Kids Just Want to Have Fun:
The American public education curriculum incorporates a variety of standardized components which is problematic when students with varied mental abilities are taught in the same structured format. Included in the essay is a link between Paul Heilker’s idea of the genre of a typical school desk and it as a metaphor of an inflexible education curriculum framework. Research on the increasing population with mental and social disabilities connects to the author’s motivation for new methods of educating youth. A configuration of teaching technology advances, training programs for educators, and concise disclosure with the student’s care-givers is the formula for enriching the child’s learning experiences. (104)
Within the public school system a sense of uniformity arises as a method of educating the young generations. This concept is problematic when students with mental and/or social disabilities, like autism, are thrown into the public school system. Autism is becoming more and more common and problems of properly educating these students, in which new classes and new methods of training teachers to incorporate these non-uniform students. Students with mental and social disabilities may cause unease or disruption within a classroom. When the teacher needs to pay extra attention to the student with autism or other mental handicap, the other students are less likely to have that resource of educational assistance. Would the parents or guardians of the “normal” children complain? Possibly. The term normal describes those students that fall in the normal or average category on formal exams and school evaluations that test for any impairments in learning.
Students with abilities such as advanced communication skills, problem solving, and accurate memory recall are highly favored and sought out. The National Spelling Bee, for example, is a program where young, school-aged children demonstrate how well they can understand and memorize complex words. I think the issue of segregation based on mental condition is still unresolved. Common teaching practices may not be productive with students within the autism spectrum, which is the medical model on the severity of autism. The public education system needs to be improved because many students are unable to complete their basic education, defined as kindergarten through high school, based on their inability to understand and conform to the present education system. This can be remedied by creating new and improved teaching tools, and creating new educational programs to assist in their completion of class credit.
To be clear, I will not provide a detailed education plan. I will merely bring attention to the underlying problems that need to be addressed within the American public education system, which include the exclusive or narrow path the basic education classroom inhibits. Creating visibility on this issues has both moral and personal connections to myself. Moral because every child deserves the same education as their peers for a good head start on their own ambitions and goals. Personal because my brother, who suffers from a few forms of mental and social impairments, was unable to graduate with his classmates based on a lack of class credit and, in turn, delayed his goals of a career in computer science.
Students preforming at varied levels become problematic within the school system. At this point, my line of questioning is one the combination of an autistic child in the public education system and the problems that arise. The evolution of my essay is formed upon the questions that seek to remedy the repetitive form of public education plans. Who will fund specialized learning plans, not only for autistic children but for children with a range of social handicaps? Are there summer programs/camps to promote a continuous learning environment? Experts estimate that 1 out of 88 children age 8 will be considered a part of the autism spectrum disorder, also referred to as ASD, and males are more likely than females to inhibit symptoms (NINDS). This means a great number of children with learning disabilities will be cycled through the outdated and conformist education plans. This fact also implies the upcoming financial strain public schools will face. New teaching equipment, specialized student desks, and other technological advances that would provide an adequate learning environment for the socially and mentally impaired students.
Autism and some other mental conditions cause the host to express themselves in an exaggerated function, which means a child within the autism spectrum may cause unease or disrupt the classroom environment. However, don’t all children have an expansive imagination and great sense of enthusiasm? So the issue is when the child is unable to tone down or hinder these traits. The benefits or applications of having mixed-ability students within the same learning environment may include a greater sense of diversity within a future workforce, learning to work as a productive group, and/or developing effective communication skills, which include different methods of processing issues. Early exposure to how some people may process information or complete tasks will lead to better production in some career fields such as marketing or political campaigning. Negative repercussions of segregation based on mental ability within the grade-school classrooms could delay learning the basic social skills that produce successful social life, effecting the range of mental capacity — whether that be in the work force or in forming romantic relationships.
The productiveness of the public school system relies on the ability of the students, grades kindergarten through high school, to hinder their sense of play and enthusiasm. The children who are lower on the range of mental ability are subject to inadequate learning and may fall through the school curriculum “cracks”, in which they are barely passed on teacher to teacher till the final grade where they haven’t yet learned the basic skills of our American society. Elementary school, for example, has a structured time schedule to provide children with fifteen minutes to play, run around, and be childish. Many studies have found “children with [autism] don’t know how to play interactively with other children” because of impaired social skills and difficulty identifying social cues (NINDS). Teachers and the school board of the varying districts need to include more activities in the classroom, which the children can use as a tool for learning, a more interactive setting for mental stimulation. Preforming basic math solutions either with the teacher on the students work page or on a white board may encourage the child to complete the task at hand. Students with mental and social impairments need this time to learn in a different form; a form that incorporates an increased primal learning style, in which the child can explore the landscape and create inferences on how the primal-world genre as a way of being functions with the industrial-world genre as a way of being.
