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Marissa Patterson's picture

Can (should) we eliminate disability?

Many people have been bringing up the idea of difference and whether or not we should (or can) make the kinds of interventions we have talked about in class and here in the forum. Stephanie metioned her belief that a child with a speech/language disorder should be helped to communicate so that they can thrive in this community. However this made me stop and think: how much is our desire to provide this help based on helping the child integrate into the community and how much is to help the community? It is very hard on a teacher to communicate with a child who is hard of hearing or speaks another language, and her job would be made vastly easier if all of her students could communicate in the same way as each other and as she does.

Professor Grobstein brought up the idea that teachers and schools should adapt to students who learn in different ways and that society should shift as much as possible to incorporate those who have a "disability" or a "difference." However, I still wonder to what extent that is possible. For example, if a hearing couple has a deaf child, one would anticipate that they would learn sign language to commuicate with their child. Perhaps the child's siblings would as well, and maybe even their grandparents. But as the connections get weaker, it is hard to know what else would happen. What about the mother's best friend, or the child's great-aunt, or his third cousin. Should we say that everyone should learn sign language just in case?

Well ok, so now everyone knows sign language, but a child is now born deaf and blind, and so all of the rules change again. There are millions of conditions and "differences" that would need to be adjusted for in order for society to be accessible to everyone.

So let's get rid of difference. Has anyone read The Giver? In this culture, everything has shifted to "sameness" and there is no color, no difference. Everyone wears the same clothes as their yearmates, everyone is assigned a job, a spouse, and even children so that there are no "poor choices" being made, and anything that would mess this up (such as identical twins) is eliminated by "being released," or killed, essentially, without being brought into the community. Additionally, there are strict rules that try to prevent any kind of embarassment or acknowledgement of any difference that still remains, in order to reduce any sense of someone being "better" or "more able" than another.

Anyways, this is a vision of a society that seems in many ways to embody the conditions of total acceptance we have been talking about. However difference has reduced, and instead of celebrating (or discriminating against) difference, it is totally ignored. Is this the only viable alternative to the way our society is? Or is it somehow actually possible to build the kind of world that Professor Grobstein envisions.

Another little thought--is it possible for it to be in a nationwide (or even global) community? The Giver takes place in a small town--are smaller "cultures" easier to control? Just a thought...


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