26 May

From this day forward, Divergents Magazine calls on every family who has a child identified as divergent—LD, ADHD, ASD—to refuse to participate in any form of timed testing. Never! Not one. Not even a driver's licence exam. No more. The principle of universal design recognizes many ways in which neurotypical pedagogy unfairly privileges neurotypical students. In fact, perpetuation of this privilege is literally built into every assumption about learning—but not one is as blatant as timed examinations. 

I just finished crying with my fifteen year old daughter as she tried to finish her school work online—after being completely targeted and abandoned by the public school system, paying for private tutors, and begging for neurological testing. (I requested testing in writing for three years in a row.) Now, still unable to read fluently at fifteen, I find myself borrowing every penny I can to pay for private school, so she won't continue to be shamed and targeted for her challenges by the very system that failed her. This particular, experimental school—un-accredited—charges extra because of her diagnosis, but they honestly don't know much about different learning profiles. Call it willful ignorance or maybe just indifference. They seem more concerned with monetizing my daughter’s learning difficulties than addressing them. And this is how it is for millions of families.

Everything about the field of education has been completely transformed because of coronavirus. Everything, that is, except all the core assumptions that form the foundation for educational decision making. And who pays the price? Those who learn differently. The long tradition of "Special Education" in high school—paying a teacher’s aid as little as possible to help kids get through standardized work for which they are underprepared—is catching up to a lot of students and their families during this pandemic. How many students feel completely alone and hopeless, ashamed of their inability to live up to unrealistic expectations? How many parents are reliving this shame—remember, divergence is hereditary—completely incapable of helping. I imagine millions of students and their parents are shaming and blaming themselves right now, drowning in the negative projections of the "experts." 

These "experts," most of whom hold a one year Master's of Special Education charge twice as much to deliver the worst—really, indefensibly bad—outcomes. Statistically and anecdotally the system is failing,  harming our children, and charging us twice as much for the privilege. No matter how well reasoned their judgements may seem to each other, these "experts" have failed. Can you name any other industry with the failure rate of Special Education?

Are "timed assessments" the only problem? No! The whole system feels like torture to millions of children, due to the uninformed assumptions of the neurotypical majority. But every revolution starts with a single act. Refusing to take timed tests will jostle the system a little bit. When we all, as a unified front, refuse to take timed tests, we aren’t just disrupting a system. We make a dent in their numbers game. When test scores go down, funding is affected. When funding is affected, educators take notice.

Anyone whose child suffers under the neurotypical education system can tell you, we destroy the self-confidence of almost every divergent learner, and we almost never help them meet any standard benchmarks.

The old paradigm needs to shift; it’s literally about time.


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