17 October 2007

Fear, Parents, and Schools

Originally posted on American Thinker - 17 October 2007.

While I agree with Chrisopher Chantrill's article "Fear is the Missing Ingredient in Government Schools" for the most part, I think that perhaps he's missing an important point in the tale: that parents are, at least to some significant degree, guilty of pushing an agenda of "you must accommodate my student." Governments, from the local to the federal level, are guilty of bowing to this pressure. Never mind what problems the student may have - emotional, psychological, behavioral, or educational. What matters more is inclusion in a "normal" classroom regardless of the fact that students with considerable versions of the above mentioned problems have a tendency to disrupt entire classrooms on a regular basis.

It truly is the lowering of the bar to the lowest denominator, one that is not even common.

And what's more, the rules on weeding out students who do not belong in the general population of a school are so wickedly restrictive that, short of actually committing an offense like the horrific one seen in Ohio, it is nearly impossible. In some states, it takes a violent felony committed on school grounds (if memory serves correctly) for expulsion to be considered. Not on school grounds? Not a problem. No metal detector or special program can solve that issue.

The solution requires rethinking of what education is in our society. Is it a right or a privilege? Is it a state or societal responsibility or a family and a personal responsibility? Is the accommodation of the "special" student more important than the true education of the majority of students?

Put more bluntly, when should the one trump the many? How far should the bar be lowered before there is a recognition that the liberty of the majority is being trampled upon?

Without a doubt, the solution to education problems in the US has many facets, and I think that Mr. Chantrill hits on one key vehicle of change: fear. But teachers should not be the only ones who fear for their positions. Students must feel fear of being expelled for serial violations of rules. Parents must fear the consequences of what they will do with their children should they be expelled. Those children who demonstrate that they cannot operate effectively in a standard learning environment must be taught elsewhere, and that is a parental responsibility, not a state responsibility.

The ones who should be without fear, akin to the example of the patient in a hospital, are the students who follow the rules and work diligently at their studies. They are the ones who are all too frequently being left behind. They are the ones who deserve safe, orderly classrooms, professional teachers who push them to their best, and parents and administrators who guard the schools from those who do not choose to participate in learning - be they teachers or students.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Mr Myer,

Are some students more equal than others? Or to put it another way, should taxpayer-funded education be allocated based on student abilities and/or based on a judgement call of whether or not a student has "problems"?

As the mother of a brain-injured child, I find your attitude about who deserves an education heartlessly dismissive of the idea that ALL children are equally deserving of, and legally entitled to an appropriate education.

You ask whether the accommodation of the "special" student is more important than the true education of the majority of students. I believe it is not more important, but equally important.

Try selling your idea that only the perfect or near perfect have a right to education to any parent of a brain-injured child. I thought we had done away with the idea of sticking these children out of sight and forgeting about them. Perhaps if you had a child with problems you might better understand the necessitiy of inclusion.

Suppose you were to put a normal child into an abnormal environment. You would not expect him to develope normally, would you? Now, take the abnormal child and place him into an abnormal environment. What chance does he have at normalcy? Virtually none. He already has enough going against him, and separating him from the real world further reduces his chance of learning to fit into society.

I just don't agree with your assumption that inclusion is causing so many problems that normal students are being denied a proper education, or that special students have a larger propensity for violent or dangerous behavior than regular students. Obviously, indications of such behavior by any student should be grounds for removal.

This issue is near to my heart. My little girl, age 11, has down syndrome.She's not in school right now, but when she does go, I will insist upon her inclusion into a normal classroom. Since my state spends around $10,000 to educate each student, I believe that she is equally entitled to those funds. (I am not necessarily arguing for government education - I am an enthusiastic school choice supporter.)

My older children's experiences with special kids at school has been positive. Right now my athletic son has some friends who are brain-injured. He loves them and does not consider them a hindrance to his education at all. Rather the contrary. One young man with Autism is an excellent drummer and some of the guys want to start a band with him. Another young man with down syndrome is popular and much loved by all. These children have a generally positive effect on the other students. Everyday life is full of people who don't fit in, and it's important for all of us to learn compassion for them. They have a hard road to travel that very few of us really understand.

When I grew up, there were no specal students anywhere to be found. I remember when we used to drive by the "warehouse/school" where they lived. I had no concept of who they were or what their life was like - they were just strange and kind of creepy. I'm ashamed of that attitude, but not surprised that it existed in large measure in those days. Thankfully those days are gone forever.

Mr Myer, I don't believe that the one is trumping the many. I've never seen it, and I think it is more likely that the special education students are the ones receiving the inadequate education. I go back to my original question: Do you really believe that some students are more equal than others? I hope not.