Quality Education: "It's Not a Choice!"
by Marsha Forest & Jack Pearpoint
Segregation is NOT acceptable. It is bad
pedagogy (for ALL children), it is uneconomic, immoral and unethical.
In short, segregation must stop. This newspaper is about how
to integrate children, end segregation, and improve educational
outcomes for all.
Annie, Tommy, Jay, Andreas, Katherine,
Becky, Erica, Mark, Greg, Miller, Katherine, Peter... the list
is too long and too painful to produce. These are the names of
children who have been rejected by the public schools of Canada
and the USA. They are black and white, girls and boys, youth
and teenagers. In common is their parent's simple dream of having
their children accepted and educated in one quality school alongside
their neighbors. In common is their rejection from the schools
of our nations. In common is the label "disabled" pinned
on them, like the yellow star pinned on people labeled Jewish,
and the pink triangle pinned on people labeled homosexual, during
that terrible period called World War II.
The Nurenberg Trials confirmed to the world
that pinning yellow stars and pink triangles on people was unacceptable.
It was ruled a crime against "humanity". But today,
no Nurenberg trials have ruled that IQ scores and disability
labels are often death sentences to the children we "place"
into "disability" boxes. Special education is one such
disability box which we know now is neither special nor indeed
educational in any sense of the word. This is no longer hot "news."
The data has been in for several years. The outcome for people
labeled "disabled" is a life of loneliness, poverty,
and joblessness - not an outcome any family would choose for
their sons or daughters. Despite this data, segregation still
thrives and is considered an "acceptable" educational
placement and practice. It is still OK to talk of "them"
and "us." It is still a choice.
No matter where we go, people are talking
about the "Butwhatabout" Kids. Some of the presently
popular euphemisms include hard to serve, at-risk, etc. Why don't
we just admit it outright. These are children and teenagers who
scare us to death, who threaten our mortality and who make us
vulnerable and nervous. That is natural, normal and human. What
is unnatural, abnormal, unacceptable and inhuman is our systematic
"boxing" and subsequent rejection of the people - or
the illusions about people that we fear. We encourage people
to square off with the fear - conquer it, and welcome all people
back to our communities - complete with their mortality, vulnerability
and incredible capacities to teach us about what is important
THE MONSTER WE CALL FEAR
The first task is to face this monster
called fear. Mythology tells us that most monsters are slain
merely by facing them. We don't tell teachers to give up their
fears. Rather, we suggest they face them - head on; take up a
mighty sword and slay them, one by one.
FEAR is the most frequent word we hear
as we talk with educators. "Don't be afraid," many
people say. But not us. We encourage teachers to, "Be afraid!
Talk about the fear. Name it! Get it on the table!" When
the fear monster is out in the open, you can kill it, go around
it, or learn to ignore it. You can manage it. But as long as
the fear is unnamed, the fantasy will frighten us more than any
reality. Fear of the unknown, fear of failure, fear of not knowing
what to do, fear of mortality. These are real fears. Once faced,
fears can be overcome.
When we meet fearful teachers, we offer
a little "monster dust". We propose an alternative
to these fearful human mortals who are just like us. Our "monster
powders" are state of the art strategies that build confidence
and a better future for all our children. MAPS, PATH and CIRCLES
of FRIENDS are tools which take the responsibility off one person
and puts planning in the hands of a team comprised of school
personnel, family and the children themselves.
We no longer have to prove that quality
education can work. It can. It is now up to others to justify
why they cannot deliver quality education to all children.
REVERSING REJECTION - FULL INCLUSION
The Centre for Integrated Education and
Community is devoted to reversing the rejection of the Beckys,
Katherines, Judiths, Suneels, Sunitas, etc. We are developing
state of the art strategies and training workshops to help systems
and individuals reverse the terrible tide of segregation and
engage the challenge and thrill of full inclusion for all. Because
we are white water canoe and kayak enthusiasts, we see the path
like a white water rapid - full of rocks and churning water -
but a great challenge and lots of fun!