Sunday, February 12, 2006

Infidels, Infidels, Everywhere

The last line of my last post, which was about 10 days ago, said of our upcoming IEP meeting, "what fresh hell awaits us?"

Well, as it turned out, a lot of fresh hell awaited us. That's why I haven't written for days and days and days. Too angry, too burned out.

I was reading the paper today (the Wash Post) and thinking about the Danish cartoon debacle. The Post ombudswoman was explaining why the paper chose not to publish them--they have bans in their style book against basically printing things that are designed to offend. Or something like that. Like most things with the Washington Post these days, it seemed a little slippery and self-serving.

I have seen the Danish cartoons. They were emailed to me by my husband, who was sent them by a friend. What was absolutely shocking to me was that they were really not offensive. I mean, I was amazed--I had expected so much more from them. One of them showed Mohammed with a bomb as his turban. Another showed some figure representing the guardian of the gates of paradise (an equivalent to St. Peter?) telling a long line of suicide bombers something like, go back, go back, we have run out of virgins! The majority of them made the point one way or another that Western newspapers and cartoonists and editorialists and politicians are being made to live in fear for offending the Islamists. Another showed 2 women in chadors with only their eyes showing flanking a figure of Mohammed with a black swath the exact size of their eye cut-outs covering his eyes, thus, I suppose, not showing his face.

To me, these cartoons were political speech. Two things: one, obviously, I am not personally offended by an image of Mohammed, and am not sure why, as a prophet, it is not OK to show an image of him--Judaism and Christianity do not conflate the prophets with God; and, two, after reading an article in Slate, I am led to believe that, unlike what the Western media is telling us, that there is an absolute prohibition on depicting Mohammed in Islam, that that is a question open for debate in Islam anyway.

From my lowly (and perhaps ignorant) perspective, the Islamists (if that's the right term for the segment of Islam that's causing all the fuss and uproar in the world) have chosen to politicize their religion and its prophet, not unlike the followers of Our Lord Pat Robertson. Death and destruction are being waged in the name of Mohammed, as though he were a political leader and not a religious leader. Why, then, is he above criticism? Jesus is also being elevated as a political leader and not just a religious one these days, and I do believe a Google search might yield cartoons depicting him. In the Western world, at any rate, politicians are public figures, subject to different critical standards under libel and slander laws than the ordinary person.

At any rate, something rings politically true to me about the image of Mohammed with a bomb as his turban. Perhaps to set the perspective of that correctly, I would have that image be a picture on a T-shirt worn by a suicide bomber.

It makes me uneasy that the western media is not printing the cartoons at all--it elevates them to being more than what they are, I think. We are led to believe that they are far more offensive than they actually are. And I am also uneasy about being asked to respond with some sort of tolerant silence to atrocities being committed as political acts that are then wrapped in some sort of religious Saran Wrap. This is always difficult in the U. S., where we are so ignorant of religious and cultural beliefs outside those of our majority's--it is too easy to confuse all practitioners of Islam with extremists because of ignoranace, while we would never do the same with Christianity. Most of us can distinguish between Christian nutcases and Christianity as a big picture.

On the other hand, we did invade a Middle Eastern country (I did not approve of that, to be on the record), but it was a secular one (which the Islamists probably wanted to overthrow anyway), and the people in there didn't really like Saddam all that much, but our smart bombs aren't really that smart, and we're staying there way too long looking like we're trying to be in charge, and . . .

Thus goes the endless stream of variables that confuse and obliterate any sane discussion about anything having to do with the Middle East. Can anyone have a sane conversation about Israel? I think not. Can anyone have a sane conversation about Iraq? I think not. Can anyone have a sane conversation about Palestine? I think not. Can anyone have a sane conversation about the U. S. now that we've invaded a Middle Eastern country? I think not. Thus the Middle East is a synonym for Impasse. Look it up.

Which brings me back to Robert's IEP meeting and the school system fanatics of Montgomery County. This whole exercise reminds me a lot of talking about Middle Eastern politics. On the one hand, you have Roger and Jeneva, who wish to obtain a free and appropriate education from the public schools (to which they are entitled under federal law) for their son Robert. On the other hand, you have the dirty infidels of Montgomery County, who refuse to do any such thing.

Roger and Jeneva, keepers of the blessed sacrament (otherwise known as the eight-year-old in the wheelchair), have a problem: their child does not fit in one of the 2 modes in which the Infidels deliver special education, these being 'school-community based' (which teaches life skills and does not guarantee anything except 'exposure' to the general ed curriculum) and 'learning disabled' (which is apparently only for able-bodied children who can talk). In case you don't know, IEP stands for Individualized Education Plan, which is really a hoot in Montgomery County. The Infidels cannot decide which hole they would like to pound the Blessed Sacrament peg into, regardless of how tight or uncomfortable the fit. The prohibitions of their sacred tenets do not allow them to carve another hole.

Thus we are at an impasse. In addition to the basic impasse, there are subissues, along the lines of 'we was lied to' and 'dog and pony show in which the Infidel physical therapist refuses to obtain walker that allows the child to walk; child must keep trying for years in inappropriate device.' The latter category is pretty self-explanatory. Oh, except for the part that child must miss Math instruction because of need to do dog and pony show in wrong walker, yet child must still be assessed in math even though the instructional time is not being made up. Child is failing math. That, apparently, is the child's fault.

The former category needs a bit more explanation: 'we was lied to' because when Robert entered kindergarten, he showed anecdotal evidence or promise of a decent intelligence, but his physical disabilities prevented him from being appropriately tested and assessed. He was placed in 'school-community based' against our wishes, but at least he was in an inclusion school. We were told that when he started making academic progress, his designation could be changed. He did. It was not changed.

It was not changed apparently because no one wanted to invest or apply resources into adapting the curriculum for someone who was physically disabled and lacked speech. This involves hiring another part-time special ed teacher. That's it folks. And my kid was assessed as at grade level in math and one grade level behind in reading. And he was dealing with a math curriculum that was teaching kids to do addition and subtraction by counting on their fingers, which he can't do. And using scratch paper, which he can't do either. So my kid learned how to just do it in his head. When I pointed out to the teacher that that showed that Robert was incredibly smart, she said, 'oh, no, he had the same advantages as the other kids, because we kept showing him how you would count on your fingers or use scratch paper or use manipulatives.'

My parting thought as I look at how much I am spending on a lawyer (there were other sneaky, basically illegal technical things in Robert's IEP) is that Montgomery County spends enough annually on just one member of its legal team (assigned to battle special ed parents) to fund over 30 special education teachers' annual salaries. Just as the Islamists are offended by cartoons, the County in which I live is threatened by eight-year-olds in wheelchairs. Red alert! Red alert! Battle stations!

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