Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Sometimes, It Makes You Want to Cry

I decided to take a little while to surf the homeschooling web for a while this morning for the first time in many days. I thought a little fun was in order before buckling down to preparing for tomorrows IRD classes in Santa Fe. The best laid plans....

Instead of enjoying lighthearted talk about summer plans, I can upon this story: Teacher Lets Morningside Students Vote Out Classmate, 5.

Apparently, a little boy in a Florida school who was in the process of being diagnosed with AS was made to stand in the front of the kindergarten (!) class by his teacher, who proceeded to make the other students--also small children--say nasty things about him. She then had the children vote to "take Alex off the island." The teacher did this because she was tired of dealing with Alex's strange behavior.

I had to stop reading at this point and reach for the tissue.

What was worse to read were the comments that supported this state-sanctioned bullying in the name of imposing discipline in school.

Unfortunately, although some of those who commented think otherwise, this kind of story is not rare. Rather, such stories rarely reach the newspapers. Go and sit among parents of children with learning disabilities, ASD, food allergies, and any disability that is not obvious from the appearance of the child, and listen. If you have any compassion or plain old good will towards people, you will need a whole box of tissues.

Every family of a child with disabilities has a story the Teacher from Hell or the School from Hell.

We have ours. And that is part of the reason that we chose homeschooling.

We had the Third Grade Teacher From Hell at a well-regarded school in the Northeast Heights of Albuquerque. Despite numerous requests to have N. removed from her classroom, we were refused until I said the magic words: "We are consulting with a lawyer..." It was amazing how fast the principal determined that the "policy" of never moving a child could be set aside.

And it is ridiculous that parents must threaten legal action to get their children's educational needs met in schools that are funded with their own money taken from them by force. Since that moment when those fateful words came out of my mouth, I have never met a school funding proposal that I liked enough to vote for.

But back to this not-so-unusual story.

The one in which an adult who should have known better not only bullied a child in front of his peers, but taught those peers that bullying is right action. Back to the idea that such behavior is appropriate discipline.

Discipline? The Greek root of this word means "teaching."

So, when confronted with the idea, we should ask ourselves what was this woman teaching?

First, consider what Alex learned.

He learned that teachers are not to be trusted.

He learned that the classroom is not a safe place.

He learned that adults will not help him with the extreme anxiety that comes with being unable to recognize and understand social interactions on an intuitive level.

He learned that his differences make him unworthy of being treated like a human being.

Now consider what the 14 children who voted Alex out of the classroom learned.

They learned that if an authority sanctions an action, it must be right. No matter how nasty the action is, might makes right.

They learned that bullying someone who is smaller, weaker, or different is appropriate action.

They learned that certain differences put another person outside the pale of human regard.

That teacher not only broke the heart of a child who has only walked on this earth for five years, she also taught barbarism to the the other children in her care.
This was teaching of the very worst kind.

Teaching like this happens every day in the public schools across the land.
The schools that children are forced to attend by law.

I think the teacher's unions need to stop worrying about how to control the miniscule percentage of people who homeschool their kids, and address this much greater problem of barbarian education.

This teaching of educational conformity of thought makes me even more proud to call myself an Educational Anarchist.


denise said...

Oh my. That is horrific. I agree with you not only about the damage done to this little 5 year old boy, but also about the "lessons learned" by his classmates. Sickening.

Amie said...

That article sickened me to the core. Unbelievable.

Sarah said...

That story was so awful, at first I thought it couldn't possibly be true.

The poor boy, and the kids that were taught to bully him--ugh, how can somebody do that??

Anonymous said...

How horrible! Unfortunately, this type of situation is more common than we'd like to believe. Your assessment was outstanding. I agree that this is something that government education should address, but is unlikely too until there is genuine and substantial public outcry. For that reason and many other similar reasons, I also feel obligated to think twice before voting on some public school bond issue. It's also why we are now homeschooling as well.