Saturday, May 31, 2008

Florida and Michigan are resolved.

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The scene at our house

Just went something like this

Humorous Pictures
more cat pictures

Hey, I didn't enjoy it either. But my feelings on the subject of fleas are:


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Meeting of DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee

Oliver Willis has the livestream posted. Howard is speaking right now.

Update: this link is from the DNC web site.

Liveblogging by emptywheel here.

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Friday, May 30, 2008

Open Thread

Thought I should put up a new thread before leaving for the pool.

I originally found "I Will Derive" via BBSpot, but decided to go with the girl math video for this thread. You know, to show my support for women in traditionally "male" areas of study. :)

P.S. Cheryl got her Netroots Nation scholarship page up. Click here.

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Unrealistic expectations

I still have little Alex Barton on my mind--this morning I woke up thinking about something I read in an article entitled Florida kindergarten teacher defends having class vote 5-year-old out.

After students shared their view, Morningside Elementary teacher Wendy Portillo had them vote, but said the vote was only to keep Alex Barton out of class for the day, not for good.

"Portillo said she did this as she felt that if (Alex) heard from his classmates how his behavior affected them that it would make a bigger difference to him, rather than just hearing it from adults," according to a report released Thursday morning by the Port St. Lucie Police Department.
Wow. A five year old is expected to have the emotional maturity and capacity for self-reflection to be able to profit from this exercise? Forget for just a moment that we are talking about a child with Asperger's Syndrome-- (his diagnosis has now been confirmed) she was expecting a level of insight that would be exceedingly rare in any child of Alex's age. This is developmentally inappropriate practice.

It reminded me of something I read years ago, before I ever had kids. The Etiology and Treatment of Childhood
The growing acceptance of childhood as a distinct phenomenon is reflected in the proposed inclusion of the syndrome in the upcoming Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th edition, or DSM-IV, of the American Psychiatric Association (1990). Clinicians are still in disagreement about the significant clinical features of childhood, but the proposed DSM-IV will almost certainly include the following core features:

1. Congenital onset
2. Dwarfism
3. Emotional lability and immaturity
4. Knowledge deficits
5. Legume anorexia
Having posted that excerpt, I hope that it does not cause the discussion to go into the territory of "Kids are overdiagnosed and overmedicated". While that is true in some cases, people often tend to make sweeping generalizations that may be hurtful (or at least unhelpful) to people who are dealing with these issues.

Obviously the piece is satire. Behavior and characteristics common to childhood would be seen as "abnormal" if observed in an adult. But rather than seeing these things as "disordered", many adults see them as "bad", leading them to select an entirely inappropriate strategy for dealing with problems that arise.

More later--I need to leave for work now.

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Thursday, May 29, 2008

Netroots Nation Scholarships

From the comments

Hey everyone, I have a DFA Netroots Nation scholarship contest update:

Jessica is still in 1st place. I've been bumped to 3rd. More votes for both of us would help send us to Austin.

Spread the word!

I've unfortunately lost a bunch of email addresses, so I can't appeal to a whole bunch of folks personally. Thanks for the support so far! (It's deeply humbling to see people say such nice things).



9 people will be sent, there are currently over 50 candidates in the running, with the number growing steadily.

Sorry for being too lazy/tired to write a real post, but hope the front page attention helps a bit.

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Thursday Open Thread

Nonviolent Communication

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Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Open Thread

Demetrius did a new design last night

Off to work, and then teaching, and then, hopefully, the gym.

Talk amongst yourselves.

Haloscan commen thread

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Card campaign for Alex

Something positive to do in response to the story I posted about yesterday. From Barbara at Mommy Life:

Let's show Alex we care.

To protect Melissa Barton's privacy, and since my address is public - please send all cards to
Alex is Special
c/o Barbara Curtis
15648 Britenbush Ct.
Waterford, VA 20197

I will gather them, notify the media, then put them all in a box and send them to his mom to give to Alex.

Outraged Mom Of Special Needs Son Talks Exclusively With The Early Show
Alex Barton And The New Wave Of Autism Activism
Update on Alex Barton: Teacher Voted Out
More links here.

