The Brooklyn BrainLady

teaching & learning, in a fancy dress

My previous post pointed out the dearth of time dedicated to educational planning for students with learning disabilities, prompted by Tracy Thompson’s piece in the Atlantic, The Special Education Charade. The article spoke many unfortunate truths, however the words that rattled me most were those in the commentary below it:

“Educate your kids at home then. Teachers don’t have all the time in the world to cater to your hyper kid. One child can not and should not be able to keep a classroom full of kids from learning. Ignorant parents can’t seem to get this through their thick skull.”

“I never understand why people expect PUBLIC schools to cater to their particular child. If your kid needs such special attention, keep them home and school them yourself or find a special school for them.”

“Its not fair to cut gym and arts classes for all students to use that money on just one or two students.”

“…priorities must be attended. Let the special needs kids fail.”


When I first read these comments, I couldn’t believe what I was reading. The feature was about a 14 year-old girl with AD/HD, central auditory processing disorder and anxiety. Since when are students ejected from a public school because of those issues? And then I remembered where I work- a private school full of students with that very profile, in that very situation. [audible sigh]

But this isn’t about what “kinds of kids” should and shouldn’t be allowed in public school. That was decided back in 1975 when President Ford signed the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Unless you’re going to take a case to the Supreme Court, it’s a moot point. To me, this is an extension of an attitude permeating American discourse on everything from welfare to foreign policy:

I’m not getting mine, so you shouldn’t get yours.

Since when do we allocate resources to only those who are worth it? We’re a country founded as a haven for the marginalized. Dig deeply enough into our shared history and you are bound to find an ancestor who was deemed “not worth it” someplace else. But you can’t ask a member of a disenfranchised population to empathize with another unless they themselves feel heard.

So, anonymous posters, what is it that you have been denied? What do you really want to talk about? Because I have a hard time believing you wish to deprive “hyper kids” the right to be educated in a classroom with their same-aged peers.

What aren’t you getting and how can I help you get it?

Would your education have been different if someone asked you that question? Was there a time you weren’t getting something and you had to sit with the burning shame rather than raise your hand and ask for help? I’m sorry you were raised in that kind of classroom. But you’re in a larger classroom now- full of resources and nonprofits and Meetup groups and gradually increasing mental health coverage. There are so many ways for you to get what you need now. You just have to ask. And if no one listens, ask louder. Try again. You have that right in this country.

Rather than scorn those who are asking for help, I implore you be a model for it. Children are watching. Teach them to know what they need and how to ask for it. Rather than create a country of the fittest, help to create a country of interconnectedness. For as Dr. King pointed out, we’re already in one, an inescapable network of mutuality. I want you to get what you need. How can I help?

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