In a fit of what some Troppodillians will now know to be rather typical hot headed enthusiasm, I recently pontificated about the best blog post I’d seen in the year. Well it has a sequel, which is also worth reading. And I laughed out loud when I got to this part of the argument the author is having in an email exchange with Peter Singer – essentially about whether his Down syndrome child should be regarded as fully human.
The third goes to the premise of your argument. Youre looking for things people with Down syndrome cant do, and Im looking for things they can. We each have our reasons, of course. But I dont accept the premise that cognitive capacity is a useful criterion for reading some people out of the human community, any more than you would accept the premise that we should grant rights to animals on the basis of whether humans think they do or dont taste good with barbeque sauce.
And here’s how the author concludes the email.
Oh yes, evidence that might change your mind if the above paragraphs wont. The National Down Syndrome Society is full of useful information about what we can and cant expect, and online, the Riverbend Down Syndrome Parent Support Group is an amazing resource for everything from research on language and math skills of people with DS. Finally, theres the book Count Us In by Jason Kingsley and Mitchell Levitz (1994). The book includes, among many other things, one of Jasons high-school essays, written when he was seventeen; the topic is his mothers obstetrician, who in 1974 had advised the Kingsley family to institutionalize Jason because he would never grow up to have a meaningful thought. Of this obstetrician Jason writes:
He never imagined how I could write a book! I will send him a copy . . . so hell know. I will tell him that I play the violin, that I make relationships with other people, I make oil paintings, I play the piano, I can sing, I am competing in sports, in the drama group, that I have many friends and I have a full life.So I want the obstetrician will never say that to any parent to have a baby with a disability any more. If you send a baby with a disability to an institution, the baby will miss all the opportunities to grow and to learn . . . and also to receive a diploma. The baby will miss relationships and love and independent living skills. . . .
I am glad that we didnt listen to the obstetrician. . . . He will never discriminate with people with disabilities again.
And then he will be a better doctor.
Anecdotal evidence, sure. But good to think with, all the same.