Get notice of new posts
Connect with me!
Help Support Our Climb
Damn Fine Words Writing Course

Posts Tagged ‘school’

Teachers| Segregation or Inclusion?

A really cool old ruler
Creative Commons License photo credit: HA! Designs – Artbyheather

How do you measure what is important?

Hain Ginott, the famous child psychologist and author of classic books like “Between Parents and Child” and “Between Teachers and Child” taught about the power of establishing your own rules. He reasoned the rules helped you communicate your core values and helped you measure your actions.

One of the first articles on this blog was Shouting My Commitment. Where I tell the world exactly where I stand.

Over the years, my rule has been reduced to one sentence:

“Does this action lead toward inclusion, or toward segregation?”

End of Semester, but Beginning of Life.

Here at Climbing Every Mountain, many of our readers are students in Diversity and Disability Study classes at area universities.

As the semester is ending, I hope your time here has been informative, entertaining and caused you some “cognitive dissonance.”

Cognitive Dissonance

Piaget and other educational theorists say we must have “cognitive dissonance” to challenge our existing paradigm and beliefs–or there can be no change–no evolution in our thinking, no learning.

I received emails when several people disagreed with my last post, I love Aaron| I hate Autism.” I spoke my truth, it meets my rule–so I am confident in my position. I welcome their “cognitive dissonance” and hope they will continue the discussion–so all of us will learn new things.

Evolving from Student to Teacher

One of the responsibilities of being a teacher is to raise issues, even if they are not popular. Sure, you need to be thoughtful and research your topics. Sure, you need to present logical arguments and use real world examples. Sure, you need to be aware of learning styles and cultural diversity.

At the end of the semester, a student must synthesize all the new information and create your own rules to live by. What will you “prune” away, and what ideas, facts, theories will now become part of the way you think and act?

If your measuring stick is different than others, this is tricky. Many people will disagree and see things based on their own measuring stick. That’s okay. That’s their right.

WARNING: The more important the topic–the more diversity of opinion.

And, even though it is hard to admit, they might be right. Their opinions might cause you cognitive dissonance and the spiral of learning begins all over again.

Evolving from Student to Teacher to Student

As teachers, you are going to be the advocate for not only yourself, but also the children in your care, their parents, the other teachers, the administration, the community, everyone.

You will have to keep learning, not just for survival, but because you want to keep growing and changing. You will have to find the empathy to see things from other’s point of view.

You will have to learn to take baby steps and compromise–often.

Nothing is Perfect. Nothing is totally Pure.

If you are a leader, you will face difficult decisions. You will need to be able to know what you stand for. When to walk away. When to compromise. When to ignore. When to dig in and fight.

Inch by Inch, anything’s a cinch (Schuller)

“Does this lead toward inclusion, or toward segregation?”

This mantra works for me but you will need to find your own. What defines you, your heart, your truth? What is your call to action?

Bronfenbrenner, another educational psychologist, showed us how to think in systems. I’ve written about how this applies to Aaron, my son with the label of autism in a post called The Circles of Life, but want to share some ideas from system’s theory and my point about moving from segregation to inclusion.

Individual Change

If an individual student with a disability can join general education students at a lunchroom table–this is one inch toward inclusion and away from segregation. It is a move in the direction of inclusion.

Classroom Change

If a colleague differentiates an assignment for a class, so that ALL can participate–we celebrate this step toward inclusion.

School Change

If a policy is changed, and students with disabilities can go on the fieldtrip with their general education class–this is a small step toward inclusion.

Cultural Change

“Disability World” is socially constructed. It can follow the philosophy of a medical model and try to cure the individuals, or it can follow a different philosophy and say the individual is fine, we need to cure the world.

In my opinion many people want to go back to the medical model. Recent political events demonstrate certain politicians are trying to demonize public employees–especially teachers and take away the programs which support people with disabilities to work, go to school and live in the community.

