yes – I do love my soapbox

and here’s why mainstreaming is ruining your kid’s education

… that’s great that your mentally retarded (yes I used that phrase, and I’ll tell you why in just a minute, so rehinge your jaw) kid is in a regular classroom. Now get my kid out.

That’s right, I used the phrase mentally retarded and not “learning disabled”, and I stand by it. Fiercely. But it’s so offensive! So not PC! So cruel! Doesn’t she realize how demeaning that label is? Listen up people, because I’m only going to go over this like maybe 6 or 7 times. In REALITY, and I’m talking about real reality, not this idiotic world we’re stuck in at the moment where money has no real value, the idea of work ethic is a completely foreign concept to most of America, ethics and morality are also pretty much non-existent because parents don’t really parent, and no one takes personal responsibility for, well, anything anymore. In REALITY, the term mentally retarded is actually much less demeaning than “learning disabled”. And here’s why:

Mentally, a form of the word mental, of course, would indicate brain processes.

Retarded,  by definition, and not the inane slang definition it’s been given over the years, I’m talking Miriam Webster here, means slowed.

THEREFORE mentally retardedwould refer to slowed processes of the brain.

Now, “learning disabled” on the other hand, is pretty specific. Let’s quickly define learning as the ability to obtain, assimilate, and utilize information. Does that work for everyone? And feel free to slam me on that one, I can take it, I’m a big girl. The word we’re really concerned with here is “disabled”.

First, the prefix dis- : According to Webster’s New World Disctionary (World Publishing Company, 1964), when used with an adjective, the prefix renders the original word as it’s opposite. It even uses the word “disable” as the example. As for defining the full word “disabled”? Are you ready for this?

“… unable or unfit…” (p. 415).

Do I really need to put that all together for you? If it were my kid? I’d choose mentally retarded over learning disabled every fucking time. Please refer to my child as one who is slower to process things rather that one who is unable or unfit to learn. Mentally slower, not broken in the head. Now do you get it?

But back to the issue at hand… all day mainstreaming of the “learning disabled” child into the regular classroom and why you should be outraged even if your child is the one who is the being mainstreamed.

Plain and simple? IT’S FUCKING UP EVERYONE’S EDUCATION. Not one single child in a fully mainstreamed classroom is getting the education they deserve. (If you want me to throw in some numbers here from some research studies, forget it. I spent enough time staring down EBSCO Host in Psych searches for graduate research papers. I’m not going back to that soul sucking vortex for my freaking blog. You can do one of three things here… you can: 1. Take my word for it (this is the easiest, and most painless option); 2. go to your local library, put on some waders, and jump into the gooey love that is EBSCO in hopes of finding research to either prove me right or wrong (depending on your druthers); 3. use your goddamn powers of logic. If they have been exhausted from the earlier exercise, please see option (1.).)

I remember when I was in kindergarten and a rather patronizing bitch woman came into my classroom and informed us that there would be some new students coming to our school, and that these students were not like us-they were special. Now, of course she was referring to a group of mentally retarded students (yes, I AM going to keep using that phrase. Deal with it. Refer back to my statements regarding WHY, and DEAL with it). My response as a 5 year old? Why am I NOT special? I mean, I totally got that they were different and all that, but the way that that woman explained it to us (as though WE were the retarded ones), it made it sound as though we were now second class citizens and these new special kids were so much more important than we were, that they were to be given every consideration possible, including the pencils from our hands and the blocks from our building stash. Now, this was not mainstreaming into classrooms yet, just the introduction into the regular school. This was way back in the 1980’s before everything went to hell. We were getting ready to step into the handbasket, but it hadn’t been completely woven yet.

But these days, there are a lot of fully mainstreamed classrooms. Like (you guessed it!) The Girl’s. Two kids in her class are functioning at a 3 1/2-year-old level. So guess what? That’s the level THE ENTIRE CLASS is geared toward. No, I am not making this up, this is not hyperbole, this is information straight out of the teacher’s mouth. And it’s not her fault, she’s frustrated and screwed by the whole deal worse than anyone. Poor woman’s teaching preschool. It’s absurd. The mainstreamed kids aren’t getting the attention they need and deserve, and the other kids aren’t getting an education. And yes, I know my kid is ridiculously advanced. But you tell me what 5 year old can’t count past 10? Doesn’t know the alphabet? Can’t tell the difference between a square and a triangle or groups of crackers versus groups of pennies. Because these are the thing The Girl’s class has been working on. In fact, they’re only working on counting to 5 at the moment. And did you know that the letter “C” only makes the hard sound as in “cut”? Apparently letters in todays alphabet are no longer multi-tasking. At least, that’s what The Girl learned in the Alphabet Sounds Song the other day.

So… what have we learned today class? I hope we’ve learned that reality is out there somewhere, just waiting for us to acknowledge it again and get back to work, that it’s better to be retarded than disabled, that no kid is any more special than any other no matter how different they may be (although Mozart, Beethoven, Einstein, Monet, Picasso, people like that do stand apart… but the word “rare” would substitute nicely for special-don’t you think?), and that perhaps completely  mainstreaming our kids is NOT the best idea… for anyone… no matter how much you want your kid to be just like everyone else, he’s different… just like everyone else. Love him for it. Celebrate it. Be an advocate for what he NEEDS, not for what you WANT him to have.

