Landmark Decision for Special Education

I wrote about Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District for the Atlantic in January. At that time, the case was under review by Supreme Court. The justices were debating whether or not children with special needs were entitled to an education that provided them with de minimus benefits — basically no benefits – or whether they were entitled an education that enabled them to make progress.

Today, SCOTUS ruled in favor of Endew F. and all special ed kids. Yahoo!

And this happened just as Judge Neil Gorsuch was being questioned by the Senate. He was forced to explain to Congress why he ruled against special education students in several cases. He was forced to admit that he was wrong.

Oh, life is very, very good today.

Turmoil on the College Campus (and elsewhere)

I’m pulling together research on the on-going protests on college campuses. I don’t have an article in the works yet. Just gathering info. I thought I would share some of the links here this afternoon without commentary.

Fox News reports on research from Brookings that found that most of the protests to date have happened at schools with a wealthier student body. “Since 2014, at the 90 or so colleges that have tried to disinvite conservatives from speaking, the average student comes from a family with an annual income $32,000 higher than that of the overall average student in America, the Brookings study found.”

In the Chronicle, Stanley Fish pushes back against the idea that a university is a place for free speech.

Freedom of speech is not an academic value. Accuracy of speech is an academic value; completeness of speech is an academic value; relevance of speech is an academic value. Each of these values is directly related to the goal of academic inquiry: getting a matter of fact right. The operative commonplace is “following the evidence wherever it leads.” You can’t do that if your sources are suspect or nonexistent; you can’t do that if you only consider evidence favorable to your biases; you can’t do that if your evidence is far afield and hasn’t been persuasively connected to the instant matter of fact.

Charles Murray continues to give campus talks. He was at Duke and Columbia this week. The faculty at Columbia released a statement.

The University of Chicago is creating a system for punishing students who violate their free speech policy.

The Chronicle has a great round-up of all the campus protests against conservative speakers, as well as the white supremacist garbage that’s also going on.

Another opinion in the Chronicle:

The desire to cleanse the campus of dissident voices has become something of a mission. Shaming, scapegoating, and periodic ritual exorcisms are a prime feature of campus life. A distinguished scholar at my own college writes in an open email letter to the faculty that when colleagues who are “different” (in his case, nonwhite, nonstraight, nonmale) speak to us we are compelled not merely to listen but to “validate their experiences.” When we meet at a faculty reception a week or so later and he asks what I think of his letter, I tell him I admire his willingness to share his thoughts but have been puzzling over the word “compelled” and the expression “validate their experiences.” Does he mean thereby to suggest that if we have doubts or misgivings about what a colleague has said to us, we should keep our mouths firmly shut? Exactly, replies my earnest, right-minded colleague.

A profile of FIRE.

Another shouting down of a speaker at McMasters College.

This is just two days of articles. I feel like things are heating up. And not just on the college campus. I went to a meeting for local Democratic women a few weeks ago. It was the first time I went to one of their events. It was standing room only. Lots of first timers there.

 

 

Trump’s Budget Isn’t a Surprise

I’m reading commentary on Donald Trump’s budget with a certain amount of dread. It’s exactly what he promised. We shouldn’t be surprised, but still I’m depressed.

Let me just focus for a minute on the funding for special education and services, because it’s very much on my mind today. I put aside the rest of the day to find appropriate programs for Ian for the 2-1/2 months of summer.

Ian’s public school will take care of him for a half day through July, but that’s all I have. Without lots of stimulating activity during the summer, he’ll retreat to his computer and have no socialization. He’ll be mute by the time we get to September. There are no state sponsored activities that are appropriate for him, so it’s going to be lots of out-of-pocket expenses with me not working at all, so I can drive him around.

I’ve been calling the financial aid offices at several colleges if see they’ll take into consideration our special education expenses when putting together a financial aid package for Jonah. They won’t. They also don’t care that we wasted too many years in graduate school and didn’t get started on new careers until our mid-30s.

When things get tighter for the special education community, we go into isolationist mode. We take care of our kids first, and we stop advocating for the greater community.  I know very well that as tough as things get for us, it is NOTHING compared to families with less means and with kids with more severe problems. (I have horror stories.) But the responsibility of a parent to care for his/her kid first. I can’t advocate for others, if I’m scrounging around for my kid.

Things are going to get tighter for families like ours. For families with less means and more severely disabled kids, situations will become dire.

I need a little more time to read everything and figure out specific details.

How will the cuts in the budget impact you and your family?

UPDATE: What to be depressed? Look at this chart.

 

Jersey Towns

New Jersey is a strange place. Sandwiched in between New York City and Philadelphia, New Jersey doesn’t have its own culture or personality. In the North, we know more about the traffic patterns of Cross Bronx expressway than what’s going on around the Meadowlands; South Jersey cheers for the Phillies. People here self-identify based on their towns, not the state. People will say that they’re from Secaucus or Paterson, not from Jersey.

If all politics are local, Jersey takes it a step further. All life is local here. People grow up in their towns and never leave. They coach their kid’s little league games on the same fields that they played on as kids. They gradually will open up to new people who land in their towns and will be friendly enough, but their loyalties always remain with the long standing locals and their relatives who all live about ten minutes away. Sundays mean huge extended families and a large pasta dinner.

