While your kids are lucky enough to be in a school with great teachers, good literature and scientific study, and a good price tag, there are many children who not only have to deal with the plights of poor family structure, but some more have disabilities. What a lot of education writers won’t tell you, but that is true, is that blind children, children with other disabilities, poor kids, abused ones, etc are forgotten or left behind. There is hope in Diana Ravitch’s book Reign of Error. She criticizes schools, but something in this book jumped out at me as I read it. Ms. Ravitch says that the real critics of public education are the ones who wish that schools were racially and ability segregated.
Let’s follow two people in two different time periods: one is an older man who is a Caucasian born in 1950. Let’s call him Don.
Next, we’ll talk about Darius, a black and physically handicapped child in the early Millennium with poor family structure.
The reason I am using the names is so that I can draw a composite sketch of each generation and time.
First, let’s look at Don. Don started school in the Boom years, about 1955. He is in a rural Southern community and his classmates were all Caucasians, sometimes rich Asian children. In the ’50s and Boom years, Don’s classmates went through accountability much like Ravitch’s suggested ways: diagnostics and talk to parents. Don’s mother and father were deeply involved in his education in the mid-twentieth century. Don was exposed to math, science, space studies, etc. He read and reread literature in school that strengthened his brainpower. By high school, Don’s classmates encouraged him to go to football practice, and so Don, the six-feet five-inch tall dark hair white boy became a quarterback on his school’s team. The school had him literally stretched thin with football practice, math homework, and biology and physics assignments.
Don’s class of 1968 was mostly a white selection, and in this time, Don’s grades were high and pretty. HE scored high on the military tests and was drafted to a good position in Vietnam. He fought a war, but then returned home to a job, a sweetheart, and a house of his own. All of this and he was still educated enough and as a veteran of a foreign war, he got the care he needed or deserved. Now, let’s take a look at Darius.
When Darius was born, he was refused by his mother and rejected by his inadequately equipped father. Both parents chose to put him in social services’ care. AS a multiracial boy, a young lad of both white and African descent, it was obvious that Darius looked “funny” to some foster families. He was in one bad foster home after another, and it didn’t help that he was born in 2001. You would think that would make things better, but he was born in a huge hospital to a teenage white woman barely a sophomore in high school, a product of abusive parenting who ran away with a black high school graduate, and both were ill equipped to deal with a baby. The girl drank some, did some drugs, and did not take adequate care of herself while pregnant. Darius was born a crack addict, so the nurses and doctors cajoled the parents to letting him go, which the father bailed out on anyhow and the mother could not handle it and was incoherent.
When Darius was four years old, his classmates being white or Asian would make fun of the shunt in his head, he having developed some fluid issues in the brain. HE is wheelchair bound and partially deaf, also having had some low muscular tone. While four years old, he can barely speak without the Ebonics in his tones, his dialect almost illegible and unintelligible for a boy in school. While in class, kids would bully him and make fun of him.
The bullying continued for some years, and then he was uprooted to a foster home, where his wheelchair was accommodated and he was loved, yet the education he received was poor and below par.
While Darius struggled with learning difficulties as a result, somehow, of his mother’s drug addiction and failure to get adequate care, teachers would abandon him and “track” him into an inferior position in his school. Darius was placed in a below standards special education class where no long sentences were ever written, no big words ever spelt. Darius was often taunted about his speech impediments, his persistent use of Ebonics or slang in class, and was at one point denied education because of his wheelchair and speech issues. Finally, the state took charge, moving him to a wealthy and caring adoptive family, a mixed family that had many ways of getting through to the fifteen year old boy.
With the love and care of his adoptive parents, Darius has a long way to go in order to graduate. The poverty of his parents, coupled with the addiction and lack of prenatal care, might have made it impossible for him to obtain special education with a good purpose. With the new adoptive family, Darius now knows that he can succeed, is now homeschooled, and is working toward graduation.
What do these composite sketches tell us about public education today?
Well, for one, Darius’s story might have gotten a billion times worse in Don’s timeline. Put Don in the early 2000s, and you will see no change. People are criticized rightly because they are afraid of difference, and Ravitch says that public education needs to serve all of us in a better way.
Let’s change our composite slightly, and I’ll give you a drawing in words of a young girl who goes to a school totally Ravitch-ized, using all the methods in her book.
Twenty-six-year-old Aisha is an immigrant woman from Somalia. She is pregnant with Nadifo, a young girl’s dream. Aisha married a great guy, and how she wants to educate little Nadifo, it’s not clear.
Nadifo was born with the best care in mind: her mother had studied to be a midwife in Somalia, but moved to America as a refugee in the Civil War. Her daughter, born a citizen, was still teeming with the features of a black girl that could easily be the object of both fear and dear. While Nadifo was in utero, her mother used Medicaid services in her city to get the proper prenatal care her little baby-to-be needed. Nadifo was born as a blind girl, however, and yet her mother, stripped of cultural honor, lost her husband, her home, and the possibility of a good life for herself and Nadifo.
