Language, careless statements and exclusion

During today’s Prime Minister’s Question Time, Cameron made the statement; “We know that through the phonics scheme that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education (eh? who?) is leading on, that we can teach reading so that no child is left behind.”

No child? No child? Eh? What about all the kids that will never be able to read Dave? Wow. Excluded. Totally written out of the picture. A whole section of the population. In a statement recorded in Hansard.

I got to thinking. Does that mean that those children who will never be able to read are a different sort of child? Not ‘children’ at all. As we know it (Jim)? How could he make such a statement, particularly having had a disabled child himself?

Mmm.

My thoughts led me to this position; Cameron talks an awful lot of crap all the time, but in this instance, he is probably making a statement that would be received, uncritically or even unreflectively, by many. He is making a statement that would probably not raise an eyebrow if you didn’t have a disabled child, or be disabled yourself.

For parents of disabled children, and others, the exclusionary dimension to statements like this, are regular reminders of how narrow accepted types of children are. Statements like this, whether by an authority figure, next door neighbour, best mate or the person sitting next to you on the bus, happen all the time. There are children. And there are children who are erased from mainstream consideration. It comes back, in part, to Mary Douglas and festering. 

This leads to all sorts of emotions – anger, distress, rage, depression, fury – relating to the consistent, collective, careless dismissal of our children. Our children, just like any other children. Only different. It’s hard to put into words,  but it’s like not only being regularly told that your child is crap in various ways, over the years, but also  to turn round, when you ain’t expecting it, and see that once again, they have figuratively been tossed onto the rubbish pile. I don’t think people are being insensitive really. Often it’s an unintentional act or response.

There was an interesting article in the Independent today about the proposed changes to educational provision for ‘SEN’ children. This was summarised (I’m guessing) in a title created by someone other than the author, Lisa Markwell;  It’s her needs that make my daughter special. For an article to be included in mainstream press about disabled children, I always get the sense that the editor, or sub-editor, tries to cuddle it up (or snuggle muffin* it) in some ‘expected’, ‘slightly sensationalist’ language that is crap. I can imagine that people who write these pieces weigh the benefits of getting something ‘out there’ to extend awareness and understanding with a shit title that, at the same time, reinforces existing understandings and awareness. It underlines the same dominant understanding of difference that needs to be coated with a saccharine pill to to be palatable.

Anyway, I’m going to keep making visibile these instances. Probably tediously to a lot of people. But in the hope that the odd person thinks ‘Hey, Dave, what about those kids who won’t be able to read?’ And reflect on what that means.

*Thanks to Molly for this expression.

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