“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.” George Orwell

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

This is how we do it

So I heard through the grape vine, from a very reliable source about a Southern California Christian college that is trying to start a program to prepare teachers to work with students with moderate/severe disabilities. A student teacher supervisor was working with a candidate, doing student teaching. For a year, the candidate did nothing. The supervisor from the Christian college tried and tried to get the student teacher to educate the students with severe disabilities but he did nothing. The student teacher supervisor told his supervisors at the university that he would need to flunk the student teacher because he wasn't doing anything with his students. The response from the CHRISTIAN college? Hire another supervisor that would pass the student teacher because they are trying to get the moderate/severe teacher training program established and they didn't want any bad press for the new program. In other words, "We as the Christian college don't give a damn about the education of the students with severe disabilities. We just want to expand our programs into other areas of Southern California."

I have seen this approach numerous times in state unviersities. Many state universities although they have moderate/severe programs haven't the foggiest idea what they are doing in this area. I know because I speak to students from those universities, and at times have assisted state universities with inservices about the most basic of things, that you would think their students would have learned in introductory classes.

How are students with moderate/severe disabilities ever to have a fighting chance at an education when teachers are poorly trained? What does it say to future teachers in that program about quality education for students with severe disabilities? I will tell you what it says. It says that we want to train babysitters for the mod/sev classrooms of California. As much as I want Christian colleges to wake up to the lives of people with disabilities in the community, literally, for God's sake, Christian college, do no harm! You are God's representative to the community, so please for His sake, do no harm. But you harm by your diminishing the importance of education for these students.

What would it imply to you, if I said that the education of your child was not important enough to ensure that teacher of your child was doing anything for a whole year that they were in the classroom. But that is what this Christian college is communicating, and get this...they are communicating this so that they can stay in the business of educating teachers of students with severe disabilities!

I personally have had some student teachers that I have really liked as people as friends. However, because I desperately want them to be the best teachers possible, I have tried to move them to a particular, high standard that I have for teachers of students with severe disabilities. I am looked to as the university expert, as their trainer. If I am more interested in pumping out teachers so that my program stays alive than I am that the teachers are of a certain quality, I am doing evil to the students those teachers will teach in the future. So should my mod/sev program die because of the quality standards we aspire to at the little Christian college where I teach, so be it! At least we will walk away from such a program trying to do our best. Are we perfect? Of course not, there are always areas we are trying to improve on all the time. However, we will do our best to ensure the highest level of quality we can because we care about the students with severe disabilities more than we care about their teachers chafing under rigor and going elsewhere. Trust me, if you want to be a teacher of students with moderate to severe disabilities, there are places that you can go that will be easier than our program. If what you want is ease, please do go elsewhere. There are those who have. I know of at least one Christian college in Southern California that is interested in training slackers.


Sunday, May 10, 2009


I am probably "late to the party" on this one, however, in recent weeks I have met two couples who have made me aware of a problem and a solution.

I have known Christian couples over the years, couples who were persons with intellectual disabilities who, probably after counseling from case workers and family members, decided to live together as married, although they were an unmarried couple. The state "punishes" people who receive government benefits by reducing their social security payments, among other changes in potential benefits should they marry. However, the state generally doesn't care if two people live together and doesn't care what their relationship is while they are living together. The key issue, I think, is how marriage is defined by the state agencies who control benefits. Well in the case of these two couples, both of them were married in a church, were married before God, however, they did NOT get a state marriage license, and therefore as far as the state is concerned are not married. Their marriage had no effect on their benefits because they were not married as far as the state is concerned. The couple has wedding pictures up in their home, talk about each other as husband and wife, had a ceremony in a church and so on and so on. However, they never received a state marriage license so they are not married as far as the state is concerned.

There are up sides and down sides of this arrangement. Philosophically, I don't care if the government recognizes my marriage as such. I am more concerned that I did what was required regarding marriage, in a church, before God. My marriage license from the State of California means very little to me (I don't think I could produce it if my life depended upon it) even though I have been married 30 years. I don't think that if a marriage license had not been required of me by California it would have mattered to me either. The church wedding was what mattered.

The downsides relate to the things that domestic partnerships protect. Actually, it might be beneficial for Christians to be married in a church and then file for domestic partnerships (just thinking out loud, I really have very little knowledge in this area). I wonder how a domestic partnership arrangement would affect the benefits that persons with disabilities receive from the government? I would not be surprised if those in a domestic partnership have the potential "negative" results of a state marriage diminished.

As marriage grows to be even more convoluted in our society, perhaps the church, perhaps Christians should take a new look at the value of being married before the state, following state regulations. Let the state say that marriage can be between a tree and a fish if they want to, as long as truly Christian churches hold to what marriage actually is (which I recognize is problematic as some "Christian" denominations are morally adrift in terms of representing the teachings of the Bible). If truly Christian churches held the line on marriage, such that a ceremony in a Christian church were the desired standard, then a Christian marriage would mean something. But I suspect the next thing would be for the state to force Christian churches (or Jewish Synagogues, or Muslim Mosques for that matter) to marry people the state said were eligible but that is a different discussion.

Social justice calls us as Christians to make decisions about the things we support or don't support that our government does. If a state marriage license takes two people who are living in poverty, and pushes them deeper into poverty, then perhaps we should not support a state marriage license, even though we absolutely support the importance of a church sanctioned marriage before God. If the state doesn't care whether or not a couple participates in a ceremony together before they live together, or whether they live together as husband and wife, then perhaps in order to benefit those in poverty, we as Christians should not care whether or not a married couple gets a state sanctioned marriage license.