By Quinn Jarvis-Holland
Opinions hold strongly when we are older, they are formed from our upbringing, and the experiences we’ve encountered. These tend to be more rigid the older we are, but things can change. For example, black and white racism in the fifties: white families didn’t know blacks, and if they did, it was in a situation where they were superior to them. The opinions were seeded at home, and solidified at school, where the only things white kids knew about blacks were rumors and stereotypes. In 1954 Brown vs Board stated that segregated schools were not equal, and therefore unlawful.
55 years later there is still flat out segregation. I’m sure you’re familiar with it, or you probably wouldn’t be reading this, but separate education for “retarded” and “normal” kids is not equal.
Did you know that a fully certified segregated special ed. class is not required to offer a single hour of general ed. content throughout a student’s time? Teachers and staff would not like everyone to be included because, frankly, it’s a hassle. For a teacher who has 29 kids, if one of them were to have a mental disability, a lot more planning would have to be done to find adaptations and ways for the child to participate and learn. Some would say it’s impossible for kids with disabilities to be able to learn the same content as their peers, sure they may not talk much, why not get an voice output device? Can’t do math on paper? Give them blocks, or, ever tried a computer? Guess what? Not every kid’s brain works the same, and some diversity of teaching methods wouldn’t just benefit those with a disability. It’s a bold new world out there with boundless technology; it’s time to harness it.
Now apart from the complete lack of required education in special ed. classes, and the lovely “happy gatherings” as you may have (or are soon to) read about, segregated classes have inequalities for both sides of the issue, not just the kids stuck in special ed. The kids in “normal” classes will most likely never have a real interaction with someone with a disability, and therefore not have a real idea of who they are. Without a relationship, the R-word means stupid, “special kids” aren’t good, and the stigma remains. Imagine if kids with disabilities were instantly integrated in their schools, given adaptations to make them successful. People with disabilities would no longer be “them” but “us”, not a different kind of person, not someone who is “broken”, but an occurring part of our population, who has something to offer, just like the rest of us. If kids grew up going to school together, inequalities would be lessened greatly. Just like the ebb of racism, kids would grow up understanding, rather than assuming. And just maybe the R-word would take the path of the N-word fade away.
These issues weren’t on my mind since birth, my brother Daniel was born with Down syndrome when I was 5, and it has led me to some great interactions with people with and without disabilities that I wouldn’t have had otherwise. I’ve joined the All Born (In) movement, and things aren’t going to change until we get a lot more people. Interested in helping or joining the movement for an inclusive civil society? I’d be happy to respond to emails at QuayQuay17@gmail.com.