Last year I was in a forum with some of the top leaders from Queensland to develop a thirty year plan for the state. One of the questions was “How do we advance education?”. One politician suggested we need to remove people with disabilities from the classroom (a person with autism was the example used). The reason… “they pull all the other students down”.
Having worked with people with disabilities for 10 years… I’m glad I was there to disagree!
“… the sick, weak, deformed children, in short, their destruction, was more decent and in truth a thousand times more human …”
Hitler and his Nazi’s were driven by a social philosophy called eugenics. The idea that we could improve the human species by discouraging reproduction by persons having genetic defects or presumed to have inheritable undesirable traits.
When we take it to this extreme it’s obviously wrong but what about the weird loud autistic kid disrupting the classroom and causing the other kids to get sub-optimal grades?
The young man in the photo on the right is Connor Perring. Connor is legally blind. Last week he told me that going through school he was separated from his peers and placed with the “special kids”. He was continually told what he could NOT do.
Connor now has his own music production company called Epic Music Australia. He single handedly organises the community events at Cup From Above. Connor every now and then needs some support because of his limited eyesight. But since given the opportunity to show his capABILITY, despite his disability, he has flourished.
Something worse happens when we segregate young men like Connor. We have classrooms of children growing up in a world with only “normal” people. We rob these children of the lessons of how to connect and communicate with complex, unusual and colourful individuals.
“It is time for parents to teach young people early on that in diversity there is beauty and there is strength.” -Maya Angelou
Working with people with disabilities for ten years made me a better person. They taught me rich lessons that I could not have learnt from anyone else or from any book. If we separate these wonderful and colourful people from the “smarter majority” it’s true that they may get better marks and become more efficient accountants and lawyers and teachers. However if we stay together we will get better at being patient, we’ll develop better fathers, we will all be better at community.
You don’t need to run a program or do a course to learn how to do this. You shouldn’t have to artificially create diversity by statistically delegating teams and boards by gender and race. Just delete all prejudice in your heart and diversity will happen naturally around you.
Here’s an old shot of my team at Cup From Above. I don’t think you could get more diverse than us! Each team member has something unique to offer and plays a vital role. I believe that’s in part what makes us so strong as a team and I believe we should embrace this as a culture. Queensland and the world will be better for it.