Contributed by Joe Montero
Pauline Hanson has sunk to a new political low, by calling for autistic and other disabled students to be removed from Australia’s state education system.
If her call is ever taken up, it would condemn thousands of our young to lives to be far removed form achieving their potential.
She tried to use this as a bargaining chip for support for the Turnbull government’s Gonski 2 package. It is a disgrace.
Hanson has also shown just how ignorant she is of education by suggesting that the problem is teachers who are “do gooders” and “want everyone to feel good about themselves”. Presumably she believes, although she doesn’t say this outright, having disabled students in the class room gets in the way of educating the abled.
She does imply that the disabled and openly states that “do gooder” teachers both prevent competition. This is the sum of her definition of education. Gone are the roles of picking up knowledge and honing a set of skills.
She doesn’t know what she is talking about.
I know, because I have experience as a teacher and have had Autistic and other disabled students in my classroom. I have worked in the mainstream education sector and in special schools over the years.
Sometimes it is a challenge. For the most part, these students are well behaved, facing major learning challenges and this can add to the teacher’s burden.
The problem is the lack of resourcing. A disabled student needs a trained supporter in the classroom that can work on a one to one basis, helping both the student and the teacher. When this is provided, it makes the world of difference. It also helps the other students to learn understanding and working together.
An obvious social benefit is that is that other students learn not to fear difference and become more tolerant of others. It moves us away from the days of locking up the disabled out of sight and concern. One would hope that, unlike Hanson, we have moved some distance from this barbarity.
For the disabled student, participation in mainstream schools provides a chance at becoming a part of society, to be given the ability to achieve greater self esteem and lift a belief in the ability to achieve. Do the rest of us really have the right to discriminate and take this away?
Highly functional individuals facing these challenges are aware of their situation and motivated to overcome them. Participation in society is fundamental to this and being educated in the school system is an important part.
This group is more likely to suffer from depression and its members more likely to take their own lives, when they are cut off from achieving their potential and isolated. Do the rest of us have the right to inflict this?
When we treat the disabled, as people who need to be removed from our presence, it shows how far we still have to go, to accept those who are a little different from us. Failure to accept the disabled as part of our society is no different to trying to separate from those with a different skin colour, culture or faith. Pauline Hanson’s wish to separate the disabled is consistent with her overall bigotry.
When it comes to autism, I am especially moved, because I brought up an autistic person and have worked with others with the same challenge and their families. This has provided me with considerable insight.
I know about the emotional roller coaster faced by parents, siblings and the individuals concerned; about the years of hard work and the absence of far from adequate support. I know that those growing up with autism do have the capacity to become valuable and contributing members of society, so long as they are given a chance. Believe it or not, the disabled also have abilities.
Integration into the mainstream education system may not be the magic pill that solves everything, but it is an important stepping stone that gives a chance to move forward, through learning, and just as importantly, lifting self-esteem and belief in one’s own ability to succeed.
The alternatives are to isolate these young human beings at home or to lock them up in institutions and condemning them to less meaningful lives.
This is the ugliness of Pauline Hanson’s mind.
Autism Awareness Australia chief executive Nicole Rogerson she was “appalled and disgusted” by her comments.
A parent of an autistic child represented all who find themselves in the same boat, when she suggested the following:
“The fact that she would use the Australian Parliament to say something so discriminatory and ridiculous about Australian children with disabilities is disgusting.
“Research over decades has been done that shows the benefits of inclusive education for both developing children and for those with a disability.
“It’s a hurtful thing for families across Australia to say. She should be ashamed.”