Toby Young: Disability Back Pedal

Good old Toby Young. The Spectator columnist and Free School advocate has had some views on inclusion and disability. They were ill thought out and much amended.

The long and short though is that Mr Young feels that nasty Politically Correct school additions such as ramps not only means that disabled kids get to go to classes, it also means that disability gets in and probably infects the school. The infection is Inclusion.

My own daughter was heavily disabled and was confined to a wheelchair but also had access to mainstream education in Sydney. She or rather we and her school carers and friends used ramps… a lot. Ergo, I find Mr Young’s views to be unpleasant, stupid and offensive.

So, here’s a tiny little bit of criticism.

First, here is some of what Mr Young had to say in, I assume, the short moments between setting up his school for proper folks and whizzing between his pals’ book signings:

“If Gove is serious about wanting to bring back O-levels, the government will have to repeal the Equalities Act because any exam that isn’t ‘accessible’ to a functionally illiterate troglodyte with a mental age of six will be judged to be ‘elitist’ and therefore forbidden by Harman’s Law.”

Later he defends this use in the comments to his own piece:

“I’ve absolutely nothing against inclusion in that sense. Rather, what I’m against is the way in which opponents of education reform often invoke the low intelligence of some (non-SEN) children as a reason not to introduce more intellectual rigour into a national curriculum that’s meant to be fully inclusive.

“That’s the context in which I use the word ‘troglodyte’. It’s supposed to conjure up the fictional, cave-dwelling creatures from the movie 2000 Years BC – creatures whom it’s plainly ridiculous to try and tailor the national curriculum for. It’s not supposed to be a synonym for a child with SEN.

“Indeed, a moment’s reflection should make this clear. After all, I’m trying to point up the absurdity of Harman’s position and if I had intended ‘troglodyte’ to mean “children with SEN” then Harman’s position would seem sympathetic rather than absurd.”

So, let’s have a look at this from a non-policy angle:

“Troglodyte = fictional, cave-dwelling creatures from the movie 2000 Years BC”. Nope. Certainly one definition is “a person characterized by reclusive habits or outmoded or reactionary attitudes” with a first use in 1555.

In case you missed it, I’m making an amusing reference to Mr Young himself. However, and according to his own logic, if you don’t find it so, that’s because of your reading and not my writing.

I think he was thinking about the Morlocks…. from the book ‘The Time Machine’. I think this because there has never been a movie called ‘2,000 Years BC’ possibly “One Million Years B.C.”

I bring these points up not out of film pedantry but because I think it illustrates Mr Young’s lack of rigour when it comes to facts. This is a dangerous trait in someone who wants to have opinions on disability, education or, frankly, anything other than attending your pal’s bool launches and getting a tad tipsy.

Also, if you’re going to defend a position, at least get the facts right. Surely a moment’s reflection would tell anybody that.

One thought on “Toby Young: Disability Back Pedal

  1. In school, inclusion does not occur by placement in the regular class alone, rather it is a desired end-state. It must be created with proper planning, preparation and supports. The goal of inclusion is achieved only when a child is participating in the activities of the class, as a member who belongs, with the supports and services they need. Inclusion is “not” a trade-off of supports and services for placement in the regular class and is not a trade-off of achievement of individual goals. No matter where a child with a disability is placed, an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) must be developed around the child’s needs. The IEP objectives must continue to be met in the regular class. The same applies to the related services a child needs, they must continue to be provided for in the regular settings.

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