This morning, I read an interesting Washington Times article at Jack’s Newswatch about how a recommendation by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) was suggesting that when an employer expects a high school diploma, he or she may be discriminating against someone with learning disabilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
My first reaction was that political correctness was going to be the downfall of the U.S. economy. So, I left a comment about the history of high school diploma labelling and how all this was ignoring the reality that we are not all created equal, no matter how much progressives want that to be so. It is also a negative reaction against the values of merit and competition.
My second reaction, however, was to visit the EEOC’s website where I came across a page on the lawsuits and activities completed by EEOC during the last year or so.Unbelievable! I knew the U.S. was litigious. But, scan the list of law suits and settlements and it comes to millions upon millions of dollars against employers, the very businesses that are supposed to keep the U.S. economy afloat. And, those settlements have been going on for the entire 35 years since Democratic President Lyndon Johnson signed the agency into law.
What can anyone say about this? I mean, on the surface, it is about fairness. But, surely, there is a better way because all that this type of political correctness does is make sure America is not competitive within the global economy, particularly against China and other Asian countries where individuals either measure up or they don’t get or keep jobs.
As I mentioned in my comment at JNW, what is next? Right now we can’t say anything about our age, marital status or sexual preferences. Is it not too far off that we also won’t be able to disclose our education level, because that might discriminate against someone who couldn’t or wouldn’t reach the same level? Or, will it become unfair to tell about our work experiences because that too would discriminate against those who didn’t have to look for those same opportunities?
In other words, if the EEOC is about fairness for those with disabilities, how is it actually fair? Like the Occupy movement, which may have started out with worthy goals, has this agency become nothing more than ensuring entitlements to individuals who may not deserve them — which makes everyone who has a disability look bad. Whereas, I believe the opposite. If given a chance, with or without accommodations, most with disabilities can indeed compete in the mainstream!
Update Wednesday, January 4, 2012 — Revised final paragraph slightly.
Endnote: When I taught university, I also operated a special education private practice. In other words, I was and am an advocate for those with disabilities. Part of my advocacy was helping individuals get through college and university and job shadowing. The problem then, as it is now, is that while there should always be an equality of opportunity, there is not always an equality of condition to succeed at every opportunity.
A case in point: A community college asked me to work with half a dozen students who couldn’t successfully complete the compulsory English course — necessary in order to continue on a diploma track. I taught them study, reading and writing strategies and we did exercises over several weeks and four were able to pass the test, although not without difficulty. However, two were not able to pass, in spite of the extra work. Why? Because they simply didn’t have the intellectual or problem-solving abilities to do the work. And, as a result, were devastated at the outcome. One went so far as to say it was cruel for people to expect them to do what they couldn’t do. Yet, far too often that is what disability equality type legislation expects — forcing human beings to fit what society expects.
Well, anyone who has studied cognition and developmental theory, know that most individuals with an intellectual/developmental disability lack the ability to think abstractly — skills that are absolutely essential for a college level English course. To me, then, having worked for nearly two decades with children, youth and adults with learning difficulties, equality should be about treating people equally, not expecting them to do what they can’t.
In other words, equality should not be about spending millions of dollars suing employers, but about spending millions of dollars helping individuals succeed — whether that success happens in a competitive or supervised employment environment.
My own adult son (who lives with an autism spectrum disorder) is in a supervised type of environment. He works part-time in a nursing home gift shop, a job he really likes. And, although he has had trouble with math in the past, has learned to use a cash register and make change successfully. The elderly residents really like him as well because he is not so rushed that he doesn’t have time to listen to their stories. But, force him into a competitive pressure-filled job situation like a retail store and he wouldn’t be able to cope, meaning he would feel like a failure.
Force, as the EEOC seems to have done, and is still doing, will not work over the long haul because it has put the U.S. in a losing position in a global economy. Surely, there is a better way for the U.S. to treat both employers and people with disabilities fairly and with respect.