The Chronicle of Higher Education, the primary news source for university and college faculty and administrators, recently published a remarkable opinion essay by a University of North Florida English professor about life with his 10-year old son, a legally blind quadriplegic with cerebral palsy. The essay was taken from a new book, Papa, Ph.D.: Essays on Fatherhood by Men in the Academy.
There is no dearth of moving stories of the sacrificial love shown by countless parents caring for severely disabled children. After all, according to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, 1 in 33 infants each year is born with birth defects, while 2-3 out of 100 have major disabilities.
Yet The Chronicle's publication of this piece, "A Life Beyond Reason," is startling, to say the least.
For one thing, the essay offers an unapologetic affirmation of the inherent value of human life, one that is not typical of academic publications. But even more arresting than the essay's conclusion is the starting point of the journey described within.
Before the birth of his son, Dr. Chris Gabbard likely would have viewed the life that his child, August, is fated to live as one not worth living. Gabbard explains that his own upbringing was immersed in a culture defined by the intelligentsia. He "grew up prizing intellectual aptitude … and detesting 'poor mental function'." The credo that guided his life was that of Socrates: "The unexamined life is not worth living." Even his own academic specialty is on the period known as the Age of Reason.
In fact, Gabbard so revered the life of the mind that he came to espouse the utilitarian, humanist views of Peter Singer, the Oxford-educated philosopher who has been a professor of Bioethics ...1
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