My wife does not understand why I am so upset. Well, upset is the wrong word. I am visibly uncomfortable. The difference between us is that I spend a lot of time in hotel rooms, and I need to feel comfortable — and I’m not comfortable in a handicapped room. It starts when I walk in. The room is the wrong shape. The furniture does not fit. So much of the space is wasted But it really doesn’t hit me until I walk into the bathroom where the sink and toilet are the wrong height, the walking space is too big, and the shower is totally not a shower. It’s a place for hosing down.
Now please don’t get me wrong. I am not being insensitive to the needs of people who are differentially-abled. On the contrary, I am sympathetic to being in a place that is alien to your shape, to your mode of conveyance, to your various disabilities and abilities. It’s the whole point.
We are all so different. But I suspect that the place we are most different is in how we think.
I’m not sure, because I am not a specialist. But I do not believe that I could ever be taught to be a strong reader. I’m an effective reader. I certainly read a lot. But there is a resistance in my mind, to the easy translation of arbitrary symbols (text) into facts and concepts. There are stages of reasoning that must take place in my mind that does not seem to be required by my son, let’s say. I took piano when I was young. But I could not learn to read music. I understand its concepts. But his ability to look at musical score and immediately translate it directly into his instrument seems superhuman to my way of thinking.
There are those whose minds resist the easy understand of the elegant language of numbers, the understanding of a spacial world, the ability to handle and manipulate complex and abstract concepts. And they each have their strengths and talents — and I wonder how many natural mathematicians, engineers, artists, composers, story tellers and innovators we are wasting, when we measure our schools almost exclusively on their ability to produce good test takers.
How many natural born leaders are we squandering as we teach them to listen, watch, follow direction, regurgitate facts, to sit down and shut up. How many leaders are we losing when we teach them to be taught — in stead of teaching them to teach.
How alien are our classrooms?
a77eBnY, “Handicapped.” a77eBnY’s Photostream. 24 Apr 2005. 10 Dec 2006 <http://flickr.com/photos/a77ebny/10714112/>.