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Education System Should Serve All

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'Rick Gray's Back Page (“Schooling Ourselves,” March 4) cries out for rebuttal. In the '40s, I lived in a neighborhood that included a family with a son about my age who had a cleft palate and cleft lip. He attended a special school, and the adults of the community, his parents included, encouraged us to shy away from this boy who was different. He lived in isolation from the rest of us who fought and played together every day. And we viewed him as someone to be shunned and ignored.

In the '50s and '60s, I lived in a rural area. The family of a friend who lived about a half mile from us included a younger brother with severe cerebral palsy. With the exception of periodic trips to Children's Hospital and frequent trips to the faith healer Kathryn Kuhlman, this boy lived in isolation from the world around him. Billy would intensely watch our chess games in his wheel chair and heavy metal braces. He usually recognized our mistaken moves before we did and, despite his inability to talk, would let us know. And yet, he had no access to formal education. This robust and athletic family lived in isolation from the community around it, struggling with its problem on their own, gradually succumbing to the ravages of overwhelming need and limited supports.

Surely we have moved beyond the time when success for the majority comes at the expense of the minority. We are stronger when all of us are supported. We are weaker when we climb over others to assure our own success.
Reed Henderson
Richmond

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