the forest or the trees?


I was at a school district meeting a few nights ago.  We talked about assessments mandated by the State.  This year the assessment has more than twice as many questions and includes material our particular special needs children will not possibly know.  In last year’s assessment, testing in a given subject area would be terminated when a child incorrectly  answered three consecutive questions. This year all questions must be posed to each student. 

One mom was very concerned about the traumatic impact on her 4th grade son.  He is gaining traction in school and loses ground when faced with tasks far beyond his abilities. This culminates in a major meltdown when he gets home, and he doesn’t recover for days. Of course that produces an additional burden for mom, above and beyond the usual demands, which are above and beyond those ever expected by any mom. Her question to the district personnel:  “Would there be a persuasive impact on the State if we boycotted this testing?” Well, the answer came,  probably not and it would hurt the district’s overall scores, funding, etc.  

The struggle, repeated in many categories of life in the parent of a special needs child, overwhelms: keeping the big picture in mind (the forest) as we focus on our own child (the trees).  I so often just do not give a rip about the district. Yet I know that when En reaches the age of majority,  my darling daughter will probably be at the mercy of some state agency whether for insurance coverage, housing or total care. 

What then, the forest or the trees? 

Well, I rail against this answer: both.  However, my greatest responsibility is to raise my child well. So my ambition (one of many in her life) is this:  to teach her to take the test, and find the detachment to say, “someone made up a dumb test because the questions didn’t make any sense!”  

For her hope and happiness, her view of the forest must embrace alternatives to “what does that mean about ME?” Sometimes, the tests/laws/(fill in the blank) are dumb. Sometimes the decisions lack thorough consideration. Yes, sometimes it really is about someone else!  

In which case, I stick with the “tree” in my own home.  The forest is always changing and my little tree must be coached so she can navigate that forest as well as possible. Not that she’ll escape unscathed, none of us does.  I want her to be able to hold her head up, and know that she is a valuable member of society no matter what she can or cannot do.

After all, if knowledge/education can make the world a better place, shouldn’t we be further along as people than we were 500 years ago?

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2 thoughts on “the forest or the trees?

  1. I informed the school that my son will NOT be taking the state assessment, not this year nor any other year. They were not happy with my decision, but I do not care. My son cannnot take the test, cannot handle taking the test, and the test will tell them nothing about my son in particular. There is absolutely no benefit to his taking their stupid test outside their problem of “A refusal is documented as a failure in our report to the state.” Hmmm. Tough. They should have written their guidelines better than that, then.

    And as far as education and us being further along than 500 years ago? They were far better educated in the 1500’s than we are now, and most only went through 5th or 8th grade. An 8th grade exam cannot be passed by many college students today. We are by no means further along! And how sad is that?

  2. I respect your decision as Momma. Each of us has to make the decision that is best for our child! So good going. Stay strong.

    I understand what you are saying about education in the 1500’s, and perhaps that is one of the reasons we have so many complaints about the school systems now! The bureaucracy involved in education is a deterrent to the goal itself.

    However, we certainly know more now – think of the advancements in the sciences including medicine, technology, psychology. But that knowledge has not reduced wars nor made the human race more generous toward its own. We still lie, cheat, steal, belittle, envy, etc. Despite more discoveries, despite living longer, having more knowledge available to us more quickly, we continue to lack wisdom. An immense deficiency.

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