In her TED talk, Temple Grandin gives an overview of how people on the autism spectrum think, and makes a brief case for neurological diversity as a benefit to society. She says that in most places, we have no idea how to unlock the potential in the minds of neurologically atypical kids. “One size fits all” is not an educational policy that will work for them. Crucially, she’s not arguing that we need to be more flexible in our approach to education out of charity for autistic kids; she’s arguing that we need to be more flexible because it benefits us all to free up the skills inside these kids’ minds.Listening to her lecture, I thought about how crackpot the No Child Left Behind scheme is for neuro-atypicals. Education is not simply a matter of putting information into brains, like inputting data into a computer. Some kids, because their brains are organically different, simply can’t deal with some subjects (I think I have a good idea why I was so bad at algebra and calculus, much better with geometry, and fantastic with words). It’s hopeless to expect them to meet a rigid set of standards — and by judging them inflexibly, we underestimate and discourage them. Grandin also talks about how wrong it is to eliminate shop class and art class, which are often the first things to go — often because schools that have limited resources have to cut those programs that aren’t tested for on NCLB-related assessment tests. These classes are the salvation of some neuro-atypicals, she says. It’s madness to cut them.She also talks about how we need to reform education to get people into the classroom who are good at teaching certain subjects, but who don’t have education degrees. This rigid credentialism is shortchanging students. Agreed! Where would my public high school have been if it hadn’t been granted an exemption by the state from the law requiring education degrees for public schoolteachers?

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