The bulk of the post involved Dan Habib, the father and filmmaker responsible for Including Samuel, which tells the story of his family's fight for inclusion for his son Samuel, who has cerebral palsy. The BusinessWeek post asks Habib about public acceptance of inclusion, and the citizens who are quoted sound identical to many whom I've heard from on the subject, including in the comments to my own blog. Habib's answer is brilliant.
But in this economy, just how much enthusiasm is Dan getting for inclusion? Not everyone is a fan—not by a long shot, judging by some of the comments on my blog last May. "Why do we even bother paying for education for these kids?," wrote a commenter named Lilly. "Their parents chose to have kids and now their disability and special needs amount to a rise in taxes. Their parents just get a lawyer and fight and fight until the school district ends up paying for special programs. Why? Why not divert the funds for gifted and talented students instead of kids who will need societal support their whole life."
Lilly's anger about how taxpayers' money is spent is not so uncommon. How many of us have heard the same complaint in our own school districts? And how many Lillys does Dan run into on his?
I pitched that question to him by e-mail, and he replied with a list of "myths and realities" about inclusion. One myth, he says, is the notion that taxpayers are throwing away money by educating kids with disabilities. His response: "How can Lilly or anyone else predict which child will contribute to our society? Would Lilly really argue that Bernie Madoff … added more to the world than the physicist Stephen Hawking (who wrote his greatest work after he was severely disabled by ALS)? How about Albert Einstein (widely thought to have had Asperger Syndrome), Helen Keller (blind, deaf, and unable to speak) and Vincent Van Gogh (mentally ill)? People are not limited by their disability, they are limited by a lack of opportunity."
"People are not limited by their disability, they are limited by a lack of opportunity."
I could try for a year to find the words to describe my own philosophy of inclusion, and I couldn't do better than that.