In my opinion, they want to further their agenda to only teach certain conservative curriculums, dismantle collective bargaining and a teacher’s influence in his/her own class, sabatoge the public schools, and create more private/charter schools at public expense. They no longer want to separate church and state.

Using my measure of, “Does this action move toward inclusion, or toward segregation” it clearly moves toward segregation.

As teachers in the 21st century, you are going to be caught in the cross-fire. You will need to make choices and decisions.

The administration in private/charter schools can make a rule that says, “We don’t take kids with disabilities.”

Since private/charter schools do not have to follow many of the federal laws this is their right. I believe in the separation of church and state. If a school or church wants to discriminate against people with disabilities — that is America. That is their right. I just don’t agree with it.

Personal Change

You are not going to be able to just ride this one out. YOU are going to have to make choices and decisions.

What rule do you want in your community, your life?

Is this the kind of community and/or school where you want to teach?

Where you will send your children?

Do you want to be forbidden subjects about diversity, science, history and even basic tenants of democracy and freedom?

Obviously this is a major discussion. What role do you want to play in the discussion?


I want to invite everyone to continue as members of our Climbing Every Mountain community, and encourage you to make rules that will guide your life.

I wish you well. I wish you courage.

Below is part of a speech Haim Ginott gave to a group of teachers on the first day of school. I find it inspiring, I hope you do too.

Dear Teacher,

I am a survivor of a concentration camp. My eyes saw what no man should witness.

Gas chambers built by learned engineers.
Children poisoned by educated physicians.
Infants killed by trained nurses.
Women and babies shot and burned by high school and college graduates.

So, I am suspicious of education.
My request is that teachers help students become human.
Your efforts must never produce learned monsters, skilled psychopaths, educated Eichmanns.

Reading, writing, arithmetic are important only if they serve to make our children more human…
(Haim Ginott, 1972, Teacher and Child)

Keep Climbing: Onward and Upward

All my best,


Share your Thoughts

Do you have a bottom line? Can you sum up the rules of your life in one or two sentences? Do you believe in inclusion, do you believe in segregation? It is that simple. Whatever your choice—your actions are more important than your thoughts or words. What did you think of Haim Ginott’s message to “be human”?

Bulletin Board| Stop the “R” word, Wolfensberger dies

READING THE NEWS in OLD CHINA --  Hats and Hairstyles of All Descriptions
Creative Commons License photo credit: Okinawa Soba

Bulletin Board

Today and Everyday is “Stop the ‘R’ word” Day.

Parents, Advocates and Schools around the country are joining in.

Many people are always complaining that the world is too complex –there is nothing they can do.

Stop the “R” word Challenge

YOU can make a difference by choosing respectful language in your own conversations. Doable, Yea!

If you have a story, please share it in the comments.

Here are the articles I have posted on this topic as well as some information on Rosa’s Law which was passed last year to take the words “retarded” out of all public documents. This is more than just being politically correct, it is a step toward seeing people with intellectual disabilities as being “human.”

Love-not labels| Rosa’s Law

Retarded No More

The “R” word| A Challenge to Bloggers

Definitions of the word “Retarded”

Building Community| Using People First Language

Wolf Wolfensberger

Father of Normalization and Citizen Advocacy




On February 27, 2011 Wolf Wolfensberger died.

Since 1973, Dr. Wolfensberger had been a professor in the School of Education at Syracuse University. His enormous contributions to the disability community will be felt for generations to come.  
Dr. Wolfensberger was the originator of Social Role Valorization, the Normalization Principle as well as Citizen Advocacy: major concepts that strongly influenced disability policy and practice in the US and Canada.
He was widely recognized as a major contributor to the field of intellectual and developmental disabilities in the 20th century had a reputation for being a stirring and controversial speaker.
He was the author and co-author of more than 40 books and monographs, and more than 250 chapters and articles. His writing has been translated into 11 languages.
His best known books were: Changing Patterns in Residential Services for the Mentally Retarded, The Principle of Normalization, PASS, and PASSING (Evaluation tools for programs to meet the principles of Normalization). 