Also, via some of the stories I've read in the past couple days, the following resource: The Autistic Self-Advocacy Network

Haloscan comment thread

Open Thread

Image from the LOLCat Bible Translation Project

Oh, and although I would probably appreciate it a lot more had I ever read T.S. Eliot's poem, The Waste Land, I still get a kick out of the words "April is the cruellest month" being translated as "April hates you!"

Anyway, the long weekend is over, and I'm back to work. Talk amongst yourselves.

Haloscan comment thread

Monday, May 26, 2008

Bad barrels

more cat pictures

After reading more articles about the teacher who had classmates vote on whether or not 5-year-old Alex should be allowed to return to class, I've amended my thinking on the teacher's potential "worst person in the world" status. She was, of course, absolutely wrong to subject a special needs child--or any child--to this type of public humiliation. But the system failed Alex and his family in a big way. And it may even have failed his teacher by failing to provide her with the resources and training she needed. I recommend this post for some thoughts on the bigger picture.

And I think we do need to get away from scapegoating. Firing this teacher could be a quick fix that would let people believe that "justice has been served", but it wouldn't give me much confidence that Morningside Elementary School would be any better prepared to address the needs of future students on the autistic spectrum. Maybe Ms. Portillo does need to lose her job over this. I don't know. But what I do know is that exclusive focus on "bad apples" can keep us from examining the root issue of "bad barrels". From psychologist Philip Zimbardo:

When you put that set of horrendous work conditions and external factors together, it creates an evil barrel. You could put virtually anybody in it and you're going to get this kind of evil behavior. The Pentagon and the military say that the Abu Ghraib scandal is the result of a few bad apples in an otherwise good barrel. That's the dispositional analysis. The social psychologist in me, and the consensus among many of my colleagues in experimental social psychology, says that's the wrong analysis. It's not the bad apples, it's the bad barrels that corrupt good people.
No, this isn't Abu Ghraib we're talking about here. But it is another example of a case where pointing fingers without addressing underlying systemic problems would be unwise.

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This makes me freaking furious!

St. Lucie teacher has students vote on whether 5-year-old can stay in class

5-year-old Alex Barton's teacher made him stand in front of his kindergarten class and had his fellow students say what they didn't like about him and then vote whether he should remain in the class.
Alex is in the process of being diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome. That's what our son has.

Update: This blog has listed contact information for the school principal, superintendent, etc.

And as Demetrius just remarked, "If this doesn't qualify someone for 'Worst Person in the World', I don't know what does."

Another update. Apparently the teacher is trying to pass this off as a "teachable moment" on taking tallies.

The teacher said the boy had been sent to the office earlier that day, and when the office sent him back to class, Portillo asked her students whether they were ready for him to return, Steele said. Portillo said she asked the class to vote because they are learning about taking tallies, police say.
More links

Not Special: Support Alex Barton

“We do things democratically here.”

And a New Goat (really good, insightful post, which I highly recommend)

Alex is "Cool"

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Sunday, May 25, 2008

Towel Day

Happy (or do you say "Hoopy"?) Towel Day

Towel Day - Don't Panic

Update: Sorry to be maudlin, but this seems to be as good a time as any to share something I learned recently about the day Douglas Adams died...

Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy fans will recall that Douglas attributed to the humble towel a miraculous potential for reassurance and utility. ‘There’s a frood who really knows where his towel is,’* the Narrator observes with admiration. The role of the towel traces its lineage back to the summer of 1978 when Douglas and various pals were on holiday in Corfu. Douglas was supposed to be writing, but a certain amount of hedonism and frolicking on the beach also featured.

Douglas’s towel – he needed one the size of a marquee’s groundsheet – was forever going missing. Perhaps it had some homing instinct for the sea, like a baby turtle. Finding it became synonymous with being a really together, cool kind of guy.

You may be touched to learn that, feeling faint from the rigours of the machine, Douglas picked up his towel from Peter and clutched it to him before lying down on a bench. In these circumstances specialists advise that becoming horizontal may not be expedient, but the piercing clarity of retrospect takes no account of the reality of an enormous, sweaty man, probably feeling a little woozy, poised to topple like an
uprooted tree.

He lay down. Peter glanced away for a second. When he looked back he thought that Douglas was messing about. Still holding on to his towel, he had rolled quietly off the bench. He had fainted. Peter called an ambulance, which efficiently speeded Douglas off to hospital. He never regained consciousness.
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