Sunday, December 31, 2006

The Way Things Used To Be

My mom trained as an elementary school teacher before I was born, so our house was always full of educational materials. Things like sandpaper letters, clocks, shapes, puzzles, reading materials, finger paints, pretty much an entire K-3 classroom. Back then, there was no such diagnosis as Asperger's Syndrome or Sensory Processing Disorder, so teachers were trained how to deal with kids with different needs. This kind of variation was considered normal and teachers had to suck it up and deal with it.

Nowadays I've noticed there's a trend to gear classrooms toward only the averagest (is that a word?) students and chuck everybody else into a disability category. I don't know why this is, but I speculate that like 90% of changes in the education field it has something to do with funding. Hence the push to get kids who are different diagnosed with some label-- it's the only way you can get your child what he needs educationally, because the teachers are all too willing to ignore anything that doesn't fit their little mold. Gifted kids are no longer praised and encouraged-- unless by "encouraged" you mean "encouraged to shut the hell up, sit the hell down, and play stupid" or "encouraged to act out by being bored out of their skulls". Kids who can't sit down and shut up like the others are disciplined in hopes that trips to the principal's office will scare them into sitting down and shutting up. And too often I hear stories of kids with ADHD or Asperger's who are suspended or even expelled because their teachers were too dense to grasp the concept that this kid might say provocative things without meaning to be provocative, and might physically attack teachers who get inside their space and try to restrain them.

Is it possible that we could get back to that place where public school teachers are respected professionals who do a professional job and educate ALL children?