Drinking Beer and the Dignity of Risk

Drinking Beer and the Dignity of Risk

Above is a picture of Aaron drinking a “cold one.” He’s 35 years old–so he’s well past the drinking age. But is this right?

Beer and Spaghetti

The only time my husband drinks beer is when we have spaghetti for dinner. I don’t know if it is a tradition, a ritual, a family memory, or just some sensory combination he thinks tastes good. He can’t explain it.

The last time we were eating spaghetti, Aaron reached over and picked up Tom’s frosted mug and took a sip. Tom and I both watched his eyes get big with surprise–it was not what he expected.

Now, maybe we are horrible parents that we would let our son, with severe disabilities and the label of autism, drink an alcoholic beverage. After all beer is not recommended on the food pyramid. But over the years, we have tried to allow Aaron to have what the professionals call, “the dignity of risk.”

Dignity of Risk

The concept of “dignity of risk” is we allow our children, and ourselves, to make choices and the accompanying mistakes, failures… because this is how we learn. This is how we build our self-esteem and self-worth. Our Dignity.

Of course, we build a safety net into the situation. For instance, we would never allow Aaron to drink a bottle of cleaner he found under the sink. We would not allow him to get drunk. We would not allow him to take a glass of alcohol from a stranger.

Here is a related story about Aaron and his niece Isabella. (click here) Isabella’s safety was a priority. But with supervision, Uncle Aaron could have the dignity of pushing her in her stroller.

This is a difficult concept for many people to understand. Some people think Tom and I are reckless parents. An equal number think we are “hovering” parents and too protective. But hey, if you are a parent of a child with a severe disability, you know you can’t win. You have to do things as you see them.

Dignity of Risk and School

When Aaron was about 12 years old, one of his daily jobs was to help pack his lunch for school. He couldn’t do the whole job, but we worked with him, and over time, he learned to get a soft drink can and put it in his lunchbox.

This was a great goal because Aaron is always thirsty and loves pop. Getting a pop can and putting it in his lunchbox was a task that was repeated every day, so he got lots of practice. Aaron has physical balance issues and hates to bend over. The physical therapist recommended we put the pop on the middle shelf because it would strengthen some muscle or another….

It took Aaron a long time to master this goal, but he did it. It became part of our daily routine. And a source of pride.

The Dignity of Risk and Unexpected Circumstances

One day about noon I got a phone call from the school principal. He said, “Students are not allowed to bring beer to school.” Then he paused and burst into laughter.

“What?” was all I could say.

The principal then described the lunch scene where Aaron is sitting on the cafeteria benches with about a hundred other junior high school kids.

Aaron opens his lunchbox, and with his peanut butter and jelly sandwich and apple slices he pulls out a Bud Light. (I couldn’t make this up.)

Of course, the crowd went wild. By the time the teachers could figure out what the pandemonium was about, Aaron was a school legend.

Thankfully the principal knew Aaron and he wasn’t suspended.
Apparently, Aaron didn’t put his normal soda in his lunch box.

So then, was this a colossal failure and we stopped allowing Aaron to pack his lunch? No, his daily goal was amended to include sorting and classifying the silver cans before he put one into his lunchbox. Great learning opportunity, not failure.

Spaghetti and Beer

On the night of this picture, Aaron gave the beer back to his dad. We thought that was the end of it, but then he picked up the beer can, put it to his lips and said, “AHHHHH”.

Guess the spaghetti and beer tradition is genetic.

Virtual Beer for the first comment:

What do you think of the “Dignity of Risk”? Do you have any stories to share? Embarrassing Learning Experiences?

Keep Climbing: Onward and Upward
All the best,


Day 23 of our Chris Brogan’s Every-Day-For-30-Days Blogging Challenge Follow us on Twitter #CB30BC

Alison Golden of The Secret Life of a Warrior Woman is my partner in this challenge: (click here to check out her new post.)