What I am going to say here will be unpopular to some, downright offensive to others, and – dare I say it? – cheered by at least a few.
Anyone who knows me knows (I hope) that I am a champion of the underdog, that I want the best educational opportunities possible to be provided to children of all abilities, etc.
Laurel got chewed on earlier this week by her PE teacher. Her offense? Trying to ‘steal’ the soccer ball from a special needs student during a soccer game. Which is, you know, part of soccer.
Laurel told the teacher she didn’t realize the student was special needs.
The teacher’s response? “Well, I thought you would have figured that out by now.” (Editor’s note: Eyeroll. This is, like, #1 on the list of Things You Aren’t Supposed to Say to Gifted Kids, Who Are Also, Quite Arguably, Special Needs.)
So Laurel got angry. I can’t blame her. After school, telling me about her experience, she said, “Mom, I just don’t understand. There are so many people advocating for special needs children to be treated like everyone else, but when I do treat them like everyone else I get in trouble. I didn’t know those were special needs kids, I mean, I’ve talked to them and they just seemed like nice regular kids.”
Why should my daughter perform at less than her ability in order to avoid hurting another student’s feelings? Isn’t that already enough of a problem today? Much of the problem with our country’s education quality is that the bright students aren’t allowed to excel. They’re held back because teachers are trying to perform to a standard that encourages them to remediate failing students rather than push the ones who excel.
And when that happens, the best educational opportunities possible are not being provided to children of all abilities.
That really chaps my hide.