06 April 2011

There was a disability awareness day at the statehouse today and as part of a LEND assignment I signed up to talk to legislators. Way out of my comfort zone and something that I was putting off with the possibility of never doing it. But I was inspired to be in rooms with people of all sorts of abilities speaking for what they believed. The proposed budget that the evil Gov. Walker proposes cuts the guts out of education, medicaid, housing, transitional programs and all sorts of programs for those that need it most in favor of business and rich people. What's the deal? Rich people??

And so, how could I not speak about education, about what our children may be missing if the republicans do what they want to do to this incredible state. And saying republicans, I can't believe that some of the good conservatives that I know agree with what is going on. Taking from the middle class and the disabled and children is not a conservative value. Is it? Deficits can be made up by taxing that upper 5%, by imposing more sales tax, or by cutting out the incentives for big business to relocate. Not by cutting from those who need it most. Then again, maybe it is time for the feds to fund schools and for the defense department to run bake sales.

There is a bottom line about education. There are not many private schools in Madison. No where near the number that are in Indianapolis. And that is because people send their kids to public school! The public schools are not perfect but they are good and accessible. And Julia and kids like her are mainstreamed. And mainstreaming for Julia has been incredible. In a regular ed classroom with aids, she learned to change her behavior because she wanted to be in class with her peers and not be pulled up due to her behavior. If she was in a special ed classroom, would there be a reason to learn better behavior or would she have just fit in. And I saw a little boy last week whose parents are trying to decide whether to ask for an IEP for him. If he get special ed, which he undoubtedly needs, he will be put in a cluster classroom -- a room where they can cluster the special ed kids together because there are not enough general ed aids to keep kids like him in the regular ed classroom. This kid was like Julia -- bright and with lots of needs -- but give him a few years with great support and I just bet he learns enough to be independent. Like Julia. She is and will learn. And so that is what I talked about.

And there was a measure of pleasure getting on my soap box and preaching to the choir. I am not necessarily a strong advocate, or a coherent, good advocate, but I did it and I learned.

I feel I carry a deep pessimism these days. I cannot believe the awful changes that I am seeing. I don't understand the conservative mindset. If we don't make room for our differently abled citizens, then who will? If we don't as a community care deeply about children, who will? Why gather money and power? Just why? I know that the nation is built on the complex marriage of independence and community. I have known so many people in Indiana who believed that each of us can do everything for ourselves without help, and I think that those people are so lucky to be able to believe in that selfish and self interested way of living. Have they worked at jobs without health insurance? Do they have a disabled child? Have they been on food stamps? But most of all, do they lack all imagination that they cannot imagine that there but for some grace they could be?

Julia and her challenges have made community essential to my life, to our life, but I believed in it before Julia. I did not need to live it to want it. Are there really people who suffer from such a lack of imagination? And is the reach for money and power so enticing that simple goodness and caring for others loses out?

And so, it was an invigorating day but one that I still puzzle over. I do not understand what seems to be at least half of the people in this community, this state, this country. Once again, bottom line: I cannot understand why any person living in the United States would not want to pay their share for the best education for every child in the country. Anything less is shortsighted and plain stupid.

Getting off soap box and using it only to reach the baking pans on top of the cabinets.


Marianne Fraser said...

Hi Suzanne, Love your passion about how great integration is for many children on the ASD spectrum. I feel you are so right. If Jukia had been in a special chool she would not have made the same social progress.

It is very expensive to provide the level of support that Julia gets, but the benefits are enormous. However, you are right : many people jut cannot imagine themselves being in that situation. They condemn those who cannot fend for themselves.

America is a wonderful country for the rich, and even for most of the middle class, but it does not do a good job of looking after the poorer members of their society. So many people pride themselves that they do not live in a welfare state.

It is better here in many ways, but the kind of program you got for Julia does not exist as far as I know. Such intense home therapy is paying off. Let's think positive about the estate being finalised. What a nightmare.

Love, Marianne

Anonymous said...

You are so lucid and make so much common sense! As one of our former Education leaders once said, "If you think education is expensive, try ignorance."
Education is our hope for the future...the past we inherit, the future we create.
Keep talking!