The opposing positions may state that these children will need to attend a specialized school or that the government doesn’t have the funds to support their education, which would be an issue of constitutional rights. In regards to a specialized school, the financial and emotional toll on the families would be too grand because if the family, for example, lived an hour or two from this school, the family may not have the time and transportation required. To homeschool the child would mean one parent would provide less money into the household, in which the economic costs of homeschooling outweigh paying family living costs. And if they say that the public school system isn’t conformist and uniform, the example Paul Heilker uses in his essay “On Genres as Ways of Being”, the typical school desk, “It makes a host of demands on its users, on how we need to be, on how we need to present in the world, in order to use it” (97). The desk, which is used as a metaphor for the structured education system, is restricting, and uncomfortable to work in. He continues to describe how this desk presents certain characteristics in this passage and a few others:
“The desk is completely standardized and uniform. It assumes the that its users are also standardized and uniform, that they all fall within a narrow range of height , weight, able-bodiedness, and right-handedness, for instance. To use this genre of furniture, I either need to fall naturally within this narrow range or put up with considerable discomfort.” (98)
As this passage describes, even the most basic elements of the school system are cookie-cutter style, in which the same materials, exams, and teaching practices are recycled. The desk is manufactured to seat one person in an inflexible framework of metal and hard plastic. When a non-uniform student with a disorder, say autism, would be seated in a desk and their ability to conform would be tested.
The current teaching methods have been used for a number of years and require an improvement on the format of educating the children diagnosed with autism and other mental limitations. Programs for student success have already been formed and new programs are being thought of often. The website, “Project IDEAL”, was created as an educator preparation program in regards to students with disabilities. Videos and modules like “Special Education Law Demands”, “Managing Student Behavior”, and “Room Arrangement” provide both teachers and parents ideas on forming well-designed education environments (Project IDEAL). This program and its counter-parts are working towards the common goal of student success.
Each child is different, which the child’s needs need to be addressed and attended too on a regular basis for optimum success. Especially when the symptoms of neurological conditions aren’t largely present till later in childhood. The effects of worsening symptoms — anger, lack of empathy, and severe lack of basic social skills — are the major cause of students not completing their education. Medical professionals have such determined that “a child with [autism] may appear to develop normally and then withdraw and become indifferent to social engagement” (NINDS). The teaching methods must have elasticity and be able to mold itself for the individual student. Issues of uncertainty in the mental state of their students is a recognizable concern, but the education system also must ready itself for an influx of students with forms of learning disabilities. Their inability to understand and conform to the present education system may delay or even discontinue their basic education.
Teaching children is difficult in of itself and now there is an influx children who require more in-depth learning instructions. The teachers will be the front runners, the front line of defense, for these children. They will either make-or-break how the children with ADD, autism, and/or ADHD learn some of the basic rules within our society. The current problematic situation the public school is large classroom sizes, the number of children within each classroom, usually about 1:30 teacher to student ratio. So the professional educators, who I’m assuming enjoy helping youth become well-educated adults, are facing a number of hardships in their profession. They are too understaffed and underfunded to provide an enjoyable learning environment for every student, with or without mental/social impairments.
To conclude, some might say students with autism should be homeschooled as to not interfere with “normal” student’s education process but these opinions aren’t taking into account the constitutional rights of free public education for all students. Taxpayers would be the likely be the financial source to fund new studies and educational practices that effectively educate these youth with conditions like autism spectrum disorder (ASD), attention deficit disorder (ADD), and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Common teaching practices may not be productive with students within the autism spectrum, which is the medical model on the severity of autism. Elementary and middle school is a tad too soon for requiring youth to become adults, let children be childish but also give them the opportunities they all deserve, which is to learn and create ideas of their own. The American public school system needs to re-thought and revised because many students are unable to complete their basic education due to their lack of mental/social abilities.
Heilker, Paul. “On Genres as a Way of Being.” Participating in Cultures of Writing and Reading. Comp. Donna Qualley. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2015. 93–103. Print.
“Autism Fact Sheet.” National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS). National Institutes of Health, Sept. 2009. Web. 14 Apr. 2015.
“Project IDEAL.” Project IDEAL. Texas Council for Developmental Disabilities (TCDD), n.d. Web. 30 May 2015.