Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Public ed is only a right for the compliant

The powerful and wealthy in our country pay to send their children to schools that are not testing factories, but for those who can't afford this luxury, children are used, abused, chewed up and spit out of the system if they are not compliant. Even if it means they will get hurt or sick.

It's sort of like one of those alien movies where those in power feel they have the right to run these tests on aliens because they are sub-human. But this is not a movie and our children aren't aliens.

This story played out recently when 12-year-old Anthony Hererra's mother, Gretchen, followed doctors orders  which she shared with the school and allowed her son to opt out of the test.  As reported in Education Week, what came next was a letter waiting for her from the charter school her son attends. The letter said Anthony was no longer welcome because by opting out he
 violated his learning contract so he was being withdrawn from the school, effective immediately.

Upset, that her son was being forced to comply to school rules that would harm him, or get kicked out, Gretchen responded to the school director with a letter asking her to reconsider her decision and show compassion for her son who would be harmed by the tests she wanted to perform on him.  Here's an excerpt:
"My son is a 12 year old little boy with Aspergers and a brittle diabetic. I presented Cherry Daniels and Donna Strom with a letter from his diabetes team stating my son should NOT take the test. It stated clearly that he would have a dramatic reaction in his health, but still he took the first part.
My son's blood sugar spiked over 200 points in 30 minutes!
I had sent ANOTHER letter in as well to his homeroom teacher stating that not only did his blood sugar go up, but while there was all of this turmoil, after I refused to let him get ill AGAIN by finishing the PASS tests, his overall blood sugar (A1C) was dangerously high! All of the stress he went through over will he or won't he be allowed to come back because he didn't return to a situation that made him physically and dangerously ill caused his A1C to reach 9.0 from a 7.0! That is documented.
Your school ignored the letter from his endocrinology team and subsequently caused him to be in a very harmful situation with his health."
Young Anthony's health did not matter to the school. All that mattered were his test scores.  What was equally alarming is that many other parents at the school shared that when it comes to kids, the government, not the parents, should have final say and that if she wanted her son in school Gretchen should just comply and follow their orders even if it was against doctors orders and would make him extremely ill. It's become a case of what  Author of Instead of Medicating and Punishing and an Unschooling Coach Laurie A. Couture refers to as the Stockholm Syndrome which is a psychological phenomenon in which hostages express empathysympathy and have positive feelings towards their captors, sometimes to the point of defending them. 

As Gretchen was spending her time researching schools that would be a good fit for Anthony she noticed something interesting.  Her little boy started thriving. During the time she thought she and her son were just hanging out, her son had started taking up IT and computer programming and today at 13 knows enough to land him a job starting at 48k per year.  While the system and others were calling Anthony a loser for leaving, Anthony discovered he was finally able to learn.  Not only that, but the articles that appeared in places like Ed Week and various blogs became an inspiration to him and led to what his mother calls "his recovery." As more time passed away from school Anthony developed a greater sense of self and no longer had depression and suicidal tendencies that were the side effects of his time in school.  

Now there is no turning back.  The Hererra's learned that, for Anthony, the best school is no school.  Anthony couldn't be happier and in fact has agreed to write a follow up on how he is doing to share with the world and he predicts it will go viral and "be bigger than the 'butt spider' everyone is posting about on Facebook." 

I hope he's right :)


  1. This story brings up a concern that I have had as I start teaching special education in a new school district. There are so many tests that students have to take, but in reality, many of the skills presented in these tests are not skills they need for careers in the twenty-first century. Students are extremely motivated by the use of technology, whether it be a computer, Netbook, iPad, or iPod, their knowledge of technology is the one area where my students continually astound me. So, we should build on this strength and use the technology to gather the data that we need to assess learning and drive future instruction.

  2. What a great story, congratulations for Anthony. Makes one sort of wonder what others could do without so many restrictions.