Teaching Children with Autism – A Modest Proposal

Teaching Children with Autism – A Modest Proposal

I am finding it impossible to let go of this topic, the elimination of childen over the age of four from eligibility for IBI.

Jonathan Swift was born in Dublin in 1667. His father died before he was born, leaving the family with relatively modest means. Nevertheless, as a member of the Anglo-Irish ruling class, Swift received the best education Ireland could offer. In 1694, he took orders in the Anglican Church and, in 1713, he was named dean of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin.

Swift’s Ireland was a country that had been effectively controlled by England for nearly 500 years. In 1541, the parliament in Dublin had recognized England’s Henry VIII, a Protestant, as King of Ireland. In spite of repeated uprisings by Irish Catholics, English Protestants acquired more and more estates in Ireland. By 1703, they owned all but ten percent of the land. Meanwhile, legislation was enacted that severely limited the rights of the Irish to hold government office, purchase real estate, get an education, and advance themselves in other ways. As a result, many Irish fled to foreign lands, including America. Most of those who remained in Ireland lived in poverty, facing disease, starvation, and prejudice.

This situation presented a serious problem for Britain, especially since there are so many Irish children. Each year, several hundred thousand babies were being born to Irish parents. Swift pointed out that, if you subtract those who are born to well-to-do parents, those who are stillborn, and those who die after birth as a result of disease or accident, you are still left with about 120,000 babies who have to be supported by poor parents. Of course, a mother can feed her child for one year with breast milk. But after that, she must beg food for the child. It was within that context that Swift wrote what is probab;y the most biting satirte of all time, “”A Modest Proposal for preventing the children of poor people in Ireland, from being a burden on their parents or country, and for making them beneficial to the publick.”

He notes that he has been told by “a knowledgeable American” that a year-old-infant is a “most delicious nourishing and wholesome food, whether stewed, roasted, baked, or boiled; and I make no doubt that it will equally serve in a fricassee or a ragout,” and he suggests that of the 120,000 new infants of poor parents, 20,000 be reserved for breeding and the rest be sold to people of quality. “A child will make two dishes at an entertainment for friends, and when the family dines alone, the fore or hind quarter will make a reasonable dish, and seasoned with a little pepper or salt, will be very good boiled on the fourth day, especially in winter ….” He goes on the say that “Not only will my plan provide excellent food and relieve the burden on Irish parents and Great Britain as a whole, it will also reduce the number of Roman Catholics, since it is the Roman Catholics who have the most children.”

Swift was enraged at the passivity of the Irish people, who had become so habituated to the situation that they seemed incapable of making any effort to change it, and by the Engish who exploited them. And he was asking both sides to consider the question of the extent to which a human being, both the victim and the victimizer, can be dehumanized – Once the process of dehumanization gets underway, where can one calmly, sanely, and logically draw the line and say thus far and no farther?

Now what, you may ask, is the relevance of this insanity?  Children over the age of four are human beings and must not be “thrown under the bus” in the interest of providing for children 2-4 years old.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s