the socioeconomic scale one is on.

I would add to that, that the more affluent the school district, the worse attitudes often become. Your case (living in Baltimore and having a good experience) would seem to validate this opinion.

I encourage all readers to check out BCPSS's post on the Baltimore school district here.


kathleen said...

I absolutely agree with you about the socio economics. We were lucky enough to be able choose to live in this very rural area in Maine.(we sought a small school district). My boys have flourished here. They are both in inclusive classrooms-one of them has an aid. I know that in the last place we had lived, this wouldn't have been the story. Everyone in our small community knows them-and treats them the same way they treat all the other kids. They are included in everything. We consider ourselves to be quite lucky-especially when I read some of the things other parents have gone through.

Casdok said...

Unfortuntaly i think changing their minds is a long way off. But i wont give up trying.

Joeymom said...

Somehow I envision the knight from Monty Python wandering about the world, smacking public figures with his dead chicken every time they say something stupid. I'd pay real money to see that.

Zellie said...

Recently, I've been reading Susan Faludi's Blacklash, about the "backlash" against women during the 80s. She argues that backlash happened because women had made enough progress to scare the men in power. Now, I'm wondering if what we're seeing now is a disability backlash. PWD have recieved just enough attention to scare so called normal people.

Club 166 said...

Interesting comment, Zellie.

Certainly everytime the status quo is threatened, those who are in power react against those who would threaten them.

Perhaps there's something to this.


Daisy said...

True Inclusion works best when all children are considered important. Services for special needs students do not "take away" from anyone; if anything, those services add to our society by educating all students well.