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Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Scapegoat (not me)

Like many people with NF, I have some non verbal learning challenges.  When I was in grade school during the late fifties and early sixties, all they did then was put you in the “dumb” class…no support of any kind.  That, thank heavens’ has changed, but the challenges to get the help one needs is still there.
This is a story about a 20 plus year friendship I've had with an educator who has more integrity in his (proverbial) fingernails than most people show in a lifetime on this planet.  I know because we were roommates for a time and I saw and heard him go about his life with his attention on his work, and the things that are important to him in life. 

Bearing that in mind, everyone knows of, and many have themselves been, a scapegoat.  The wrongly accused as it were.  When one has been the victim of that particular cruelty, it dazzles me that the same person would put someone else through it, knowing what it feels like when there is no (or little) merit to whatever accusations are flying about.  Perhaps revenge, even if it is against someone unconnected to whatever scapegoating they went through, makes them feel like they got their power back.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

True power comes from empowering others, not pointing a gun when a gentle talk would suffice, especially if the person in question has never, in their entire two decades of service, had one serious complaint against him.  From colleagues, students or their parents.  But new hires have to stake their little corner and if that means attempting to push others out, so be it.  Okay, I've digressed enough.

As an educator, my friend has served in the private sector for many years.  Private schools are a very mixed bag; my nieces and nephew all went to private schools before graduating and moving on to colleges; they are very bright did quite well.  But there we political challenges throughout their time there.  They met them all, but it wasn’t easy.
It is those political challenges that are now haunting my friend, whose goal is and has always been, to serve those in need; kids with challenges similar to mine.  Sometimes, the ones in need are not from the families giving the most in the way of endowments, etc.   Some are, of course.  Money and the ability to learn in the 'accepted' way do not go hand in hand.   

Most of these schools banter on about “diversity” and have much to say about it on their websites.  Unfortunately, that is often where the buck stops.  Although my friend does not, would not, no matter what, name names, or talk specifics about what is going on, others have.  Years ago, a woman who was hired strictly to fill the diversity slot (non-white) was also a roommate of mine for a short time, and she had no such integrity.  She was angry, frustrated and eventually left the school for somewhere with, well, integrity.
I am sure part of the sudden onslaught of criticism about him comes from the fact that he HAS been there a long time, and gets paid accordingly.  They are, perhaps, going for a “twofor” and have hired the gunslinger to dredge up anything that might make him look bad. 
For as long as I can remember,  parents of the kids he helps have phoned or sent cards of gratitude; the people who want to see him gone are unfazed by the good he does and he is not one to boast about his many achievements.   
The powers that be couldn’t know of the pre-dawn phone calls from parents needing help with their child’s SAT test that is coming up, or that term paper that is due.  Hearing the phone ring at that hour from my own room and knowing he would answer any questions with panache, grace and most of all, help, amazed me.  I would have let the phone ring!
So once again, the kids that need the most help will be left struggling should they succeed in their mission to get rid of the one person those kids can count on for help.  Once again, those against (usually the moneyed) having  “those” kids enrolled at the school will continue to call the shots, and the kids who perhaps, like me, have learning challenges but are as smart as any of the others may be left behind.   Like me, they learn differently.  But learn they do, and a great deal of that credit goes to the person they want to rid themselves of.  If they lose him, they could very well also be losing future doctors, researchers, scientists and educators.   

Talk about your learning disabilities!  The irony in all this is that we never learn.  If we did, they would see him for who he is; acknowledge him for what he has done, listen to the families who praise him, be grateful for those contributions and pray that he will stay beyond his retirement date.

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