Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Over the Rainbow

I'm still feeling discouraged since my daughter's recent run-in with parent-led bullying at school forced me to confront the realities of our community.

Yes, "No Name Calling Week" sounds like a good idea, but when I think about it, it's like a crash diet as opposed to good nutrition and exercise. It's obvious to me that you shouldn't call people names, that all children should feel safe at school. Why isn't it obvious to everyone?

It's too easy to hide behind slogans and so hard to work for real change. When Obama was elected, I saw in him someone who looked the most like me of any president in my life time. Particularly striking is that, like me, he has two young daughters. That is where I put my hope for change: so much of my life now is focussed on my children's lives and future, I feel so strongly my responsibility to do what I can to improve it. Certainly Obama, with the considerably greater power of his office, would act on his responsibility. Yet as my favorite witch, Hecate, is fond of saying, "...that sure was a cool youtube, with Will.I.Am & Scarlett Johansson biting her lip..." People who are insulated from hardship don't seem to understand others who struggle. All of our fat and sassy senators can argue and lobby and wheel-and-deal about health care reform, and now health insurance reform, without having it affect their lives or their health in any way. It makes me want to run for office! (Again I feel it's important to acknowledge I recognize that compared to many, my life is very comfortable. Even so, my family is much closer to the bottom than we will ever be to the top.)

This morning's disappointment was to see hypocrisy in an online friend who writes eloquently about issues that are important to me, who appears to share and articulate my values, yet sends her children to private school, and now is anxiously awaiting the lottery decision of the local performing arts charter school for one of her children.

Would I see it differently if I had the resources to have a choice for my children? Possibly. It is one thing to argue in the abstract about the value of public education, it's another to sacrifice your own children to a seriously flawed system while you do all that you can to improve it for future generations. It is so painful to realize that there are opportunities that my children will never have.

Someone commented that charter schools are public schools, but I say no they're not. They're private schools that are free. But that money comes from somewhere. And since my children are at public school, I know where that somewhere is, and it's not over the rainbow.

Update (from an online conversation):

ProfWombat: My 13 yr old, adopted from Kazakstan at 4 1/2 and possessed of language based learning disability, goes to a very well thought out school designed for such. She can go there because Dr Mrs W and I investigated, found the local program inadequate--being teased as a 'stupid SPED kid' only goes so far as an educational stimulant--hiring a lawyer, having her privately tested, and so on. Good for her, of course. I meet most of the parents, who are generally professional, upper middle class, highly educated, committed people, and wonder about the discrepancy between the private partial solution we've found and the broader question of the needs of those not similarly empowered. And, I might add, the utterly inadequate program she'd been in was the pride of one of the richest towns in Massachusetts' flagship school.

Me: ProfWombat--Yes, you see exactly the problem. It's parents with the resources to recognize/accurately diagnose a disability as well as hire a lawyer to get their child's needs met at their current school or elsewhere who I envy.

ProfWombat: Yup--and that's a small group. The home district defends itself--after all, they're on the hook for tens of thousands of dollars in alternative programs, and these are lean times--at the risk of ossifying their inadequacies, while the vast majority of parents can't do what we've done.

On the other hand, more folk vote for being tough on crime, longer sentences and more prisons, than for sped funding...

Gromit: I have a cousin who teaches middle school in Massachusetts. It sounds like the whole system of special-needs education is very messy, and really does require an attorney to help get the right thing done for kids in public schools. And that, in some cases, parents with money and attorneys game the system to the advantage of their own kids at the expense of those who need the services more, but don't have the dollars to hire the advocates.



Libby Spencer said...

Very true Ina and a good rant. The charter schools are a good thing I think in some ways, but it does rob the regular classrooms of money and resources. It's very shortsighted not to invest in public education besides. Our kids are the future. It hurts me to see how diminished they've become since I was a kid.

ina said...

Thanks, Libby. I'm afraid my rants tend to be all over the place as I see connections between things that may not be there! I'm just so frustrated by the mess this country is in, and I've got to find a way to find my power.

Robert Boyd said...

What was the bullying incident?

filkertom said...

Excellent and heartbreaking. There are so many obvious things we could do to make the country better, but they get in the way of gosh-darn profit, dontcha know?

VforVirginia said...

What always gets left out of the voucher/charter discussion is the fact that private schools pick kids, and not the other way around. They are NOT interested in struggling students from the most challenged schools. People try to argue that money is not the solution, but I notice that they seldom advocate for decreasing funding for their own kids' schools. These program absolutely rob the kids who need it most to benefit the kids who are already in pretty good shape.

And any school district that isn't ALL OVER a zero-tolerance policy wrt bullying is missing the boat in a big way.

ina said...

Thanks, everyone.

Robert--it was cliquish girls stuff that probably seems trivial compared to much bullying, but the effect is definitely cumulative.