Compare and Contrast The Easter Message vs The Education Reform Message
The Wall Street Journal had an article yesterday about L’Arche, a global community of people with mental disabilities and their nondisabled peers who live together as equals. From The Gift of Living With the Not Gifted:
All the grunting, screams and chatter meld to form an uncommon orchestra as more residents gather to eat. Then we hold hands and sing: “Bless the Lord, you, God’s servants, / All of you who live in God’s house, / Lift up your hands to the Holy Lord / Proclaim God’s greatness and the power of God’s name. Amen.”
Eating at a L’Arche house can be discomfiting if you’re a stickler for table manners. There is much spitting, spilling and gurgling. But gradually the discomfort melts away, and the residents draw you into their world, unhindered by politeness or social rank. That’s the point of the place: to understand what it means to be human in all its imperfect forms, and to mark human dignity where it is least physically obvious.
What an Easter affirmation to read and ponder on this day! What a contrast to the messages we hear every day in education reform. The proponents’ claim for the need of Common Core is for the quest for ‘equity of outcome’, all while the reformers ignore the fact that this is primarily a framework for the elites to control public education for content and financial profits. L’Arche residents are a reminder that there is no such utopia as ‘equal outcomes’. Even non-disabled children cannot reach ‘equal outcomes’ with other non-disabled children. Each person has his/her own unique personalities and capabilities and their outcomes will never be the same.
L’Arche reminds us that we are to understand what it means to be human in all its imperfect forms, and to mark human dignity where it is least physically obvious, and imperfect humans have dignity even as they are not capable of being molded into human capital for the workforce:
Yet Mr. Vanier also sees people with disabilities being compelled to adopt the aspirations of the nondisabled. “There’s a tendency of being happy because they’re winning—the Paralympics, working at McDonald’s and so on,” he says. Labor is a central element of life at L’Arche, where residents learn everything from candle making to pottery to bee farming. But, Mr. Vanier warns, if we only celebrate people with disabilities insofar as they’re like us, this risks overshadowing the gifts of these “people of the heart.”
“What people with disabilities want is to relate,” Mr. Vanier says. “This is something unique. It makes people who are closed up in the head become human. The wonderful thing about people with disabilities is that when someone important comes, they don’t care. They care about the relationship. So they have a healing power, a healing power of love.”
Take this message with you this Easter day and try to incorporate it into your daily life. We are to love one another, not use and groom other human beings for workforce goals by corporations and governments:
“L’Arche teaches us also the difficulty in meeting the poor,” Mr. Vanier says. “Some have been too hurt, some have psychological problems. And so here we’re called to be very attentive to the needs of the other.” This is the challenge that has proved attractive to thousands of nondisabled people.
But what about those who can’t take years off to serve? “Try and find somebody who is lonely,” Mr. Vanier says. “And when you go to see them, they will see you as the messiah. Go and visit a little old lady who has no friends or family. Bring her flowers. People say ‘but that’s nothing.’ It is nothing—but it’s also everything.” He adds: “It always begins with small little things. It all began in Bethlehem. That was pretty small.”
Contrast the message of L’Arche with the messages of the many public schools using punitive measures against parents, teachers and students who are pushing back against the unvalidated tests the students are told the must take by administrators and state educational agencies. Do you want to align yourself with the philosophies of those who insist your children be compliant with the plans of the elites or those who are attentive and truly care about your child’s needs? Do you want to align yourself to those who view your child as human capital or those who view your child as a human soul?
What message do we take with us from Easter: we live to judge and force others into a prescriptive role or to love/nurture each other? Why are education reformers treating students as if they are capital for workforce use? What sort of use would they have with students who might live at L’Arche or those who just won’t fit into the common core box?