The ADA and Catholic School

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Shunning
my instincts for acquisition, I decided last year, after 35 years
of business, to do some pro bono catolico. I decided to teach at
a Catholic school. It offered at least an opportunity for philosophical
congruence. Or, so I thought.

I
reiterate. This was pro bono work. The remuneration level was, well,
very Catholic. But I enjoyed the work – sharp kids, well motivated
kids, involved parents, and a good disciplinary environment. What's
not to like?

ADA,
that's what. (I'm proud to say that I don't know what the official
title is. It was marketed as a parking and ingress-egress law.)
Forget Frank Norris, I've found The Octopus. It's ADA.

At
a faculty meeting a little past mid-year, fifth on the agenda was
"special needs students". The therapeutic state strikes
again. The faculty was informed that as an institution we are under
threat of potential parental law suit; the school must develop a
program for all students with learning disabilities, Attention Deficit
Disorder (ADD), for example.

Because
I was a plant manager when the first OSHA regulations were promulgated,
and because I lived in Clinton's America, I mused; there's mischief
in "program" and "learning disability." In gadfly
mode, I raised my hand to pose the following: "I've got fifty
minutes per class, how do you want me to spend it in order to be
in compliance?" Of course no one knew. They weren't being evasive.
These very good and sincere educators, not a bureaucrat among them,
did not know. Yep, that's what OSHA was and is. What to do?

After
appointing a task force, another meeting occurred roughly six weeks
later. No gadflies needed to attend. This was a "you are either
a part of the problem or part of the solution" meeting, where
the staff Nazi grabs the whip and silences the disquieted. The question
was raised by me as to the liability of the individual teacher in
regard to any possible litigation. No one could say that a non-compliant
teacher could not be sued for non-compliance. I mused; there's more
mischief. (Today this would be considered "unsettled"
law.)

Ok,
what must we do to "comply"? The preliminary answer proferred
was that each teacher must take notice and accommodate any "special
needs" students in his/her class. Inasmuch as "mainstreaming
special needs" is already educational dogma, homogeneous groupings
won't solve the problem. Assuming some M.D., for a commission on
chemical assuagement, would certify that any given student was "special
needs", my problem was now "accommodate".

It
was late spring and my last meeting on this subject was scheduled.
No, I didn't know beforehand that it was my last meeting, but it
was. Two Special Education instructors from a local public school
gave a fine performance on teaching "special needs" youngsters.
I can summarize their message succinctly. Every student is different
and must be taught uniquely. They uttered this simple message with
frequency, passion and volume. This mantra agitated the people and
the Reich.

With
a reasonable idea of what "accommodate" now or in the
near future would mean, I further mused; six classes, 25 students
per class, 150 lesson plans per day. I've got your pro bono.

Not
that I believe the above will happen overnight, but the process
has begun. Combine heterogeneous grouping with ADA, and private
schools will, by dint of misuse of a paucity of funds, dumb down
to avoid litigation.

Can't
happen? In the immortal words of Hubert H. Humphrey: "This
is not a quota bill!" Now, who would not want private schools
to have discretion in matters related to improving each child? Who
would want them to squander scare resources on frivolous orthodoxy?
My guess, the same people who today want to link them to federal
"vouchers".

My
last comment is advice – Get your child certified as "special",
but discard the prescription. There's no downside. Assuming the
demand for education is inelastic, eventually he/she will be tutored.
The NEA isn't against homogeneous grouping unless it reduces their
dues.

January
29, 2001

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