College for Those Who Can’t Do the Work

Charlotte Allen’s September 23 post here, College for the Intellectually Disabled, has outraged some Down Syndrome activists, one of whom sent us the letter below. The gist of the letter is that the intellectually disabled deserve to be in college, though by definition, they will be unable to do the work. Kindness and a feel-good sense of inclusiveness are at work here, plus a fear of litigation and the feeling that college is becoming just another entitlement that cannot reasonably be withheld, even from those who cannot read or write.

That’s why a few campuses are offering college-like “experiences” to the intellectually disabled, and may one day routinely offer college-like academic degrees, which they fully understand will not really be earned.

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To the Editor:

As Board President of The Down Syndrome Guild of Kansas City and the mother of a son with Down syndrome attending a large university, I am appalled at this vitriolic rant against persons with intellectual disabilities. This morning my staff will be directed to assemble the contact information for all of the national organizations representing persons with intellectual disabilities. Please note that I serve as Board Vice President of one of the national Down syndrome organizations…. (These) organizations alone represent 400,000 families organized into 200+ affiliate organizations across the United States. I am suggesting that you take down this article from your site. Once the link is posted on the national forums, there will be a call to action.

Persons with Down syndrome receive college degrees, drive cars, live and travel and their own, marry and can become self-sufficient. An intellectual disability is a disability, no different from someone with a spinal cord injury, hearing or vision loss. Persons with intellectual disabilities seek inclusion in all aspects of society including college campus life.

If campus life is supposed to be about just academics, then we must insist that colleges exist without football, basksetball, drama, dance, choirs, leadership training, volunteerism and faith exploration. I would love to hear Charlotte Allen’s argument for the exclusion of Notre Dame football along with those who have intellectual disabilities.

I believe it is only fair to wait for your response. I will check the site at 3:00pm CST tomorrow, October 19th. If the article is down, no further action will be taken. I have, as a private citizen and Catholic, informed godspy.com of the article. Charlotte Allen is listed as a contributor on that site.

Mrs. John F. (Bridget) Murphy,

Board President

The Down Syndrome Guild of Greater Kansas City

John Leo

John Leo is the editor of Minding the Campus, dedicated to chronicling imbalances within higher education and restoring intellectual pluralism to our American universities. His popular column, "On Society," ran in U.S.News & World Report for 17 years.

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