Sunday, December 20, 2009

Right Brainers Have Rights, Too!

When my son was a toddler, my mom friends and I would joke about which one of us would be the first to be told that our son had ADD, given the trends in America to mold kids (mostly boys) into submission so they would sit still and go along with Status Quo. It is my belief that there is nothing physically or neurologically wrong with these kids, at least not as much as the epidemic suggests. I believe that this trend is due to the self interests of the adults who are supposed to care for these kids, and our overcrowded, overwhelmed public education system, the lack of respect for creativity and individuality in ourselves and others, and our fast paced, self indulgent lifestyle. Our culture has ADD, not our kids.

I knew that the day would come when somebody would eventually suggest that my son had ADD, given that he is a dreamy, eccentric, right brained learner - all qualities that I value about him and have always encouraged, but also qualities that are devalued in public education, and are seen as some sort of medical or behavioral disorder. So when the day came when my son's burned-out, near-retirement fifth grade teacher suggested we take our son to "a really good pediatrician" about his having ADD, I vowed to let my son finish the rest of the year with his friends that he had known since kindergarten, but pull him out after elementary school, as I saw this as the end of the road for institutionalized education for him. With middle school a few months away, I could see the writing on the wall - and it wasn't good for him insofar as his personal fate was concerned. He'd fall through the cracks for sure. He's been free now for over five years and is finding and following his bliss, with the support and understanding of his parents, who understand and appreciate that creative thinkers (right brained learners) learn differently from their more academically inclined peers (left brained learners). The right brained learners are being unfairly diagnosed, labeled, and treated as defective and unsuccessful. Many take medication to help them conform. The message that these intelligent, creative, innovative children are receiving is "there is something wrong with you and this little pill will take care of it". There is nothing wrong with these kids. Our culture, public education, and the adults in charge are failing these kids.

The time has come for all of us to slow down, take a hard look at ourselves and how we see and treat children. We need to start asking, "What is the matter with us?," instead of, "what is the matter with them?". We need to do right by the right brained kids of our community.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Missing Persons

When talking about the threats to arts education in the state of California, key people have been completely left out of the conversation. Education decisions made at the top are all based on dollars and data, not human potential or social responsibility. When deciding the fate of the arts and education, those who are most impacted by these decisions have been ignored. It’s easy to do, because they are all politically powerless. Who, or what, is missing?

Missing Children. Kids are the victims of the selfishness and failures of the adults in charge, all of whom tend to exploit them in order to push their own agendas. Very few can genuinely claim that they have acted on behalf of the best interests of children. If the kids had their own union, then the adults in charge might actually do what they say they are going to do. With their own union, kids could stay home until their demands were met. What would their demands be? Make us a priority, keep your promises, and educate us!

The Artist is Missing. When deciding curriculum, the artist has been left out of the decision making process. Yet teaching artists are expected to teach the curriculum given to them, without their input, and with little license to interpret and teach creatively. And now that the arts are being threatened, the artist has been called in to help advocate for the cause by working to plug up the leaks of the sinking arts education boat. The artist is missing in society, too, leaving us without heart, passion, vision, or purpose.

School districts are not in the business of educating students. They are employment agencies whose primary purpose is to manage liability. The LAUSD is the worst, because it is the biggest.
Our state legislature has failed us because those making laws are not acting on behalf of what is best for the people of California. They, too, are looking out for number one. The underlying issue to the budget crisis in LAUSD, the state, and the country is the dark side of capitalism - personal greed.