Well, after digesting my lunch with a quiet read of Steven Pinker’s How the Mind Works, I’m not wholly convinced that it any longer does. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a fascinating, informative and witty book — and by and large, I can grasp it. The whole “computational theory of mind”-thing feels, in fact, rather natural to me (but, then, I did spend my mid-teens poking away at the squishy keyboard of my ZX81.) What I find a little difficult to cope with are the arguments against it — especially Searle’s utterly ridiculous Chinese Room thought experiment (note to potential commenters: don’t even think of telling me it isn’t — you’ll only make me angry and, in the words of David Banner, you wouldn’t like me when I’m angry ;-))
But that isn’t what I want to blog about today. In spite of feeling a little lacking in metal capacity, I want to bring my faithful readers up to speed with the progress of the chapter outlines for Children of the Revolution and generally… well, discuss a few of my thoughts on attitudes to “disability” in education.
The further I’ve progressed with my outlines (which are almost complete), the more I’ve seen that the integration system I experienced in the ’70s and ’80s failed on so many levels that it was, frankly, utterly ridiculous to ever call it a success (which, in my case, I’d always considered it to be.) It was new, of course, “experimental” in a most literal way (I made a bloody cute Guinea Pig, if I do say so myself!) — but that doesn’t alter the fact whilst my experience was definitely one of the better ones, it was badly applied at the outset, clearly underfunded as time progressed and enthusiasm waned, and unlikely to succeed when underlying problems in maintainstrean education (such as over-large class sizes) were not even being addressed. Examples of the failings in my particular case were:
1) I had recurring problems throughout my education with desk-height/positioning in relation to my wheelchair. Two or three teachers tried to address it, but by and large with little success (it became a more difficult problem to fix in secondary school — having to move from classroom to classroom — so I just kept quiet and made do.)
2) In sixth form college, I was assigned an auxiliary assistant. A lovely lady who became a friend. Unfortunately, “they” only employed her to work half-days. (With no one else covering the times she wasn’t there.)
3) In 1984, I was still meeting careers advisors who were happy to suggest that my career options included weaving wicker baskets. Which was just what I was studying Physics, Computing and Mathematics for!
I could go on. The more I revisit those times, the more I find in among the laughter and tears a greater sense that this novel needs to be written. I know I’ve said that before, but it remains true. It’s valid from a social history point of view but I also believe it’s valid in the contemporary sense — because I don’t see all that much evidence of improvement. Children, whatever their needs, are still being failed by our education system. And after thirty years of “integration”, that’s bloody unforgivable.
Please feel free to share your thoughts on this.