Thursday, May 28, 2009

Fear and Loathing II: Ambivalent Principals/Ambivalent Principles

Still shopping around for a cheder for our son, Shmuel.

Though I think our search may have ended - though not with success. We realized yesterday that our experience in the past - with the neighborhood school - was not just an isolated event, but endemic to a system in which there is simply no 'interest' to pursue mainstreaming as a value.

Yesterday, was the latest. Another principal, this time in a school outside our neighborhood. His argument was as follows: 'you are not from our community; we don't know you; you should go to the schools in your own neighborhood.'

As readers of OMT will know, we've already been to the schools in our neighborhood. So we told the principal - this time my wife was doing the talking - that we knew of his reputation for progressive education and openmindedness, so we were turning to him. 'It was an opportunity for his school.'

He could have turned us out of the room - he had provided his argument (reasonable, though not exactly courageous) - but he kept talking...and talking. And the more he talked, the more he became excited - gesticulating, standing over us, his voice getting progressively louder.

I could see it coming - first the tears in the corner of my wife's eye, and then - with that one more finger point in the face: the outburst of tears. No drama here; this was the real thing: 'Don't you know we've come to you because no other cheder will take our Shmuel?'

Exit stage left.

The principal - I thought (after trying to calm my wife) - had good principles; he just could not express them, at least not to us. As Hamlet says to his mother: 'The Lady doth protest too much, methinks.' All the principal's protesting - really uninstigated - was a defense against a voice within: the principal doth protest too much, methinks! His heart was telling him something his head did not want to hear - so he went on and on defending against his own inner voice. Too bad the outer voice was directed at us!

So there is ambivalence in our community - even among unprincipled principals.

Not much of a pragmatic consolation, but maybe the acknowledgment of such ambivalence - of our voices within - might mark the beginnings of change.


Menachem Lipkin said...

R. Kolbrener, as we're just a year or two behind you with our son Yisrael you are making me nervous. But please assure me that, for your son's sake, you're not limiting yourselves to only "chederim". Especially, given the experience your having, it's crucial that you open yourselves up to the widest possible range of choices.

He will do fine religiously no matter where you send him. The main issues now are having good therapists and a warm, loving environment where he can grow to reach his maximum potential.

rickismom said...

I have to agree with Mr. Lipkin. I sent Ricki to Mizrachi foe three years, and was able to switch her as she got older.
I would return to your local school, but WITH an advocate who is knowledgeable (like Ilil Leder... she will dress the way needed...). She will know what to answer their concerns. For sure contact her for names of positive school principals.

Havlei said...

Menachem, you hit the nail on the head.

Chanech LeNoar AlPi Darko (his ability)and not Darkcha (what you want his ability to be).

Give the kid the tools that is needed right now and not be “fooled” into the “sheker” that a mainstream academic environment is panacea for outwitting the system.

Menachem, with your ideal approach of non high expectancy, whatever Israel succeeds in, he will be happy and surely you will be happy for him.

Spinal Muscular Atrophy - Shira Fisher said...

Here in Victoria I know of a mother that not only has a terminally ill child like my daughter Shira but also has a down syndrom child. Her down syndrome child is in an integrated pre school class!

Please give my best to your wife and a hug for you William! Your son is worth more than these people turning you down. You and your wife William understand Neshema very deeply. I'm so happy that your son has his syblings and such great parents who are not only caring but highly intelligent and will be able to teach their son well!

It's terrible how the religious community treats challenged people. Boy is there a difference between religion, dogma and spirituality!!

I hate to think what lessons your children are learning from your community regarding what might happen if they have challenged children.

I really hope you find a place in Israel where your son will be accepted and your other children will witness other regular people treating your son as an equal!

Spinal Muscular Atrophy - Shira Fisher said...

Here are some quotes that have really moved me about advocacy and quality of life since my daughter's diagnosis.

"The phrase is apt to cause disquiet. There have been those among us who have arrogantly judged, from a vantage point of power, the value of a human life. They have made decisions based on their assessment of a person's quality of life about providing supports to sustain that life. This attitude peaked in Nazi Germany, where such decisions were used as the basis for genocide. We like to think that we have moved well beyond this perspective, but important decisions about people's lives are still being made from positions of power. Such practice is difficult to combat, especially in a period when responsibility of government in the area of human and environmental services is being cut back."- Introduction by J. David Baker (Quality of Life in Health Promotion and Rehabilitation)

"If you see an injustice being committed, you aren't an observer, you are a participant." - June Collwood

"Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented." - Elie Weisel.

"Among people who believe that there is only one truth-and they are in possession of it-tolerating other points of view is, by definition, impossible." - Hella Winston (from her book Unchosen The Hidden Lives of Hasidic Rebels)

"A patient is then weighed down by the same burdens as a rape victim becoming a carrier of the projections of others who ascribe reasons why this illness happened to this person. Blame - the - victim "reasons" are punitive. They are very different from objective causes-and-effect reasons, the seeking of which can lead to solutions, cures, and preventative treatment for medical and social problems. When people are afraid that what has happened to someone else could happen to them they often distance themselves from the victim. If they can blame the victim they feel safer or superior, which is the unconscious motivation. Blame is also a way of shifting guilt onto someone else." - Jean S. Bolen MD

"The opposite of Compassion is Indifference." - Jean S. Bolen MD