Nadifo’s father divorced Aisha a year after realizing he could not handle a blind woman or girl in his household, as some families in poorer or immigrant cultures do not have the knowledge to know that blind children must be taught Braille, all of the visual statistics out. Nadifo was born totally blind and had some gifts that were seen as forbidden by Islamic laws: she could sing and recite poetry. Aisha’s ex husband left because even his wife shared the gift of singing and dancing, which the man preferred that Nadifo not have.
However, while at twelve years old, she was enrolled in a public school with excellent educational standards for all kids. A one on one teacher of the visually impaired was hired to better Nadifo’s potential, and she rose to the top of her class in 2014. She graduated high school that December, having learned Braille, and even without the support of her mom and absent dad, she was given great mentors and role models, was encouraged to read and spell words in English from the first day of school, and was also encouraged to incorporate American culture into her daily life. Eventually, Aisha felt she had no choice but to let Nadifo go to college and study to be an artist and or a fashion designer. AS a blind person, Nadifo chose a career in fashion design, sewing clothing with a twist. She was although discouraged from a lot of things by her mom, she was still wanting and desirous to learn and grow as a person.
I drew a composite sketch of Nadifo and Aisha to prove a point. First, Aisha had to receive what prenatal services were available in her poverty stricken immigrant community. When a surprise disability arose in the child, Aisha was made to react as any parent would, but with the added immigrant superstitions or cultural nonacceptance of the specific family or tribe, Nadifo could’ve failed. But with Ravitch’s recommendation of singling out in a good way the students with disabilities, immigrants, and females or at risk youth, Nadifo can succeed. She can learn Braille, a miracle by far for blind kids today given the ignorance of most unqualified persons who do not know the Code.
Nadifa’s language at first could have been purely her African dialect. In a school I envision for kids like her, no child is allowed to bully or taunt her by calling her names that befit in the student’s mind Nadifa’s race or culture. The girl’s friends are not all a culture cocoon of Muslims, Blacks, or both blacks and Muslims as would be the case if Aisha chose to follow the corporate reform trash talk and send the daughter to the Islamic school down the road.
Nadifo had special gifts of playing different musical instruments, and she had access to many free after school programs and great study sessions with a teacher to improve her use of a flute, reed pipes, etc. She studied ethnomusicology in an AP class at the high school thanks in part to the electronic availability of her books and module materials.
Ravitch has completely forgotten that we in liberal cities like Denver have the third highest Somali immigrant diaspora, a good portion being female. Has Ravitch traveled to the schools for the blind in different states?
Yes, here’s a composite of a girl in a school for the blind. Also, this is a composite of a school for the blind.
Kelsea went to a school for the blind in her community which was hours away from the public school. Kelsea was not allowed to do Braille instruction and was not given a cane until she turned eleven. AS a student in said school for the blind, Kelsea was not allowed to leave for home during the five days. Republican City schools, where Kelsea’s district is located, mandated her school to teach bogus classes such as “child care” or “marriage education.”
While Kelsea was learning very little about sex and her body image was failing, she was raped by a strange man while doing independent routes with her cane. Then, she was kicked out of school, and yet with no place to go, Kelsea decided not to continue her education. Republican School for the Blind had a dismal curriculum, including nothing but abstinence only until marriage education, do not ever fall in love or marry a sighted person kind of education, and the kind of education that says volumes about where disabled kids fall in the sphere of things.
Here’s another sketch: Kelly goes to Democratic State School for the Blind. She learned independence from an early age, despite having to use a cane and Braille. She also was a bit slow to catch on at math, but this school’s curriculum was amazingly awesome. This school taught real child development, using actual robotic babies that Kelly will one day use. She will learn that sex is for everybody, that abstinence and purity before marriage should never be an issue, and through self education, she learns that purity before God is more important than purity before the government or Man. Kelly was not raped, and as a result of five years of self defence classes, Kelly can detect rapists. Rape aggression defense came to Democratic School for the Blind’s meeting hall and began teaching the pubescent young ladies and older women how to defend themselves.
Education for blind men was essential, so another social worker who was male taught the boys respect and dignity through skits and described scenarios.
Through Ravitch’s recommendations, and yes, if she would please not forget that disability schools are part of our nation, Kelly can soar where Kelsea’s educational standards can drastically improve, and without rape or aggressive advances from either public regular school boys or disability based school boys. Neither student should have to live in a dorm at the tender age of six, but with multiple disabilities, that is the case sometimes.
Phew! My hand is numb, and God forbid I might get Carpal Tunnel if I can’t stop typing! Oh help me!