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A More Perfect Society

Why I wouldn't want to live there.
2005This article is part of CT's digital archives. Subscribers have access to all current and past issues, dating back to 1956.

Recently my son's teacher said something that shook me to the core of my being. Michael is 10 years old and has a rare genetic chromosomal disorder called 18Q-minus.

After my husband and I moved to France three years ago with our four children to work in missions, we were surprised to find that France does not have many schools for disabled children. The society in general isn't friendly to the disabled. In our area of Paris alone, there are 300 special-needs children on a waiting list for a place in a school. For three years, we have searched for a school for Michael, but to no avail. Fortunately, we have a teacher who comes to the house twice a week to work with him.

As she was leaving our house after a therapy session, she advised us to apply to a couple of schools that are specifically for children with Down syndrome, even though Michael does not have Down. Then she made the shocking statement. "Schools for Down children are starting to take children with other syndromes since Down is becoming so rare," she said. "Now that tests can tell so early in pregnancy that a baby has Down, fewer people are choosing to have them."

Michael has benefited greatly from incredible advances in medical technology. He was born with a cleft lip and palate, and feet that required extensive surgery. I am grateful for the doctors and technologies that have met his needs. But as disabled children are becoming more rare, I wonder if medical technologies are robbing affluent societies of an underappreciated wealth.

In the days following this teacher's remark, I tried to imagine a society devoid of people with disabilities. What if any and all babies with special needs were to be eliminated? What would a society look like if everyone were "normal," ...

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