In America, one way of helping students with disabilities blend in with their non-disabled peers is to consider differences in ALL students. Every child has strengths and weaknesses. Even students who are multi-talented have areas they lean more towards than others. Lifting students up from their weaknesses is important, of course, but I would argue determining their strengths are most important.
Emphasizing the potential in ALL students would change the whole outlook on American schooling and give us hope. Looking at schooling from this angle would lift students to new heights—would encourage America to be proud of its children and their outstanding differences and would send a message to the rest of the world that we are a strong nation when it comes to education.
In the last 30 years this country has done nothing but tear down its K-12 educational programs and its children. Newspaper headlines have screamed how badly America’s students do based on cold assessment scores. Leaders have used negative terms like “Dropout Factories” misinterpreting research results. Every news outlet on TV has heavily emphasized the disintegration of public schooling. School budget cuts have gone far to destroy American schools. All of this has been accomplished by looking negatively at student weaknesses instead of emphasizing student strengths.
The start-up of a secondary system in the form of charter schools and vouchers, largely deregulated, has weakened U.S. education overall. Again, these changes have taken place by promoting the weaknesses in students. The strengths students bring to school have been and continue to be ignored. This effort to privatize public schools has not worked. It has only unnecessarily and heartlessly lowered the opinion many have of students, their weaknesses, and public schools…schools that the American people themselves own.
Now the idea of common knowledge for all might appear, at first, to be the answer to equalizing education—making it somehow fairer for everyone to get the same education—nothing more—nothing less. But instead, it actually further ignores students who learn differently or who need different goals to succeed. I would argue this is ALL students.
The drive behind Common Core State Standards is the expectation of everyone to master the same objectives no matter a student’s strengths and weaknesses. A student who struggles at math might be gifted in the arts, thus their artistic talent will go unrecognized. A student who cannot write well, but who is verbally exceptional, may be categorized as a failure. Once again, the gifts of America’s students will be diminished and those who learn differently, outside the box, will be left to flounder.
With Common Core State Standards, the strengths of America’s students will continue to go unrecognized, and the weaknesses will again be center stage. More importantly, students really won’t get the kind of education that truly meets their needs. The best kind of education would be to look more closely at each and every child…to personalize their education and to show off their strengths! Isn’t this what America should be all about?