Thursday, November 12, 2009

"For Absent Friends"

Some words I wrote in comment on an Inside Ed comment (in italics below) got me thinking:

"Remove the politics from education" - you're kidding, right? What in the world is more political than education? We've got public education which is obviously funded by politicians with poor districts vying for fair funding vs. rich districts with a political formula that is used to decide funding. You've got the wealthy and those who aspire to raising their standing in the class structure opting out of a failing public education for an expensive private education. Is there anything more political than class structure? You've got parents and their tax dollars moving to districts with "good schools" and abandoning districts with "bad schools". You've got NIMBY attitudes about schools and students from neighbors who are victimized by crime (or a perception of crime in some cases) radiating from schools. You've got astonishing disparities in school buildings, technology, social service needs etc between schools and between school districts...

Having and raising kids is an activity that's bound to change your perspective on many things. My two "neurotypical" kids did a good job convincing me that the path I had taken (public school education while my non-public school peers and their parents were appalled) was really about the same 30 years later. In the same way that I could find ways to connect to people outside of public school then, my neurotypical kids have non-public school friends now. Because of them I have friendships with parents of non-public school kids.

The new perspective has come from my autistic child. Integration and inclusion were things that were new and were pretty idealistically approached when I was a student. For msk they are a concrete need and a legislated right. When friends that are parents opt out of public schools (and I've got to say about 95% of friends that I knew before kids have gone that path), they are opting out of letting their kids be educated alongside msk or other special needs kids. Special needs kids like msk will not be found in private schools, whether they are the prestigious ones or the liberal ones or the arty/experimental ones. No school that any neurotypical kids of friends attend, would ever consider allowing msk to attend. No homeschoolers will ever interact with him in an academic setting and the chaos of parties is not the place to get to know msk. Honestly, we don't attend too many parties with msk except those related to his school friends or family affairs.

There's a social justice issue going on here and I'm saddened that so few of my pre-kid friends can be directly involved. It's a passion for me - education is a right for special needs kids and for the economically disadvantaged that make up the majority of kids in Baltimore's schools. When friends opt out they push msk and myself out of their lives. I am saddened.


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  2. This is a bit of a random comment, but I want to say how much I enjoy your blog. I found it from InsideEd when I taught in Baltimore, and now I've moved up to teach in Trenton, NJ, but still try to check in with the InsideEd/blogging world once in a while. As a teacher, I really like to see your take on special education as a parent. Keep it up, even if it's only very occasional!

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