January 28th, 2009

Speaker Magazine recognizes Special Education Day

“Why do you want a holiday? First, decided what you want to accomplish. Miriam Freedman, JD, MA,[with colleagues in SPEDCO–the Special Education Day Committee] started Special Education Day to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the signing of the first fedearl special education law in 1975. Freedman writes, ‘Our holiday has been a huge success. It has helped us focus our efforts and gain a community of reformers. We are now launching SpedEx, an alternate dispute resolution model, which the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, is supporting and funding!’ “

Many thanks to the National Speakers Association (NSA) for inspiring people to create their own holiday!

Post by Miriam Kurtzig Freedman, M.A., J.D. | No Comments

January 23rd, 2009

More! It's about time!

There’s more to add to the last blog! We take inspiration from Bill Cosby, Dr. Alvin Poussaint, and, most notably, our new president, Barack Obama.

These leaders tell us some truths– that it’s time for parents, as well as schools, to work to improve outcomes for children. This week’s Education Gadfly picked up on the President’s inaugural speech in calling for a new “Era of responsibility.” www.edexcellence.net/gadfly.
Our President is certainly on to something many of us have felt and known for a long time–but left unsaid. “A parent’s willingness to nurture a child…decides our fate.” Indeed.

We need to build on this important platform. Besides ideas for parental summits or other ways to partner with families and parents, as discussed in the Gadfly, we also need to review and amend our laws, that, alas, so far, run in the opposite direction. These laws (the NCLB, IDEA, Section 504, etc.) ask of parents that they “advocate” for their children, receive information about the schools, the teachers, etc., “demand” more, if what they receive is not enough, and file complaints or hearing requests. That is not enough. That does not lead us on the path of where we need to be.

In fact, in many ways, that approach misdirects us in defining ” parenting.” These laws should, at last, be more explicit in defining parenting as an active verb. And if we can’t mandate that, so be it, but we can at least provide examples–let these laws tell us what parenting is and can be.

I believe people all over our country are hungry for this information and leadership, including parents we may deem currently not to be “good” parents.

For starters in the “how to” department, use then candidate Barack Obama’s words from last May,

“There is no program and no policy that can substitute for a parent who is involved in their child’s education from day one. There is no substitute for a parent who will make sure their children are in school on time and help them with their homework after dinner and attend those parent-teacher conferences…. And I have no doubt that we will still be talking about these problems in the next century if we do not have parents who are willing to turn of the TV once in a while and put away the video games and read to their child.”

So, what are the “how to’s” for starters?

  • Be sure the child is in school on time
  • Help the child with homework after dinner
  • Have dinner with the child!
  • Attend those parent-teacher conferences
  • Be willing to turn off the TV once in a while
  • Put away the video games
  • Read to the child
  • AND?

A wonderful beginning. Hopefully, our practice–and even our laws–will begin to reflect reality–at last. It is time!

Post by Miriam Kurtzig Freedman, M.A., J.D. | No Comments

January 11th, 2009

It’s about time!

I loved hearing Bill Cosby and Dr. Alvin Poussaint describing their book, Come On, People—On the Path from Victims to Victors on today’s Meet the Press. They are on to something! Parents need to parent.

It’s about time! President- elect Barak Obama told parents the same thing–turn off TVs, be present, not MIA, and support their children’s education. Poussaint suggested a national conference on parenting. It’s about time. Let’s do it.

We know that schools cannot educate children alone—and, we even know, that the vital role of parents has been largely ignored in school reform efforts, to say the least. And, beyond that, I believe the role of parents in school laws, from the No Child Left Behind Act to the IDEA, the special education laws, has led us astray. Too often, these laws tell parents that their job is to be ‘consumers’ of school services, to ‘advocate’ for their children, to argue when they don’t like school programs, to file complaints, and to seek due process (as under the IDEA). Yet, with all of this, these laws don’t tell parents they need to parent their children. They miss the crucial role that parents can have in helping their children learn and succeed! It’s about time!

The laws don’t tell parents to parent—to help children learn, to support teachers and schools, to get them to take their own education seriously, to create a positive learning community. That is where we need to go. Hopefully, Barak Obama, Dr. Poussaint, and Bill Cosby will lead the way! It’s about time!

Do you agree?

Post by Miriam Kurtzig Freedman, M.A., J.D. | No Comments