We moved to our first home in a New Jersey town, when Jonah was five. We needed a backyard and nearby schools. We embraced our new lives and planned on staying for the long haul. But then, things started falling apart. Our youngest son didn’t attend school in the town, because of his disability, so we only had one kid involved in the town life, which centered around the kids’ sports leagues. Our property value kept dropping, because new zoning laws put our home just a few yards from a commercial district. The test scores for the school put the town on a NCLB watchlist, and nobody seemed to care.

We put the house – a home that we had lovingly restored – on the market and moved six years ago to a new town. It  was a big deal. Some of our old friends stopped talking to us. Jonah was in middle school at the time and he had a rough transition. We went from a 15-year to a 30-year mortgage. But we were desperate. We needed a change.

It was a gamble. We didn’t really know that the new town would provide our kids with a better education. We didn’t really know if the house would be a good investment. We didn’t really know if we would fit into this new community.

This town has more people who have lived elsewhere, more professionals, higher school test scores, sports teams that win everything, and is much, much bigger. But that’s just stats on a wikipedia page. What about the intangibles?

Friends asked me last week, if we did the right thing. I had a few glasses of wine in me at the time, and didn’t have a great answer ready. I’ve been thinking about this question all week.

This town is different from a lot of other Jersey towns, because it is so atypically Jersey. It’s not based on tribal family ties, but on a tradition of social capital. There are a million different clubs and activities. I’ve been at meetings for the school or politics every night this week. People volunteer like crazy. And they have super high skill levels. The presidents of the PTA have MBA’s from Harvard or ran the publicity department of a Fortune 500 company before becoming a stay at home mother.

The Newcomers club has hundreds of members. There are genealogy societies at the library. The Presbyterian church hosted the West Point marching band. The Catholic church runs a food kitchen. There’s the League of Women Voters, a historical society, tech classes, cooking classes, amateur birding clubs, dozens of book groups, free movies.

Since I spend so many hours in front of a computer during the day, it’s nice to have those social outlets in the evening. With only one kid in the local public school, I’m much less plugged in than others, but I get by.

With all the intensity in town, I can’t say for certain that the move was great for our kids. Somethings they do get lost in shuffle. There have been pros and cons, for sure. Steve and myself benefitted in more obvious ways though we still bat around the idea of moving back to Manhattan when Ian finishes school.

I suppose I still don’t have a great answer about whether or not our gamble paid off. For the present, it did.

What About the Farm Kids?

A while back, I was looking at college admission trends for the Atlantic. I learned that Columbia, for example, admitted more kids from China than the entire Midwest. I can’t remember if that finding made it through the editing process.

Well, the NYT wrote an article about the lack of representation of rural kids in colleges.

To college administrators, rural students, many of them the first in their families to attend college, have become the new underrepresented minority. In their aim to shape leaders and provide access to the disadvantaged, higher education experts have been recognizing that these students bring valuable experiences and viewpoints to campuses that don’t typically attract agriculture majors. Rural students, said Adam Sapp, admissions director at Pomona College, have “a different understanding of complicated political and social issues,” offering “one more lens through which to see a problem.”

Can’t Keep Up

I’m can’t keep up. Every hour, the automatic news alerts or the twitterfeed sends me some new notice of hell-in-a-handbasket. It’s insanity. Now, Mexico is backing of a meeting with Donald Trump, because of the wall craziness. KellyAnne Conway was doing her truth bending exercises on the Today Show this morning. I would love to put a blog post announcing ever new twist in politics, but I can’t. I am barely keeping my own shit together at the moment. (All the college stuff has pushed parenting responsibilities into hyperdrive. Plus new work opportunities. Plus my usual volunteer stuff for special needs kids.)

I did an article for the Atlantic last week that required a million rewrites, because change is happening too rapidly. And then it hardly mattered, because the news was old by the time the article was finished. It still did well thanks to attention from Autism Speaks, but it wasn’t on the Most Popular list for very long. Donald Trump controls the media agenda right now and he keeps doing new things every hour or so.

Pipeline. The Wall. Nukes. The NEA. ACA. Every minute, it’s something new.

Politics isn’t supposed to work this way.

And then the bureaucrats respond. And what about Melania? Do we feel sorry for her?

I don’t even have time to find the hyperlinks for those articles.

Pink Ears

I didn’t join my friends at the march in New York City or DC this weekend, because we had a weekend getaway planned. I did monitor everyone’s progress on Facebook though, while sitting with a mound of disguarded snow gear at the lodge in the Poconos. It was easier for me to the guardian of the crap than venture out on the slopes. It’s been 25 years since I was last on skis, and it was too much trouble to take lessons, while everyone else was going in different directions. When I got home, I got more feedback on the event.

Everyone said it was remarkably positive and inclusive. Everybody had their own reasons for being there. Some were there for the environment, others for women’s issues, others for immigration. I wonder if anyone has crunched the numbers to find out what the biggest issues were.

It was also freed from the usual activist crap that turns off average people. There wasn’t any of theory/jargon/self-hatred/ naval-gazing that has weighed down other protests. There was any one group of professionals looking to score points and congratulate themselves.

It was a beginner’s protest. A whole lot of attendees  never attended a protest before. That’s great. It was a different kind of populism from Trump’s brand of populism.

At one point during the weekend, Steve and I left the boys in the room and went down to the bar for a drink. The large TV over the bar was showing the protests on FOX. Our bartender started complaining about all the violence. (There wasn’t any, but whatever.) She said, all those people should just give Trump a chance. We just smiled. We were in rural Pennsylvania afterall.