Inclusive schooling meeting – cripmoot

Let me start this entry by admitting that my parents were right about two things: they were right when they said that I am crap at planning stuff, and they were right when they said that Hebden Green was a waste of time. Both of these things I realised, once and for all, yesterday.

I had been invited to a meeting of a local disability network by Becca – who, I should say, is fast becoming a good friend of mine – part of whose agenda concerned inclusive schooling. I am becoming increasingly aware just how sinister the segregation between mainstream and ‘special’ schools is: report after report shows the gaping divide between these two types of school in terms of quality of education. Socially, the fact that students with special needs are taken to completely separate schools, using completely different school busses, is reminiscent of apartheid. Thus, when Becca invited me to a meeting where this issue would be discussed, I thought it a valuable use of my time to attend.

The problem was getting there. I had to ask Luke to take me, which, noble man that he is, he agreed to do, even though it meant him taking hours out of his time. This was not helped by the fact that the directions and map I got from the internet were as accurate as using a toothpick for a compass needle, and to cut a long story short, we arrived over an hour and a half late at our destination…

…which, thanks to the beurocratic nature of such organisations, meant we arrived during an opening discussion on how minutes were taken. We entered the meeting hall, and instantly were invited to sit next to Becca and Katie, who I had communicated a lot over the net with, but had never actually met. I must admit that I am very much impressed with Becca’s vast knowledge of the issue, her resolve, and her determination: due to Katie’s condition, bringing them both up to Manchester from north London must not have been easy, either. Nevertheless, we had arrived well before the discussion on inclusive schooling was to begin, which meant I had time to get a cup of tea, and assess my surroundings.

Most people there had disabilities of various kinds. I think me, Katie, Becca and Luke were the youngest people there. Gemma, an highly articulate woman with CP, was the chief speaker, but Felicity – an AB former teacher – seemed to be chair. However, it soon became apparent how much in fighting and petty beurocratic squabbling there was even within this meting of some ten people. Myself, Becca, Katie and Gemma seemed united over the issue, which, since we had all experienced the special school system to varying degrees, I think is quite natural, yet various other (older) people seemed only to care for their particular social subgroup, and, it must be said, were cantankerous almost to the point of being an obstacle.

Nevertheless, one of the outcomes of this meeting was the idea that we should set up a specialist conference about the issue of inclusive schooling, with workshops about the various aspects of the issue. There are many hurdles to overcome, both physical and social. On the physical side, there is the problem that many existing mainstream schools are not adapted for disabled pupils – there are stairs where lifts are needed, doors are often too arrow for larger wheelchairs, and so on. However, it seems that the social problems involved are far more insidious: although what physical problems there are can be overcome by making adaptations to the school, whether they will be made by a council which does not seem to want to make them is another question entirely. During the meeting, Becca pointed out that only one English borough had signed an international accord on inclusive schooling. Time and time again, such councils find reasons – a more appropriate word would be excuses – not to implement inclusion, a fact which this report clearly shows. When governments choose to send kids to different schools, for whatever reason, there can only be one term for it: apartheid.

Like the struggle in south Africa before 1992, the struggle to make education truly inclusive will be long and hard. But yesterday, I vowed to see it through, helping Becca and Katie however I can.

cricket

The other day, I was looking up stuff about brian lara, tthe west inddies cricket captain. Do you know he once scored 500 not out? I mean, that is mucho impressive.

[btw england just got lara out. its 178-4] anyway, I found a site which suggests cricket isactually played in the states! ha. I wouldn’t have thougt they had the ppatience, but this generalisation may be wrong.

yet, on second thoughts, the generalisation may be accurate: test-mach cricket is quite a slow sport, whiich requires patience to play. if american forign policy is anything to go by, the americans seem too eager to have tthingshappen at that moment. they rush all over tthe world, seeking members of a loose organisation, rather than waiting for them to make a mistake. if u set your field too aggressively, u sttand to get struck by ttthee ball on your head.

link

nice day

It’s a nice day, and should the cloud cover we’re currently experiencing go, it should be a scorcher. Pretty much the first this year/ on days like this, I like to get out and about, for while I can spend hours behind my computer, surfing the web, I like to get out and about. I woke up this morning and thought it a perfect day to go out on my F55 wheelchair. While I am fine walking about the house, where there are plenty of soft things to land on should I fall, going outside is another question. The answer is the Defiant, named after a ship in star trek; a fairly nippy little chair which allows me to roam independently as far as Swettenham.

So, I got up, dressed, and during breakfast asked Luke if he could get my chair out of the garage. He asked me if I had dad’s permission. This is a problem – I have no doubt dad would say yes, and that it was fine for me to go a-roaming, provided I had made a blog entry. Recently, he’s been reminding me to make more entries for some reason – I think he just wants something interesting to read when he’s at work.

