Friday, September 08, 2006

Why Does "Different" Equal Fear?

Okay, I am taking another break from snarking on the news because I have not been able to concentrate on anything else but this all day.

Today I went to my son's Parent/Teacher Orientation at his school. My son is a beautiful six year-old boy with developmental delays and a focusing problem. However he talks, and he plays, and he is able to learn at a rate equal to if not above the average child. Thanks to the NYC Public Education System, he is getting the special accomodations that he needs to get along in a regular classroom so he can learn at grade level while all his "kinks" as they say, get worked out. However, its not the academics that fill me with fear for my child. It's stupid people.

At this Orientation it seems one of the "General Education" mothers was quite upset that her child was placed in with "Special Education" students. I looked at her face, which was impossible not to do, since she was sitting directly across from me and I saw her anger. Now, part of it was justified, since no one told this woman that her son would be in an Inclusion class, but for the most part it wasn't. I saw how openly she complained to the teacher, and it took every bit of restraint that I had not to verbally mouth off to her. However, I did feel sorry for the teacher and asked her if I could pipe in.

I did my best to explain to her that my son was a happy child, as were the rest of the children on the Special Education side of the wall. They were academically sound and the special provisions that they needed would do nothing to harm her child. She looked unconvinced, and that's when I realized that NOTHING I said would change this situation. My son could have a degree from Harvard and her opinion would not change. Bottomline, my son was different from hers in her eyes.

Why do we fear what is different from ourselves and our own? If I had the inclination, I could have explained to this woman that our sons were most likely quite similar - liked the same shows, played the same games, liked to be praised and hated being punished. However, the assignment of a category made at a beaurocratic level made her see my boy as incompatible. When I think back at this situation, isn't this something that we all do? The visibly handicapped, people of a different religion or color, the list goes on. Every difference that people think is enough to put people into a different category makes the truth of the situation harder and harder to see - we are all people and should be treated the same.

Okay, rant over
Have a good weekend!

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