And one more thing… before you get completely irate and fire off some comment slamming me for insensitivity and elitism, take a really deep breath, let it out, repeat twice more, and go back and re-read what I’ve written. Slowly. Thoughtfully. Apply logic. If you still think I’m hanging out on the crazy box drinking the kool-aid of superiority, then go ahead and write that email… I love a good competitive discussion…

so here’s what happened

… I mean, it’s a blog for godssake — it’s not rocket surgery.

This is, roughly, the twelvteenth post that I’ve started to write since I got up on my little soap box and had my little verbal tantrum about the state of the public education system and my fears about what will happen to the Girl once the system gets her into its clutches next year. Apparently, after my small tirade, I sat down on my soap box, and have yet to stand back up from my little meditation. Why? Good fucking question. I’m not sure I have any concrete answers yet, but while I was writing and then NOT writing those other eleventeen witty little bits of … uh… blogginess, I did develop several theories regarding my soap box sit-in.

So here’s what happened… After I unintentionally abandoned my darling little blog due to the finally undeniable pull of the universe and the unfortunate incident with the sucking vortex that was the laundry monster, there were a couple of weeks were I actually had my shit together. I KNOW!!! Tell me about it! I was as surprised as anyone. Probably more so, considering I was the one who did all the work, and there was no bribery involved, no threats of … well, anything really. No reason other than an apparent need to defy the universe and exert my all-powerful mom-&-wifeness with a giant Fuck You, Natural Descent Into Entropy, I’m Cleaning My House. And then the last day of school came, and I decided to take the afternoon off, drink a beer (or two), and that’s how I ended up on my education soap box. I was not, however, expecting to actually get RESPONSES to the freakin’ thing. So, that sorta’ sat me on my ass right there.

Now, I said I had “several theories”, as in more than one. So theory 1: knocked on my ass by the fact that people are reading my blog, just by coincidence happen to be stuck on a soapbox at the time.

Included in those responses was one particularly affecting… erm… comment from someone both near and dear to me but is not, and this was the real surprise, my lunatic sister. (Who, btw, you should all know is NOT, in all reality an actual lunatic, clinically speaking anyway, just really really goofy at times.) So this near-and-dear, we’ll call her Professor, because she is (among other things), wrote me a really long, really heartfelt, really personal… response, really, that dredged up a lot of shit from my own frequently painful school years as well as making a lot of good points from a teachers perspective. Again, THUNK, on my ass, this time with my jaw sort of hanging open (but not drooling, thank-you-very-much) because 1.) the Professor reads my blog? Seriously?     !?!?!   and 2.) recalling various and sundry memories of the years between the ages of 10 and 17.

Now, the Professor comes from the Right side of my family. And by that I mean the side of my family that is always right. We have a tendency to not only speak our minds, but we are strongly opinionated and tend to speak in a manner which makes people think we know what we’re talking about even if we’ve no freakin’ clue. Can you say German heritage? So poor Professor, knowing that she had brought up a lot of that less than pleasant muck, was having clicker’s remorse about sending that particular message. (I know this because I ran into her and im’d about it that day.) But ‘cept I’m a growd up now, and have gained much perspective by having my own children. The decade plus of therapy may have helped too…

So as I continued to sit on my soapbox, I wrote back to the Professor, addressing her points, and making a few more of my own, because, as I said, although I was jaw-agape I was not drooling incoherently, just becoming slightly glassy-eyed and dizzy from the height of the soapbox. There was one more note from the Professor because 1.) she’s got the teacher’s perspective, 2.) she’s got a mother’s perspective, 3.) she’s seen 2 bright girls through the public school system and 4.) one of those girls did really well and one of those girls not so well. So she’s got a lot of wisdom to share, and I’m more than glad to be on the receiving end, even if it knocks me on my ass for more than one reason and renders me slack-jawed and just a little dumbstruck (okay, I admit there may have been a little drooling, but just a little!).

Now, I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to do housework from atop a soapbox, but it’s damn near impossible. I did some directing, but for the most part, I adopted an Om pose and let entropy have its way with me.  Which brings me to the final theory regarding my continued residence atop said soapbo, sitting upon said ass. It’s been less than a week since I took up my Om pose (a grand total of 5 days — 6 if you count that first day off) and while nothing is out of control, there are no sucking vortexes of laundry, no battles between dirty laundry and dirty dishes for domain over the hallway  or kitchen, and the only thing that is really in desperate shape is the Things’ room (that actually may be close to sucking vortex status, but I refuse to get close enough to confirm), my Om has become disgruntled. I am well aware that as a Toddler Life Coach and professional Military Wife, albeit the worst one ever, the cooking-cleaning-laundry schtick is supposed to be my bit. Yeah, I know. But dammit, I am NOT the only person with arms in this house! Other people ARE capable of working the broom! And the vacuum! Picking up toys! And doing it BEFORE it reaches a full entropic state, thank-you-very-much.

So the final theory? I’m a disgruntled housewife who doesn’t WANT to come down yet. There’s no laundry up here, the floors are clean, and nobody just throws shit on the floor rather than putting it away. I like my soapbox dammit. Now if only I could figure out how to get my bed up here…