Friday, July 02, 2010

Culture in Special Education - Parenting

"More and more, the task of child rearing no longer remains solely in the hands of parents and extended family but has come to be shared with experts and paid professionals who design, oversee, and provide services." (p. 81)

A couple of weeks ago at camp I was sitting on the floor of the lodge building, listening to the rain and participating in chapel. I watched as a counselor a few rows up from me turned to try and get a camper to sit still. At first I thought it was going to be just a look, but then I saw that the camper was struggling to put his arms in has t-shirt. It was cold that morning and the camper had not worn a jacket. The counselor quickly figured out what was happening and handed over his coat. The camper eagerly participated in the rest of the chapel.

The camper could very easily have been a fidgety eight year old. We make assumptions about students behavior all the time. It seems much rarer that we look for ways to figure out what the problem really is. We assume that when something goes wrong it is the same reason every time. Like eight year old boys just cannot sit still. Kalyanpur and Harry argue that right and wrong are not so easy to define in parenting. They argue that most parenting decisions are built on a few continuums that reflect the culture and realities of their life. For example, one parent might make a decision with only the nuclear family involved. On the other side of the spectrum there may be families for whom descisions have to go through a large extended family before they can be made. This extened family may even include, "fictive kin" (Stack, 1975, p. 59) who are not related at all.

I really like the image of parenting choices being a set of sliders, like the sliders on a color chooser. Every kid, reflecting the uniqueness that God created them with will end up a unique color. Each decision about how to help a child become involves adjusting some sliders, like how many people are considered family, and how hierarchical the family is; or how involved the family is at that stage the person is at. As people who love a child, it is important that we all communicate where we think the sliders be adjusted to and why. It is also incredibly important that we listen to the other who have a stake in those sliders as well.

As I read this, I thought a lot about discipline. It is hard to talk about discipline publicly. As a technology coordinator I get involved in discipline issues. The cultures at the places where I have worked with kids seems to be that parents, teachers and administrators all want to put in the good work to help everyone navigate the complicated waters that we have today. I think this respects the uniqueness of each child and family while building the community to be more resilient against the forces that would normally break us down.

Posted via email from Jim's posterous

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