Friday, July 23, 2010

Exhibits, or friends?

As a part of their ‘social sensitisation’ exercise, my four-year old’s kindergarten class is being taken to a school for the hearing impaired today. ‘What is the purpose of the visit?’, I wondered aloud. ‘To teach our kids how privileged they are’, replied a parent of a child had been taken on the same trip last year.

While I applaud the sentiment behind it, I am not
sure if I approve of it. Last year, his class visited the zoo and a pet shop. This year, they are visiting a school for hearing impaired children. Don't you think the children would subconsciously equate the two? Are hearing impaired children exhibits for the non-hearing impaired children to ogle at?

I do not think so. As far as I am concerned, the hearing impaired children are children not very different from my two. Unlike the kids in my son’s class, the hearing impaired children start off with a disadvantage- they would need to work much harder to achieve similar results, they would need to be extremely strong to move forward in a world which is imperfectly designed for them. BUT, they are not creatures from outer space- they are children much like the children in my son’s class.

What they need is not sympathy, or curiosity. All they really need is a little bit of compassion- an un-obstructive nudge or a silent gesture when they are missing out on something. And that they will get more readily from people who grow up thinking of them as peers.
Rather than ‘visit’ the school, I would much rather have had the kids from both schools meet in a common place for an hour of fun and games. Wouldn’t that make a lot more sense than moralizing sermons about compassion and pity?

Or, am I just over-reacting as I tend to do?


GutsyWriter said...

Yes, I agree with you. But children perhaps see things differently than we do. Perhaps they just view it as going to another school. Are they going to have activities to participate in together? Running games, etc.

Cruella Collett said...

I hope that the kids think like you describe - that this is a place to visit to make new friends, but I think that many adults could benefit from reading your post. Let's hope they'll learn the difference!

slommler said...

You are most definitely not over-reacting! I agree with you. An organized play time on a regular basis would be good for both parties, I would think!!!

Mary said...

Maybe getting to know each other first and then exchanging visits at school would be better.
A friend growing up was deaf. We worked out our own system and I never went to her school until I was 9 or 10. Then I really appreciated how hard she had to work for everything.
We kept our system until she moved out west for a high corporate position.

LTM said...

I don't think you're overreacting. I wonder if the kids think they're learning "how privileged they are" or if they're just learning about a different way to exist in the world. I've found the parents teach the children how to react/treat others... :o)

Chary Johnson said...

Do you know that I almost cried when I read this? You get it when so many people don't.

As a special education teacher, I am always fighting for the rights of people with disabilities. Thank you for identifying a major flaw in our society's perception of the disabled. They don't want sympathy. In fact they just want to be treated equally and fairly.

Thanks so much for this post.


Jules said...

I agree with Chary, you get it. Let us know if they find new friends.

Wonderful post.

welcome to my world of poetry said...

A wonderful post Rayna I don't think you're over re acting,
Play is important to children but these days it's best to be organised.


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I don't think you're overreacting.
Besides, those kids may not hear, but I bet they excel at sign language.

Diandra said...

I think you're right.

It would be something different if there was a cooperation between schools, like regular events undertaken together maybe. That way, the children might learn from each other.

They way they are doing it right now - just another freak show. Hope the children don't see it this way.

Tina said...

I don't think you're over reacting at all!!!! You made an excellent point.

Theres just life said...

No you are no overreacting. I had a cousin who had muscular dystrophy and was in a wheel chair. I saw first hand how people treated him as less intelligent and ogled him because he was in the chair. He was a world class chest player and an advocate for the handicapped and did a lot of good in his city.

My roommate's daughter went to a school that had a hearing impaired teacher, who taught a sign language class. I thought that was wonderful. It showed them that people are people no matter what. Some of the graduates even went on to become translators for the hearing impaired. Maybe you could suggest to the school that they might want to have a class on sign language so that they might talk with the other children.

Al said...

The outcome in terms of your children's learning really depends on how well the teachers manage the trip.

But I agree an opportunity for the kids to play together is one that shouldn't be missed.

Jemi Fraser said...

I think it all depends on the point of the visit and the discussions before, during and after. If it's an exchange of experiences I think it could be a fantastic opportunity for everyone. Kids are fascinated by each other - they could make some new friends and observations. Each group of kids could learn from the other - hopefully by playing games in integrated groups.

If, however, this is a display type of tour, I think it's a problem.

Patricia Stoltey said...

What an interesting question? Your suggestion is so much better. Bring all the children together in a park and have games and treats. Make it a teaching experience without putting anyone on display.

dipali said...

Spot on, Rayna. interaction-yes, exhibition- please, no.

Anonymous said...

I can see your point of view. I believe however that kids don't think like this and will, no doubt, play and have fun and not realize that the other kids even have a disability... Let us know how it went!

Clarissa Draper said...

I agree. I went to school with many deaf students. They would not want to be ogled at. I think that you have a good idea there, get them together for games.


Rayna M. Iyer said...

@ Sonia- they just went to the school, looked around and came back. What is the point?

@ Cruella- I tried to get my kid to think along those lines, but with how much success, I do not know.

@ SueAnn- organised play would have been so much nicer, wouldn't it?

@ Mary- your friend is quite something, I think.

@ Leigh- privileged is good, as long as they do not look down on others, and give others a tiny helping hand

@ Chary- coming from you, it means so much. I wondered if I was over-reacting, but nobody else I spoke to has really dealt with such kids.

Rayna M. Iyer said...

@ Jules- they did not. They gawked and returned, and I am still mad.

@ Yvonne - quite.

@ Alex- the funny thing is that because of the priming up I gave my son, he's been miming all weekend. And he is getting pretty good at it too.

@ Diandra- that would be wonderful, wouldn't it? Each have so much to learn from interacting with the other as peers.

@ Tina- thank you.

@ Theres just life- it is so sad when people who are 'different' are treated different, when they are infact as normal as you or me. Doing a class on sign language may be a good idea- will suggest it.

Rayna M. Iyer said...

@ Al- it is good if they play together, isn't it?

@ Jemi- I wish they had managed the whole thing better. Had they interacted with each other, it would have been so good.

@ Patricia- it would be so much better that way, wouldn't it?

@ dipali- absolutely.

@ Fiona- it didn't go well at all- In fact, it went just as I feared-they went, gawked and came back.

@ Clarissa- absolutely. They are people, not animals in a zoo. Not that animals shouldn't have rights either.


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