Saturday I went to the Texas A&M Arkansas football game in Dallas. Most of my readers know I am a huge Arkansas Razorback fan. The game was very exciting, but after dominating most of the game, we lost. I was sad.
I went to the game with a friend. We stopped by an event and ate. Two people sat at our table and they were educators. We began to chat and one of the ladies wanted to know what I did. I know my girlfriend who was with me was thinking, “Why did you have to ask.” I told her my job title, and she began asking questions. She said to her friend, “I don’t think we have any Down’s kids at our school.” The friend said she wasn’t sure if there was anyone with “Down’s right now but those kids are in life skills. We do mainstreaming though.” I remarked that Rachel is in general education and that I am staunch advocate of inclusion. This opened a big box of discussion and questions. In the course of the conversing I heard the terms “those kids” and “Down’s kids” so much that I could feel my blood pressure rising. I think I deserve an award or something for not giving in to my overwhelming desire to correct the terminology. I tried to model appropriate language, but it just went right over the heads. When she told me that it was probably better for “those” kids to learn how to cook than to do Algebra, I pointed out that she might want to look up the research on inclusion of students with disabilities in general education classes and high expectations. She assured me that many of “those” kids had worked with her in her role in the school.
It really wasn’t the setting for such a discussion. It was loud and there were lots of distractions. I made the decision to just let it go. No saving the world on Saturday. However, I did manage to share with her that I felt like parents were often told that life skills and self-contained classrooms were best for their child when the research doesn’t support that. I told her that I felt like often times parents are afraid and so they make that choice out of fear. She told me she could tell I was passionate about what I did and that was good. Finally, she told me that most parents probably don’t really know what is available or what “those” kids need.
Losing a football game wasn’t the saddest part of my day Saturday.
Disclaimer: In all fairness this is a short synopsis of a long conversation but I do believe I accurately and honestly captured the plot and spirit of the conversation.