The problem isn’t that writing blog entries is a chore: it can be very interesting, and somewhat relaxing. When I am writing about something which interests or angers me, writing is very easy, and about three hours later, I have a page of fairly eloquent text to add to my blog. For example, a recent entry on inclusive schooling was banged out one afternoon after a conversation on MSN Massager with my friend Becca. I feel very strongly about that subject.

The problem, however, is finding a subject interesting enough to write about. I could go off on one of my political rants, but they might be getting lame; I could launch into a tirade against bush, but I think most people who are reading this know what the W in his name stands for, and anyway I need to read up on the 9/11 report before I can write again on that subject with any authority. I also need to read the Butler report.

Which brings me to a second subject which I could have a good rant about. This week saw Tony Blair talking in the commons with more authority than he has had in quite some time. His party seem to be behind him again, and chances are that he’ll regain some of his popularity. The question is, how did Blair do it? Of course, he is greatly helped by the Tories being in such an amusing shambles: most media commentators say Blair trounced Michael Howard in the commons on Tuesday, and I personally like to think his days are numbered as Tory leader. How, then, after Blair lead the country into a deeply unpopular and barely legal war, can he be allowed to escape? When labour’s popularity should be at an all-time low, the opposition leader insists on making ludicrous comments along the lines of “if I knew then what I know now, then I wouldn’t have supported the war”, and then going on to say that he still supports the war. Eh? How can anyone make such a stupid comment, and expect to win the confidence of voters? Its quite funny, really.

Also, I heard quite an alarming report this morning on the BBC which stated that global warming posed ore of a threat to us than terrorism. This I do not doubt, and, like many people I find it worrying. We need to do something about global climate change. Why, then, do conservatives, and particularly conservative Americans, ridicule those people who care about the environment as hippies? They seem to thing their right to drive hugely polluting vehicles outweighs their duty to the environment. They care ,=more about the war on terror because they get to shoot things.

There are many more things I could rant about here, like affairs in Israel and Africa, and peter mandleson, but as I said, it’s a lovely day, and I’m off to watch the cricket!

why wobbling rules

mums away on busness, and mme and luke were instructed to finnish off some bacoon and egs in mum’s filthfydirty fridge. ok, so .it eemerges that: a. luke is, gor some odd reason, watching his weight, and only i will be eating the fry up. 2 luke has never made a fry up before

INGREDIENTS

eggs – 2.

bacon – 2 rashers button mushrooms – lots butter – 1 shitload milk

I ate this in about 15 minites, and guess what! I wont get fat! I wobble so much due to my cp that i don’t ever put on weight! hahahaa! jealous yet?

🙂

fantasy and heroics

I’ve been looking at the types of film in production recently, and there seems to be a distinct trend towards the fantasy and superhero genres. This interests me, as it may reveal things about the collective western mindset.

The two most obvious examples of recent fantasy films are the Harry Potter (HP) Series and the Lord of the rings (LOTR) trilogy. Both have strong central characters trying to save the world from a force of evil, but in this there is nothing special – the good versus evil theme is centuries old. What is interesting to me, however, is that they reveal a desire to break into a fantasy world where things like good and evil are well defined, and can be fought for or against. The division is Nott so clear cut here, and, as SLS points out, the lines between good and evil are blurred; a man seen as evil can be a force for good.

As the books upon which they are based, and the films themselves, were created and were in creation before 9/11, I doubt that HP and LOTR can be seen as truly reflecting of the current social mood. However, the current wave of ‘superhero’ films can be seen as reflecting of the status quo as they were created after 9/11. they too paint a world where there is a battle between good and evil, but unlike Frodo and Harry, their main protagonists have overt superhuman powers, or at least powers which excel their peers’.

The recent superhero films such as Spiderman are all about people with extra powers coming to vanquish the force of evil. We can read into this a desperate need in popular culture for such people, which reflects a certain nervousness about ourselves. Yet, in post-9/11 culture, if we read the forces of evil to be terrorists, we can see almost the exact opposite: we, or rather America, now sees itself as a force of good, and one with superhuman powers at that. Moreover, it now sees good and evil as two absolute extremes, rather than taking the more liberal stance that they are blurred, and this I find disturbing.

We have already heard bush refer to ‘’Evil’ in his speeches. This is juvenile: while someone may be misguided, he or she will always act for what they see as good. Hence, outside of fiction, the idea of evil is subjective. But bush is fuelling the idea by using such language that America is a force of innate good fighting the evildoers.

We’re living in an action movie! Aaaaaaargh!

political stuff

It has been quite some time since I had a political rant, and, like the London busses of cliché fame, two subjects arrive for me to discuss. The first is obvious: The Butler Report.

