We all knew on some level how powerful technology has become in our lives, didn’t we? Even several years back, when today’s revolutionary tools were referred to as Web 2.0, I had an admittedly rather vague concept of what was ahead. But, often, a person needs to see something action to fully comprehend its impact. This effort by Stuart Chaifetz to expose the horrible treatment of his autistic son at school has been my “ah-ha” moment.
So there is no confusion, I fully support what Chaifetz has done, from putting a microphone on his child to sharing his story through social media. The fact is that he and his son — and clearly other families with children in the same classroom — have been victims of terrible treatment. He followed the steps the system required, and when he ultimately could find no answers, he discovered a creative solution to the problem. For the sake of Chaifetz’s child and his classmates, I’m glad he did.
My second thought about this situation is how much the world has changed in such a short amount of time. Even 10 years ago, it would have been very tough for Chaifetz to share his story with anyone outside of his local area. The process of information like this finding its way to a “traditional” news media outlet used to be difficult and time-consuming. Granted, as an animal rights activist, Chaifetz knows his stuff. But, a decade ago, there is no way that by Wednesday evening, I would have bumped into no less than ten people who also read or heard about a story of something that happened at an elementary school halfway across the country simply because it was reported on Yahoo! earlier in the day. I can’t even remember Yahoo! even having coverage like that on its site. This was a time when the concept of a “portal,” even, was in its infancy.
Chaifetz put together a website, is collecting online petition signatures, posted a video to YouTube, has a Facebook page, and as a result of all of the attention he’s getting has media coming to him to tell his story. None of these things are new to me, but when it was put together for this purpose, I was struck by how much the world has changed. It was just one of those midlife moments.
And what I hope from all of this is that people think twice about how they treat other people. Maybe this idea is not so naive anymore. We live in a time when a grade-school teacher who brings her foul mouth and perspective into a local classroom can be chastized by millions throughout the world. Today this woman is “public enemy no. 1” in the minds of thousands, at least. I wonder how it feels to be hated by so many people. And I wonder if the potential of being hated like that will deter even a few people from acting on their worst thoughts or intentions.
If you haven’t seen the video, prepare to set aside 15 minutes to hear the whole thing. You will be shocked, saddened and likely ultimately very happy that Chaifetz had the tools to tell his story in such a compelling way.