What do you think? Is it worth spending money on the education of a child with special needs? I mean think about it, a special education probably costs around thirty to forty thousand dollars a year. Public schools tell us that it costs about three times as much to educate a child with disabilities than it does a plain child. So truthfully do you think the taxpayers are getting their money’s worth. I mean let’s just talk money here, forget the moral responsibility. We really do not know how these kids are going to turn out as adults. I have seen a number of commentaries lately from our more conservative colleagues who think this expenditure may be a waste of money.
Here is another fiscally responsible thought. High school costs about twice what it costs to educate a younger child. All those additional courses and expensive equipment don't come cheaply. Maybe there would be some way to filter out the kids who aren’t worth the investment. European countries have been doing that for years. Kids are tested at various plateau levels and those that don’t make the cut are shunted off to more vocational style programs. Only those who make the grade get to go on to college preparations.
Or maybe we could give the kids some psychological screening and those who are going on to commit crimes or even become serial killers would not need to have our tax money invested in THEM! If we just knew in advance.
But the really big problem is that we DON’T know in advance. How do we know which kids who flunk the test aren’t the really creative thinkers who are going to discover some medical cure, some technological advance or even more importantly teach us how to talk and negotiate with each other to solve some serious world problems.
The fact is we don’t know. We don’t know which of the kids with disabilities will be that next brilliant engineer, a field where autism traits go a very long way toward success. We don’t know which of those smartass kids will become a wonderful lawyer that will help us to understand each other and our relationship to the law. It may just be that school skills aren’t necessarily the ones that lead to breakthrough achievements that help us all.
What we do know and what we know for sure, is that a democracy believes in its people. A democracy believes in its people so deeply that it allows all of them to vote to choose the leader. Even if those same people make foolish decisions. There is no merit test for voting.
If there is no merit test for voting, the most important thing we do in a democracy, why on earth would we have a perceived outcomes test for education. Oh right there is that money thing, what’s wasting a few million here and there. We do that everyday in a democracy too. It’s called government contracts. So maybe we should think of education as just one more government contract. And in a way, you know it is. It is a contract between the individual and the democracy. We will educate you. Now you use that education to make us a better democracy. The system has worked pretty well so far.