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Thursday, April 26, 2012

Special and Driving

My brother and I were having a conversation about some of the more odd things that go on during our day.  One of his students came by his office to try to re-take the midterm.  At his school, the semester is about over and the final grades are done.  Why was this person asking to take the midterm again?  Apparently, this guy 'didn't feel well' and was 'stressed' and 'had had a bad day' on the exam day.  It is also interesting to note that this student had told my brother in the beginning of the semester that he was a special education classified student and 'could he get more time'?  The class is 3 hours long, and my brother told him that he could use all of the three hours, but no extra time after that.

It was the direction and focus of this guy's motivation that was fascinating.  Some things:  This man found my brother's office address, and went out of his way to drive there simply to ask a question.  He is competent enough to have passed the drivers exam, a test where no one is allowed extra time.  It isn't even graded - it's simply pass / fail.  We'll never know his score, nor are our drivers exam scores posted on the side of our cars.  If scores were so important, why don't we know everyone's driver's exam scores or SAT scores for that matter?  If you don't care, then why is it a big deal?  So few fail the drivers exam, a test you can take repeatedly until you pass, that the test is practically meaningless.  This throws the Testing Program system we're in into the waste bin.  People can operate a ton of steel at high speeds, with 3 sticks of dynamite in the back, and the "exam" to do this is a pure farce.  Why do we need managers or politicians if people can be trusted to roll around at high speed in explosive high speed projectiles?  (a stick of dynamite and 5 gallons of gas have around the same explosive potential).  Gas happens to also be readily available to anyone with a loose tank or a car.  Seems to put the gun control argument into the circular file.

This reminded me of a John Taylor Gatto snippet where mentions school and special education.  I'll paraphrase, but he mentioned how in school a boy who reads at age four is slowed down to wait for the other kids, and the girl who doesn't read until age nine is labeled "special ed" and relegated with that black mark for the rest of her life.  When did you learn how to read?  When did I?  Do you know when your dentist or the airline pilot who flew you around the country learned to read?  How much does it matter?  People learn at different rates and different times.  I have had meetings about our special ed students, and the entire meeting is about providing their services, to which they have a 'right'.  A huge file and a massive bureaucracy is set up around the student, and a laundry list of ailments is used to describe teenage behavior.  The student, after 12 years of this, begins to think that this is how the world works - I'll get 'help' at every turn, and I can't be disciplined if I cause havoc.  Special ed students have a different, and much more lenient set of rules for discipline.  I can't help but think we are harming these students.  Not only are they seen as coming from the "bad" school, but they are doubly charged with being 'special ed' and having 'issues' like ADHD.  We're stifling creativity and entrepreneurship and rugged individualism with all of these students.  Most of the special ed students require someone to read the exams for them.  This is creating battalions of entitled students, who are intellectually limited and feel that they are owed 'services' at every turn.  This is creating a nation of serfs.

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