Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Equal opportunity?

I'm just wondering.

I know that the President traveled to Rochester, New York for a photo op with Jason McElwain, the 17-year-old with autism who scored 20 points in four minutes of play during a high school basketball game.

Will he also make the trip to Portland, Oregon to stand before the cameras with Jared Guinther, the 18-year-old with autism who has been recruited by the Army to fill their most dangerous job, cavalry scout?

I mean, it's only fair.

After all, Jason McElwain achieved success in inclusion classrooms and public education despite the policies and priorities of the Bush administration.

But Jared Guinther is preparing to report for basic training in August because of them.


kristina said...

Basketball; armed forces in Iraq.

Now which does the President care about more? (Photo-op-wise.)

Anonymous said...

My brother who is a Captain in the US Navy, a physician in General Practice and a war veteran said that this young man will not pass the physical based on his past medical history and other factors. Unfortunately recruiters, like much of the public are not educated on the condition of autism. This DOES NOT excuse their behavior.
In my experience with special ed in the schools it has been the Americans with Disabilities Act that has opened more doors for special needs kids than the Education Department. That was signed into law in 1990 by Bush '41.
The Federal Dept of Education is spending more per pupil than ever and the way the states distribute that money is uneven at best. More money goes toward the procuring and administering of standardized testing than I am comfortable with. These tests produce stressed out kids and parents. Unfortunately when parents complained about standards in education and wanting better educated kids the response was we will test them. What I believe parents fail to recognize is that the responsibility for well disciplined kids who study lies within the home, not a classroom.
There doesn't seem to be an easy answer when you have a culture as diverse as America where sports stars, rappers and movie stars are regarded as the "heroes"
Even in the Jason McIlwain story: what got this kid attention was that he made some baskets, not the fact that he is completing high school and going to college. What does that say about us the American public? We drive the uneven balance between attention given to academics and to other pursuits like sports.
I know I am preaching here but if we cannot produce home environments that place a HEALTHY emphasis on academics and discipline then what makes us feel a government of ANY political persuasion will do a better job?
I do have a son in special ed in the Florida school system and I am very disheartened to know that teachers salaries are tied to how my son performs on a test he will not take until third grade. I would preder government to get out of education altogether, the private sector could do a better job administering government funds.
Sorry for the rant.

Anonymous said...

Mary Beth, I think you are mixing up the American with Disabilities Act and IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act). IDEA was enacted in the 1970s, this is the law that requires children with disabilities to recieve a free, appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment.

Before IDEA it was legal for schools to say "we can't educate your child," and turn the child away. And they often did.

Yes, not every school does as good a job educating special needs children as they could. But we are still much better off now than we were before IDEA.

Anonymous said...

I want the Prezzy-Dent to pose with MY kid, 'cuz HE'S pretty damned special, lemmie tell YOU!!

i wonder what will come o' this??

Anonymous said...

I live in a Rochester, NY suburb - not the same one Jason attends school in. I am also chairperson for our district's support group for parents of children with special needs. I have a nine year old autistic son.
Jason's story would have remained right in the Rochester area had it not been for the accompanying video tape. It's not the baskets alone that captivated the large audience it did. The 3-pointers were great, but it was the visual of the crowd's erruptions and support of the school and community that caught the eye of those outside of Rochester. Even my own family members couldn't understand why this story was "getting so much mileage." I got it then and I get it all the more after my brush with the famous "J-Mac."
Last month I was sitting in the hair salon, again, outside the district which Jason attends, and in walked Jason with 2 other friends. All the women were making a big deal about a "celebrity" being there and I just stood back and observed. To the best of my knowledge, I was the ony person in the small salon affected personally by autism. I was the only one who didn't lunge at the chance to shake his hand. As inspiring as I think his family's story is, my only desire was to watch him. I was truly impressed by the fact that Jason looked and acted like a typical teenager. The only time the autism was even apparent was when he was shaking hands with some of the women (no eye contact and minimal conversation). He looked so much more relaxed than he has on those awful TV interviews and he genuinely appeared to be unaffected by the hype that has surrounded him.
The story is definitely not about the baskets here. I don't want a moment in the spotlight for my son like Jason had. I don't want him to play basketball or any other sport if that's not what he's into. What I want is a little bit of what I saw in the hair salon a month ago: A happy teenager hanging and sharing a laugh or two with friends.

