Soledad O’Brien, Parents Magazine, the Election, and What Education has to do with the American Dream

A few months ago, Parents Magazine and CNN hosted a joint luncheon with an array of moms in order to talk about the upcoming election. As a part of my new gig blogging about the election with, I had a chance to meet some awesome women and participate in a two-hour conversation with Soledad O’Brien as the moderator. The food was really good too.

Anyway, some portion of our conversation shows up in this month’s Parents Magazine: What Moms Want in a President. I’m quoted talking about special education, although I must say I would expand upon the thought if given the chance. I spoke up when the topic came around to education, and here’s what the article records:

Amy Julia Becker, 35, who defines herself as a moderate, has a 61/2-year-old daughter with Down syndrome, as well as a 4-year-old and a 20-month-old. Her older daughter received early intervention from the time she was born, sometimes with four in-home therapy visits per week, and now she’s in a mainstream classroom. “Schools are set up to say, ‘it costs x number of dollars per child,’ but it costs a lot more to educate my daughter than it does to educate another child,” she said. “We need to figure out what we want in our community. Do we want kids educated side by side? Do we want to send kids out of district? There are a lot of conversations we need to have.”

As any reader of this blog knows, I’m a big supporter of inclusive education–in which children with special needs receive their educational instruction in a classroom with their peers– because I believe it benefits our whole community. But I also think it’s important to recognize the costs placed upon our educational system as a result of the specialized services many children receive. One reason American public schools struggle when compared to those of other nations or when compared to private schools is that they endeavor to educate everyone. I see this inclusion as one of the hallmarks not only of American education but of our nation itself–of the dream initiated by our founders and articulated so well by Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in his famous “I Have a Dream” speech. But as a society we need to acknowledge that when dreams become reality they cost money, even as they reap rewards.

So, check out Parents Magazine, “What Moms Want in a President” and let me know what you think. And you’ll have more of my thoughts on this election next week…

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About Amy Julia Becker

Amy Julia Becker writes and speaks about family, faith, disability, and culture. A graduate of Princeton University and Princeton Theological Seminary, she is the author of Penelope Ayers: A Memoir, A Good and Perfect Gift (Bethany House), and Why I Am Both Spiritual and Religious (Patheos Press).


  1. When I was at university in England I was struck by how the British students there had been on track for university for years, while a lot of the people they started out in school with as young children had ended up on another track that was specifically designed not to lead to university. Not sure if that last sentence made sense, but the idea was apparently that after a few years of school the system identified those who should be prepared for higher education and everyone else is given a different type of schooling.
    It’s not the same as a full inclusion model like you are talking about, AJ, but I think it’s related to that education philosophy. I’m glad you are writing about these things and bringing them to people’s attention.

  2. Denised2004 says:

    It’s a really hard topic to make the best decision without individualizing each child. My oldest child is 17 and has attended public schools all of her life which has included special needs children. I am so happy she has had this opportunity. At this point in my life with Maddison, our 2 year old with Ds, I think she is entitled to extra, since my other kids haven’t needed it, I have certainly paid my share of taxes to expect help from the county, state, and government.