‘Rant’ might be too strong a word for me to use here, as, unlike Hutton, which was so blatantly one-sided that one couldn’t help but cry “whitewash!”, Butler seems more balanced. Granted, it did not openly blame Blair, or any cabinet or intelligence official, as many expected, but nor did it exonerate them. Blair will receive much flack over this, especially from the conservatives (who, as any fool can point out, supported the war in the first place) but he will not loose his premiership over this. At least, not just yet, anyway.

The question, therefore, is “How?” Yesterday in parliament, when I half expected him to announce his resignation, he came out fighting: he eloquently accepted the findings of the report but strongly justified the war. Indeed, his prohibition could now be stronger, as Butler accounted for the lack of WMD in Iraq by citing muddled intelligence, not a lie on the part of the prime minister. Butler also dismissed claims that this war was all about oil. Thus, because this is a document that we all can respect due to it’s balance, Blair can stay to fight on. While he has certainly lost respect in some quarters, he may yesterday have gained some in others.

Nevertheless, I still do not trust him: the fact remains that, as Lord Butler noted yesterday, the September Dossier missed out several qualifying phrases from the intelligence it was based upon, and we would therefore lied to by omission. Blair’s forward was also disproportionately strong. I would feel very uneasy about voting for a man who would go to war on such loose ground, and, what’s more, one that would follow a blatant homophobic bigot so loyally. Butler dismissed the supposed links between Hussein and Al Qa’ida, making bush’s position barely tenable too, especially after Ashcroft.

However, although one can sigh at Blair (to say the least) and scream one’s head off at bush, both have a modicum of respectability. Neither, for example, denounce whole swathes of people. Bush may be a red-neck, but he is not a fascist.

In other words, there a set of people, here in Britain, who worry me more than Bush. People who I have no respect for, yet pretend to be a political party: the BNP. There is a documentary due out tonight about these people. To be fair, one must question, as an impartial viewer, whether the BBC is biased on this front: it has a somewhat leftist-liberal stance, but as all major political parties of both sides of the spectrum dismiss the BNP as little more as a pack of barely potty-trained hooligans, we can accept the BBC’s judgement. Indeed, I might point out, as an aside, that Butler seemed to confirm the BBC’s pre-Hutton claim that the government did indeed ‘sex up’ the dossier, if just by omission.

Thus, if we can take the bbc as not having any innate bias on this – and I believe we can – then, small as they may be, I am very worried about the BNP. They espouse the most abhorrent of views, it’s leader, Nick Griffin, denouncing Islam as a “vicious wicked faith”, while trying – and failing – to project a veneer of respectability.

Thus, just as I hold Butler to be the pinnacle of political refinement – the hefty report presenting both sides of the argument, before coming to a well-rounded conclusion, I hold the BNP to be the antithesis of this: neither balanced or respectable. I find it interesting that we are to see these two faces of politics within 48 hours.

web problems

apparrently, my website was down yesterday and today. according to kyle, its now fixed. I simply gad to go grunt at my bro, and wave my arms at my pc. Luke thereafter made a loud, high pitched exclamation which sounded likee YOU MORON, and fixed the problem. so, if your reading this, well done.

also, i’ve began to experiment with a little art. Using my pc to merge 2 pictures together. this was inspired by reading “the art of the fellowship of the ring”, a very interesting book about the design process behind the films. maybe i can put some art up here eventually.

i gotta c this!

[quote]’Frasier’ Star Lands Monty Python Role

Former Frasier star David Hyde Pierce and Rocky Horror Picture Show actor Tim Curry have been named among the cast of Eric Idle’s new Monty Python musical.

The acting pair and funnyman Hank Azaria will take the leads in the Broadway-bound production of Spamalot. The King Arthur legend spoof, which became cult Monty Python film Monty Python & The Holy Grail, will be directed by Oscar winner Mike Nichols. Pierce, who played Frasier’s brother Niles Crane in the hit sitcom, will play Sir Robin and Curry will play King Arthur. Azaria will take on the role of Sir Lancelot. The show is set to debut in Chicago, Illinois, in December, before beginning a Broadway run in February. [/quote] ni!

sttolen from imdb

blair’s last week?

I just read this bbc neews report. apparently,blair has been urged not to resign by ministers after being on the brink of doing so. with leaks of the butler report not sounding favourable, and the ennet report devistating the CIA inteligence over iraq, is this blairs last week at no. 10?

ccould welll be, but leaving office in the middle of the pre-election run-up, with debtes welling over education and the NHS would leave the famous black door open for michael howard. then we’d really be screwwed!

inclusive schooling

On this site, I have discussed many themes surrounding disability. In my essay on Harry Potter and disability, I discussed how inclusion 9of disabled characters in literature can help overcome many of the boundaries disabled people face, such as prejudice. In my short story “bionic matt”, I explored the possibility of finding a ‘cure’ for CP. However, both of these pieces rely heavily on the medical model of disability, which holds that a disability should be seen as a medical condition, and disabled people should be treated as patients. Many people hold that it is, in fact, society, rather than biology, that disables a person: it is society that refuses to install ramps in buildings; it is society which refuses to employ us so we have to rely on benefit; and it is society that sends us to separate schools.

