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

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