The IDEAL School is a wonderful example of inclusion – students with disabilities are never pulled out of class and are always taught the same lessons as students without special needs.
The Ideal School’s teachers focus on equality and diversity- encouraging students to seek out those who are different rather than stigmatize them. The curriculum and philosophy of the school fosters compassion and respect.
Co-founder of the The Ideal School, Audra Zucherman explains, “When we talk about inclusion, what we’re talking about is diversity.”
The Ideal School students learn about current and historical instances where injustice and inequality have occurred .
Elizabeth Pessin, a teacher at The Ideal School, says it’s important to teach the students about leaders in the civil rights movement because, “We just really believe that every single child is going to change the world, and that’s our philosophy and if that’s our philosophy then we need to give them examples of people that have changed the world.”
Learning about the many leaders in the Civil and Disability Rights movements that stood up to discrimination and intolerance has been very empowering for Henry.
The advocacy of Martin Luther King, Ari Ne’eman, Justin Dart, and Rosa Parks greatly influenced his decision to become an advocate.
Children exposed to the powerful lessons about civil and human rights from an early age recognize injustice when they see it and are far more likely to speak up. Our children certainly see the importance of being an “upstander” like Giovanni Owens.
Henry was heavily influenced by Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 when advocating for his right to attend his neighborhood school. His sisters and friends also looked to these examples when standing with him.
The Ideal School is a leader in the movement toward a more socially just society. They are practicing full inclusion and nurturing their students abilities to create real change in the world through compassion and self- empowerment.
Alex Wagner and guests discussed the topic of neurodiversity and inclusion immediately following the segment. Wagner asked Dr. Richard Rosenthal, of St Luke’s Roosevelt Hospital, his opinion regarding the importance of kids with neurological differences having the same opportunities for social and academic experiences ?
Dr. Rosenthal’s answer,”The reality is kids with disabilities are kids. If you are going to have a floor, everybody deserves, in a sense, the opportunity to develop themselves as far as they can go. This school is really quite remarkable and somewhat unique in the fact that it offers the diversity sort of in your face, and I love the focus on compassion, because what that does is reduce interpersonal distance and it allows people to really be friends, to connect. To be real with one another rather than objectifying someone as someone with a disability, and not so much. It really fosters a much more civil approach and in doing so lays the foundation where people can actually move toward their objectives in terms of their best emotional and intellectual growth.”
Watch the full program on Now with Alex Wagner here .