Photo: Graur Codrin (click photo to link)

Friday, October 31, 2008

Disability, Difference, Diversity and Equity

Sarah Palin's youngest child, Trig, has Down Syndrome, and that has opened up a number of discussions about the commitment of our two presidential candidates to a number of disability-related issues. Among these are the funding of special education, ensuring the rehabilitation of military veterans with disabilities, and to other needs of the disabilities community. If you haven't read Paul Longmore's well-researched and thoughtful open letter on the two presidential candidates' positions on disability, I think that you might find some of the answers he gives to be very helpful in making your choice for our next president. Here's the link to Paul Longmore's letter. I think that what Longmore says will leave you thinking about much more than disability.

As the parent of two self-determined adult children who often experienced a great deal of self-doubt in school due to barriers to the curriculum imposed on them due to specific learning disabilities, I'm in favor of reducing such barriers to education, in general. I'm specifically in favor of reducing barriers to children whose status as "disabled" or "poor" or "non-white" causes them to be needlessly removed from access to the general education curriculum and subjected to less content, instead of the same content in alternative formats. I believe that the boundaries of equity and social justice have been abridged when your home, your skin color, your ethnic origins, or your (dis)ability are considered "differences that make a difference".

As a special educator, who achieved National Board Certification as a general educator (Early Adolescence/Generalist), I am a firm proponent of good teaching. I am especially interested in seeing the most skilled teachers working in settings where they can do great good: urban schools, as new teacher mentors, as the lead teachers for teacher interns, and as teachers in inclusive classrooms where their skills in meeting the needs of children can be put to best use.

Of course, I understand that education, alone, may not be the "hill to die on"; that we have many interests and concerns, but a wise disability rights advocate friend of mine once reminded me that we are all only "temporarily-abled". As a person encountering some beginning age-related disabilities (considered mild by the medical profession, but every bit as confounding), as a parent and as a teacher, I care about much more than my own situation. Therefore, my concerns are for the many who are excluded from the benefits of full citizenship by virtue of "difference", in its many aspects.

I hope we will leave our children and grandchildren with a nation that focuses its' commitment to "a more perfect union", where all of its' residents matter, and none are set aside.

Kathleen Kosobud

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Perspective and Schooling

I've got a somewhat different background and a somewhat different view of the definitions of political action, but what I do see is the absolute need for US schools to teach comparative politics and political systems. I have, for example, never met a Michigan HS grad who had learned in school, for example, how New York State votes, or had questioned why both Germany and the UK have larger legislatures than the US House of Representatives, or why other industrialized nations vote for parties more than individuals, or even that there are other voting methods than "majority rules" (or "first past the post").

Without these comparisons young people grow up to be hopeless, believing that they live in a fixed, unchangeable system.

Every other nation I've been in brings these questions into schools. I wonder why the US does not.


Political Learning Community

Thanks for including me in this little discussion group. Let's
call it a "PLC"--political learning community. I use Google Alerts
to direct me to whatever pops up on the web re: "teacher leadership"
and this appeared today:

And this is what I foresee in the month of October--a national
blood-letting on the topic of race and culture in America. It's easy for
Obama to brush off second-hand associations with folks like William
Ayers and Jeremiah Wright--everyone with half a brain understands that
you're not responsible for what your friends and colleagues say and do,
in the end. What's really bugging the folks who want to attach Obama
and Ayers is the fact that they were "radicalizing" schools in Chicago.

Now--personally--I believe that schools where race, language and culture
are central in the curriculum are a very promising and equitable idea.
But those who fear the loss of privilege are going to push hard on those
fears. Look for it in the next two weeks: We can't trust Obama. He's a
crazy radical. He will take away from "us" and give to "them."

Thanks for your honesty about Bill Ayers, too. As a former torn-jeans-and-peace-sign
chick in the 60s, I know lots and lots of less famous folks who see their past as
over-romanticized youthful daring, while still thinking, speaking and voting for the right
principles now. Let's hope that Ayers uses the moment to step up to the plate
and vindicate himself by expressing some humility and sorrow.

Nancy F.

Sliming and the Press

Just a short report from the McCain/Palin rally yesterday in Clearwater, FL

"Palin's routine attacks on the media have begun
to spill into ugliness. In Clearwater, arriving reporters were greeted
with shouts and taunts by the crowd of about 3,000. Palin then went on
to blame Katie Couric's questions for her 'less-than-successful
interview with kinda mainstream media.' At that, Palin supporters
turned on reporters in the press area, waving thunder sticks and
shouting abuse. Others hurled obscenities at a camera crew. One Palin
supporter shouted a racial epithet at an African American sound man
for a network and told him, 'Sit down, boy.' ")

(Another crowd member, upon mention of Obama's ties to Bill Ayers:
"Kill him!")


Responding to Palin's Attack

I have been touched by the writing bug this morning. Thank, God!! So the reading of the links will wait until later. But I wanted to say thanks to you and your family for keeping some things in perspective. As a child of the 60's and Vietnam, all of us in that era could be called upon to point out our wicked ways by daring to speak against the government. Most of us are now solid citizens and members of the over 30 crowd we criticized.

However, some things never really change so I am glad you keep reminding us to be diligent in seeking out the truth.


Palin's Slimy Campaign

I am unhappy about the latest slurs being cast about Obama's association with Bill Ayers. Since Dad served on the Parker School Board with him, and I hung out with a group of teens who called him a friend when I was in high school, does this make us suspect as well? Neither I nor Dad hatched any nefarious plots with Ayers, and as far as I can tell, most of his activities didn't involve 8 year old kids (as Obama was only 8 at the time) when he was in his "glory days" of plotting the bombing of ROTC buildings, and egging young adults on to disrupt the Democratic convention in Chicago.

Where I find fault, if any is to be assigned is that Ayers remains unapologetic for his role as a gadfly, instigating havoc, and disappearing when the cops showed up. He, as far as I know, has never served a day in prison, and many of his "friends" have. In fact, as I recall, he and his wife took in the children of one of his compadres when she went to prison. While I do not believe in eternal punishment, and I believe that Ayers does much good in his community work, I still hold him culpable for the imprisonment or deportation of a number of people who got caught up in the movement. That he is unable to own his responsibility suggests that his ego still is a problem, a dangerous thing for Obama. One must hope that Ayers will redeem himself.

What other (fake) dirt is going to be slung in Obama's direction?

See, the Keating connection strikes me as much more apropos, since McCain was an adult, and a politician at the time, and the Keating contributions to his campaign are a direct reflection on McCain's lack of "due diligence".

That's what makes the difference.


Paul Longmore's Op Ed on the Candidates

Here is a link to Paul Longmore's Op Ed on the candidates and disability rights. It is a great summary of the candidate positions, and clearly points the reader to an unmistakable choice...even if one is not disabled...

For another take on the candidates, read Marian Wright Edelman's piece at the Children's Defense Fund Website

Pass the word along...