In the piece on Harry Potter, I assert that there is a need for thee segregated schooling of students with special needs. This is not exactly true, and this is the issue I want to deal with in this entry. Indeed, the story on which that essay was based concerns a disabled student going into mainstream entry, and the protagonist’s disability is used largely as a dramatic tool (to counterbalance Snape), and not as the central theme. The point is, there is a huge benefit to be gained from inclusive education, and the risks of not implementing it are truly dire.

Indeed, I am not a fan of the special school system. I left my school with a handful of GCSEs and one A-level, to my knowledge the only student who did A-Levels at all. When I visited my old school this Easter, the news that I was going to university was greeted as if it were something truly rare. Special schools, it must be said, are not places where academic achievement is encouraged: with some notable exceptions, most of the examination reports from special schools are abysmal. For example, most people in my GCSE year did not achieve above grade D.

The case for inclusive schooling is therefore very strong indeed. It is not only beneficial for the disabled student but for other students too, as it helps to break down prejudice. Any barriers soon begin to break down when this segregation is halted. In Berlin, I flourished: all those around me accepted me for who I was, and exactly the same thing will happen when all children are taught together.

However, there will, of course, be problems in achieving this. Nature has not made the playing-field level, and disabled students will always need help. One way of doing this is providing them with Learning support assistants (LSAs), who will help a student do a thing he or she cannot, such as taking notes. However, LSAs are only useful up to a limit – they cannot, for example, make a child friends – and nobody wants to be shadowed continuously throughout the school day. Disabled students should be encouraged to be as independent as possible.

There is a conflict,, therefore, between a need for help and the need for independence, and this is solved through technology. Mobility problems are solved through the use of wheelchairs, communication problems are solved –although addressed would be a better adjective – through the use of communication aids.

While mobility has a bearing on education – after all, one needs to get to class – it is the latter field that interests me the most, and has the most bearing on education.

If one cannot communicate, there is no way to assess one’s ability, which causes the education of many disabled students to suffer greatly. For example, getting my Lightwriter when I was 11 meant I could communicate more fluently, meaning I could do GCSE English and A-Level English at the comprehensive near my special school. Yet I was lucky: to my knowledge, I have no learning disabilities (save for the one that prevents me learning that beer is bad), and I was reading and writing by the time I was 5 or 6. Hence I can access a communication aid with a qwerty keyboard, and can thus use the full English lexicon. What places students at a severe disadvantage is when they are not literate enough to access the normal writing system, so a series of alternative writing systems has been invented.

As a philologist and communication aid user, these systems interest me immensely. It must be said that they strike me as very limited as an alternative to normal writing, but that does not necessarily matter. Bliss, for example, is made up of 2000 symbols, each representing a word. Although the combinations of symbols one can use means ones vocabulary is virtually infinite, this still compares starkly with the 500,000 words of the Oxford English Dictionary. How can a student be expected to learn efficiently, or respond articulately to media if he or she only has access to 2000 words? Where at all possible, literacy must be a priority. Yet here again we see a failure in special schools, because they teach kids with learning disabilities to use systems like bliss. It would be, thereafter, harder to teach a child the normal alphabet because he or she has grown up using symbols.

Writing systems aside, how a child actually communicates with his teachers or classmates is another problem. My Lightwriter – in my opinion, the ideal device – is simply a qwerty keyboard, 2 liquid crystal displays, and a voice output system. Using this, I can say anything, from ordering German food to discussing the work of Tolkien. Yet the communication aids other children are given are not as versatile because they lack the physical or cognitive ability – special schools claim – to use things like a Lightwriter. Thus such children are ‘fobbed off’ with the simplest of communication aids, some containing no more than six words (unless more options are offered by an LSA). How can one expect a child to show the full range of his knowledge with only six words in front of him? On the other hand, some Voice output Communication aids (VOCAs) can store enormous vocabularies of up to 10,000 words, which, together with the use of a keyboard, mean a user can swiftly access the full English vocabulary.

There is a case, therefore, for teaching kids together, and with as little human assistance as possible. Disabled children are being failed by a special school system which does not allow them to access the curriculum properly. Many students with communication problems are dismissed as having learning difficulties, and so are not taught to their full potential. I find this state of affairs quite sickening, and I have decided that it is my duty to try to help.