Educating the disabled

Reading the evangelical magazine Christianity Today just now, I was deeply moved by the following report.

Why Not College for the Disabled? | Christianity Today | A Magazine of Evangelical Conviction

Russ Kinkade holds up a pen. If it were broken, he says, he would toss it. "So if you objectify people and see they are broken, then it makes logical sense that you would discard them," concludes Kinkade, executive vice president of Shepherds Ministries.

Located south of Milwaukee, the nonprofit Christian organization has 53 years of experience in overcoming the perception that people with disabilities have little to contribute to society and thus can be discarded.

In 2008, the ministry launched Shepherds College, the nation's first faith-based residential college exclusively for students with intellectual disabilities. At the end of the current academic year, Shepherds, a three-year program, will graduate its first class.

Intellectual disabilities include autism, Down syndrome, brain injury, or other developmental complications. Students at Shepherds have mild to moderate disabilities and are typically at a third-grade or higher academic level. In the U.S., about seven million people have an intellectual disability, affecting about one in ten families.


"The value of a human being is not about their capacity to function. They have intrinsic value that has nothing to do with function," Kinkade told CT. "Your worth as a human being is essential, but your functions will vary."


Emphasis added. Masha'Allah. So true, and so deeply subversive to the dominant values and priorities in our society today.

Sadly, the gentleman's analogy is utterly, scandalously apropos. Such people are indeed treated as worthless and discarded like objects.

Showed the article to my wife–who's a professor a state university–and she remarked how diametrically opposite their mission is to the whole ethos of North American higher education. Whereas most schools feverishly hunt for the "best and the brightest," this wonderful enterprise is dedicated to selflessly seeking out the very weakest, least desired of students. Which says so much about the state of higher education, and it sure ain't good.

It's not often that I find myself considering donating to an evangelical Christian charity. God bless them.

Such concerns are why I, incidentally, argue that the Scandinavian countries are in profound respects very "Islamic". In Islam, expressing solidarity with those less fortunate than oneself (i.e., donating to charity) isn't optional; it's a fundamental, non-negotiable institution of the faith, Zakat (the poor tax). Wealth accumulated in a manner that doesn't address this moral imperative isn't just dishonorable–it's ill-gotten. It must be purified by making a modest contribution to the benefit of those in need.

There but for the grace of God go we all, in matters of health as much as finance.

One of the ugliest things about American life today is the prevalence of the repugnant fallacy that the wealthy don't owe society anything because they supposedly "earned" all their money, as if they were independent of God's grace (not to mention a myraid of critical environmental factors that society pays for, such as roads, a reliable legal system to govern commerce, and so on).

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