The Daily Illini

We need to fix our education policies

By Michael Williams

Upon returning to post-secondary education after many years in the workforce, I have gained a unique perspective about the state of accommodations for students with learning disabilities. As a member of this population, I have struggled mightily to meet deadlines and stay focused.

While these tendencies make me uniquely qualified to serve in Congress, they are useless in the real world. The one area in which I have not struggled is finding institutional support for my efforts to overcome and succeed at the post-secondary level. I have found the resources available through the University’s Disability Resources & Education Services Department to be relative and sufficient.

Nonetheless, there seems to be a great deal of fingerpointing when it comes to the practical application of policy. Students want more accommodations, including increased use of technology in the classroom. Instructors bend over backward to provide accommodations, with the exception of a few bad apples who have achieved notoriety by putting their ignorance on display.

The problem with our approach to learning disabilities can be found in the numbers, specifically 1965, 1973 and 1990. The foundational laws of our education system date back to the Vietnam era. While attempts to amend archaic laws are well-intentioned, they are but patches on the blue jeans handed down to us by guys named Lyndon (B. Johnson) and Richard (Nixon).

Much of the energy expended in addressing learning disabilities lies in compensating for a framework that needs to be rebuilt from the ground up. The best use of our efforts may well be directed toward the advocacy for and development of a comprehensive national education policy, relevant to the technological advances of the modern world. We must be equipped to address this world.

Michael is a senior in Social Work.

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