Punching Stupid and Evil in the Face Since 1986!

"We are on strike, we the men of the mind. We are on strike against self-immolation. We are on strike against the creed of unearned rewards and unrewarded duties."-John Galt

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Tell your kids they can do anything...unless they have special needs.

It is unbelievable to me that a special needs student who worked hard and made something out of his life has suddenly been thrust into the limelight and is being criticized for succeeding. Otis Mathis, president of the Detroit city schools, has a learning disability identified early in life, but that has not stopped him. Despite that challenge, he graduated high school AND college, then went on to be a teacher and now school board president.

As if Detroit doesn't have enough problems these days, the president of the city's school board offered the shocking admission that he can't pen a coherent sentence.

Otis Mathis, who oversees the academic future of 90,000 public school students, told the Detroit News that he's a "horrible writer" after reports surfaced that he sent a Feb. 29 e-mail to the financial manager of Detroit Public Schools that was rife with spelling, punctuation and usage errors.

Some parents are now questioning whether Mathis is fit for his role.

"It's kind of scary to even talk about," Patrick Martin, 49, a Detroit contractor whose 12-year-old son is a student at Noble Middle School, told the paper. "If this is the leader, what does it say about the followers? It explains a lot about why there's so much confusion and infighting with the board and Robert Bobb."

I thought we were to encourage our children to reach for the stars. I thought we wanted them to believe there was no goal they couldn't attain if they set their mind to it. I thought opportunity and achievement were unlimited to those striving to be the best. I thought we wanted all people to have the same chance at greatness............

Apparently, we do, as long as they never have a special need in their life. We do, as long as they never have some accommodation to help them comprehend. We do, as long as they are "normal" or "average". Then? The sky is the limit........Anything less is to be shunned or discarded.

As the parent of a special needs student I can tell you she works just as hard, if not harder, than my "normal" child. Her IQ is high, her will strong and her tenacity unmatched. Don't ever tell that kid there is a goal she cannot achieve should she so desire. I cannot ever imagine criticizing her for succeeding. I want her to be all that she can. I want her to struggle and fall-then power through to her right end. I would never let anyone tell her there was something she could not do.

Given the state of the Detroit public school system, I have little doubt I would disagree with Mr. Mathis' policies. I doubt I would make the same choices he might be making for the students and the district, but there is no doubt I would never blame those failings or differences on his learning disability. He has gone through the process, he climbed the ladder to get where he is, he was voted in by his peers 10-1 for the position of School Board President. He followed the path that was right for him and he earned his position.
"Instead of telling them that they can't write and won't be anything, I show that cannot stop you," Mathis told the paper. "If Detroit Public Schools can allow kids to dream, with whatever weakness they have, that's something....It's not about what you don't have. It's what you can do."

What message are we sending to kids when we criticize this man for having utilized the services and tools that were offered to him while going through the school system? What message are we sending to students when on the one hand we preach all day about equality and merit based rewards and on the other infer Mr. Mathis has overstepped his bounds by achieving?

The message we are sending is you are great and good........unless you're not.............Know your place in this world and to be sure, others are the ones to decide for you what that place is.