Take a look at this picture. You’ll see a boy reading on his own for pleasure.
Nothing really remarkable about that, is there? Boys do it all the time. And if you look closely at the book, you’ll see that the reading material isn’t exactly Shakespeare, or even “grade level material.”
And yet, he reads. On his own. For pleasure.
You see, barely a year ago, my boy would hardly sit still long enough to have an infant’s book read to him. For those of you who don’t already know, he is on the autism spectrum, and while he certainly loves books and words, reading, and specifically reading for comprehension has alluded him for years.
And yet today, he reads. On his own. For pleasure.
This is something that I honestly wasn’t sure he would ever do. We never stopped hoping, pushing and working for it, but I wasn’t sure it would happen.
And yet today, he reads. On his own. For pleasure.
What you’re witness to here is the evidence of an unbelievable amount of hard work by countless teachers, aides, therapists, friends, grandparents, big sister, and parents. You’re witness to endless amounts of patience, hope, love, and faith that he could learn. (I’m not going to name them here for two reasons. First, the list is really long. Second, I’m convinced that having a teacher’s name on this blog will actually result in that teacher being abused, threatened, or subjected to retaliation by the district leadership. Call me paranoid if you will; I’ve seen it happen before.)
This is the result of never, ever giving up on my boy.
And it’s the result of one more thing.
All Education Should Be Individualized
I want you to listen to me for a moment because I’m about to say the single most important truth that after 40 years of both being a student and working with students I’ve ever uncovered:
All education, for every child, should be individualized to that child.
My boy has the benefit of an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) as a result of being on the autism spectrum. This is a plan that we as his parents create every year with his teachers to tailor his education to his specific needs. It’s an extremely difficult and stressful task (we’re trying to plan out what will be successful ways of reaching him in the coming school year—there’s no greater responsibility). There is never enough data. There are never enough resources. There is never enough time.
And yet, somehow, mostly because everyone involved in the process loves the boy, we manage to develop a plan for him that is, quite frankly, working miracles in his life. (See the picture above for all the evidence you need.)
This is crucial for my son, but you know what, it is also crucial for my daughter, who is not on the spectrum, who is rather in the gifted program at school.
The Move Toward Standardization Kills Education
Individualization is the key to my son’s success. And yet our district, state, and nation are running away from individualization as fast as they can. They make wild, completely unsubstantiated claims, that this move toward standardization is “for the children.”
They claim that education should be standardized, “like golfballs.”
They claim that having standardized “standards,” and standardized curriculum will raise everyone to the same level. As they offer absolutely zero evidence supporting their claim, and as we have decades of evidence supporting the opposite (look at the success of the IDEA legislation as just one example), we have no reason to believe that they are correct. They’re not.
Who Standardization Is Actually For: Businesses
So if standardization isn’t for the children, who is it for?
It’s for businesses and industry. Why do you think the Chamber of Commerce is pushing for standardizing education? Because it will boost the bottom line of businesses who sell textbooks, tests, and services to schools.
If businesses can convince us that there’s only one product we need to buy, and we absolutely need to buy it, their profit margins soar. (Take a look at Pearson, Teach for America, or nearly any other company selling services to schools these days. It’s a growth industry right now.)
Why This Is Happening
So why are we allowing this to happen? Because we’ve bought into the lie that we cannot afford to individualize instruction for our students.
This is not true.
We can afford it if we decide that it’s important.
We are simply buying into the lie that standardization will bring the same results as individualization. And with that lie, we’re willing to spend more and more on companies, and less and less on our students.
We’re going about this completely backwards, and it’s time to turn the ship around.
Our kids, who are individuals, deserve no less.
Individualized instruction has allowed my son to take his first steps toward a independent, productive, and happy life. That’s the purpose of education.
He reads. On his own. For pleasure. Today is an amazing day in our home. And I thank everyone who helped to make it happen. You know who you are. Thank you.
Every child deserves to have an individualized education.