ifeminists.com: A central gathering place and information center for individualist feminists.   -- explore the new feminism --
introduction | interaction | information

ifeminists.com > introduction > editorials

Is Not Quitting A Reason Enough To Celebrate?
May 31, 2006
by Tony Zizza

Now that the Memorial Day weekend is behind us, and students begin their annual summer "medication vacation", the time is right to ask what it really means to graduate from high school these days. I don't think it means what it used to in years gone by. Not by a long shot.

I stood in line at Target, and couldn't help but stretch my ears over into the next checkout lane. It appeared a young mother was telling one of her sons that, "Look Adam. Your sister IS graduating from high school, she's just UNABLE to pass the graduation TESTS." Interestingly, there was no desperation, remorse, or anger in the mother's voice. She had just resigned herself to the false mindset that her daughter was unable to completely earn a high school diploma, even though four years have passed by.

I was just about to checkout of the line myself when I heard this mother say something that made the hair on my neck stand at attention. She turned back to her son and said, "Thank God for special education, or else your sister might never leave high school. Come on, help me checkout this stuff for her GRADUATION PARTY."

I walked out of Target with my new Sara Evans CD, and didn't know whether to laugh out loud or cry out loud. A bunch of questions started burning a hole in my brain, but one question kept beating itself against my brain. The question? Here goes:

Is not quitting a reason enough to celebrate?

You see, in the real world - it isn't. The elimination of standards, the posturing and pandering, and the sick joke that is in fact special education in this country, poses a serious threat to young adults functioning properly in the adult world. I just can't understand what good parents and educators think special education does for students, especially those students who are old enough to drive and vote!

Both Republicans and Democrats have not done enough to truly reform special education. The best reform special education could ever get is being wiped off the face of the Earth. Something is seriously wrong when high school students and their parents are allowed to obtain the watered down education that special education delivers, when there is nothing objectively wrong with them. A special education diploma is meaningless in the real world, the adult world. A GED actually means much more.

Here's why. When a high school student obtains a special education diploma because they were unable, (read: unwilling), to pass graduation tests time after time after time after time, they are admitting there must be something subjectively wrong with them. Something that paints them into a corner of having a mental disorder. How else do you think high school students obtain special education services? Their parents and their educators sign off on an Individualized Education Program, (IEP), which in effect is a statement showing the student has a mental disorder.

This is terribly wrong. I bet you anything the young mother standing in line at Target chose not to study with her daughter. Television was probably more important and higher up on the family values scale than providing good parenting and discipline. I bet you anything the young mother, and any parent for that matter who doesn't mind their child being in special education, had no idea what it means to not pass four basic 50 question plus graduation tests. Basic knowledge. Nothing new. Just "passing" the tests would be evidence enough that you didn't take up space for four long years.

When you have no basic standards for your child educationally, you're not teaching them what it means to eventually be independent. When you celebrate merely not quitting, you leave nothing meaningful to accomplish. To dream of. To take pride in. To stand shoulder to shoulder with your peers and know that even during rough patches, yes, I deserve my high school diploma. Special education law and waivers for graduation tests, along with "willing" parents are preventing high school students from actually having the skills needed to be adults.

I completely understand that high school students are nervous about graduation tests. I completely understand that some students are going to fail portions of the test before passing the whole thing. I completely understand that a high school student is not defined alone by having passed the graduation tests or not. High school students, and all students for that matter, need more than rote learning to properly flourish.

However, what I don't understand, and find completely disgusting, is the fear mongering around graduation tests and the rush to get high school students into (or possibly make a return visit) into special education so they can "physically" leave the high school they have been sitting in for four years. God knows, they have not been there "mentally" if they have failed the graduation tests over and over and over again. There is no excuse to fail these basic knowledge tests when free tutoring is available. Not to mention answer books from guidance counselors! Not to mention on-line practice tests! Not to mention parents, friends, and other relatives ready and willing to help out!

So, you can blame President Bush all you want for the No Child Left Behind Act, but when there is a clear connection to dumping high school students in special education and failing the graduation tests forever on end, it might be time to stop playing politics. It might be time to look yourself in the mirror, and take your son or daughter with you, and ask: Do we really having anything to celebrate after failing so miserably for four long years?

To celebrate not quitting attending high school for four straight years on the same level as celebrating having earned a normal high school diploma, is a hard slap in the face to all other students and their parents who put education first. And television a distant last to ensure as the time came to enter the real world, their little Johnny or Jane would be ready.

What else was there to expect after four long years, anyway?

Zizza is a freelance writer who lives in Atlanta, Georgia. He serves as Vice President for the State of Georgia for the non-profit organization, Parents For Label and Drug Free Education.

ifeminists.com > home | introduction | interaction | information | about

ifeminists.com is edited by Wendy McElroy; it is made possible by support from The Independent Institute and members like you.