I have nothing against President Bush for wanting to meet Jason at the airport the day he came into town (a political trip he had already scheduled by the way -- not a special trip to Rochester to meet Jason). I am non-political, but isn't it G.W. who passed the most important piece of education legsilation in the past 30 years with the No Child Left Behind Act? Did not IDEA just undergo another much-needed revision under this administration? Please, I'm not a Republican...I'm just exhausted by all the hate rhetoric whenever something goes wrong in this hemisphere.
I hope the young man in OR does get into the military if that's what he desires. I hope the story reaches the ears of our President. Perhaps this young man's wanting to be in the military is like Jason's desire to play basketball, or my son's desire to work anywhere near an airport and/or airplanes. If our autistic children are happy and surrounded by supporters, what more should we be asking for?

MOM-NOS said...

Yes, Mattsmom, George W. Bush *is* responsible for No Child Left Behind. You can read more about why that troubles me at: http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/opinion/2001831790_dean08.html

And, with apologies for the "hate rhetoric," I think I should be asking for a lot more than the illusion of being "happy and surrounded by supporters" that Jared was offered by the Army (framed by them as "a $4,000 signing bonus, $67,000 for college and more buddies than he could count.")

In exchange for this happiness and support, Jared was signed on as a Cavalry Scout. Now, I recognize that Jared may be very different from my son, but it's hard for me to imagine that my son will ever be well-suited for a job that the army descrbes as: "The Cavalry Scout is the commander's eyes and ears on the battlefield. When information about the enemy is needed, they call on the Scouts. They are responsible for reconnaissance and you will learn about various weapons to include explosives and mines. Cavalry Scouts engage the enemy with anti-armor weapons and scout vehicles in the field, track and report enemy movement and activities, and will direct the employment of various weapon systems onto the enemy." There is more on their web site, at http://www.goarmy.com/JobDetail.do?id=39

More than that, though, I think I should be asking for more for my son than blatant deception and exploitation by Army recruiters. According to his parents, Jared was recruited into a dangerous position in a war that he didn't know was being waged, with a mission he didn't understand. That's simply unethical.

It seems the Army agrees with me. Jared has been released from his enlistment obligation.

Anonymous said...

Thanks MOM-NOS for the Howard Dean link and additional info re: the Army scout job description.

On the former: Your response to my reference of "hate rhetoric" was to supply an article from the Master himself. On the latter: Truly disgusting on the part of the US Army if the recruiters knew of Jared's diagnosis.

I enjoy your blog and will keep reading. Thanks for the time you take to manage your site and your thoughtful and intellectual posts.

MOM-NOS said...

MattsMom, I'm interested in your thoughts about Howard Dean. Though I didn't vote for him, I admire his intellect and his passion. I've never thought of him as particularly hateful. Can you point me toward some examples?

Thanks for your kind comments about my blog. I've got great material to work with! :-)

Anonymous said...

I wish I could make an intelligent argument re: Dean and/or Bush. I'll concur with Dean's "passion," as you refer to it. I'll try to find concrete links and/or sources. During 2004, Dean always came across, to me anyway, as condescending and mean to those with whom he didn't agree.

When I said I was "non-political," "politically confused" is probably more descript. The harsh divisiveness of the last 2 elections, the war, etc., leaves little room for someone like me who lacks a true political affiliation.

I re-read your blog from 2/23/06 and try to ground myself with my evolving "moral conversation and personal truths." For now, as my journey criss-crosses liberal and conservative philosophies and politics, I try to have faith that the decisions I make today are the right ones for my son's future. I respect those, like yourself, who can juggle all those balls in the air and come down on one side or the other.