Sunday, February 1, 2015

Issues with infusing disability civil rights into public education

Alright, so how do we infuse our discussion into our lives and the lives of others? This question always plagues me, and it was put out there for us toward the end of class as basically a mission statement. We spent some time talking about the school system and its curriculum - and its lack of covering the disability civil rights movement. This is where my brain tends to go when I think of changing the cultural mindset of our society: it probably should happen in the school, starting with the younger children so it becomes a part of their lifestyle instead of trying to change the people we already have in our working society. That's definitely the easier route. And you know, it's fairly easy to do - on paper. I worked out draft curriculum suggestions for social studies in grades 6-8 and 9-12 a couple summers ago. The idea was to make civil rights movements more accessible to students. I used the NYS Standards draft that was available in 2013 to frame my suggestions. Movements regarding race, poverty, sex, sexual identity and preference, and disability all easily overlap each other, and build on each other - which is one of the cornerstones of the new standards: to be able to compare and contrast periods of history and movements to analyze the many facets of each and how they relate to each other. The goal is to get a multi-dimensional view of how different periods of history correlate to each other.

Where the problem lies, as always, is implementation. How will teachers find the time to implement these curriculum changes when the most they get to on a regular basis is just the surface - MLK, Jr and the KKK. How do we move past that when there are so many obstacles in the way - such as hours upon hours of testing, and even more preparation for such testing. How do we get these "controversial" topics into the curriculum without offending so many people? And how can we justify a national movement of such when the schools are supposed to be controlled by the State (and local governance) and not on a national scale via the Federal Government? These questions also plague me. 

Do we say that there are certain curriculum that should be required nationwide (just look up Flag Day and you'll find national requirements)? And how do we then ensure that certain integrities of such a program are met? Who decides? Does it, in fact, become part of a national curriculum, or part of a national standard (there is a huge difference)?

And who has the ultimate say? Not politicians. Not teachers. Not parents. Right now, the people pulling the strings are in private industry. These are the people in charge of consortia such as Smarter Balanced and PARCC. I say this not to get into the back-and-forth of the educational reform movement, but to make the point that this is not something that is easily broken into. It is fact that these companies have a huge amount of control over what is taught, tested, and (the almost finished portion of) what teacher prep programs cover. These are practical monopolies over student education. And to make headway into even local curriculum - which is how all curriculum is supposed to be set anyhow - one must wade through the private, corporate affiliations that offer big money to our schools (through federal grants, aid, and the requirements to receive such money).

I feel that is the issue. Because in order to make an impact on the children that will soon be part of our working society, we must first make an impression on these huge conglomerations, where all lives do not matter, where the most important thing is the bottom line, and where human life can be measured by monetary output. All these things that we discussed in class that had all of us disgusted with the reports being released and the "bottom line" mentality that measures profit and quantity instead of quality of life. This is what is at the heart of the private education corporations. The people in charge of the corporations might think that civil rights issues are necessary and good and right, but corporations flourish where the dollar is the measuring post, not humanitarian needs. And the people in charge of these corporations are happiest when their pockets are full. How do we change that??

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