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Here you will find the journal of a Queer, Mormon, Transhumanist.

A  Neurodiverse Future

A Neurodiverse Future

*This is a copy of a research paper for my Philosophy of Education class. The purpose of this essay is to demonstrate the necessity of accepting neurodiversity as an important aspect of education and human evolution. 

 

PROLOGUE

I write this paper as an intellectual, academic, philosopher, and transhumanist, but mostly I write this as a mother. As I reflect on what I have learned over the course, I have become increasingly convinced that the world of academia privileges certain styles more than others. By that, I mean the artistic and humanistic aspects of our lives have been repressed to perpetuate the myth that human rationality and non-emotional expressions are the only or best path toward objectivity. Instead of poetry, academia seeks facts. Instead of narratives, academia seeks studies. Instead of originality, academia seeks regurgitation. However, in the worthwhile pursuit of research and scholarship we cannot forget the humanity, emotions, and feelings that drive our investigations.

It is with risk to my grade that I challenge academia’s notions of Philosophy of Education and present to you a view that integrates a personal narrative with scholarship. Consider this a meta approach to challenging the system not only in thought, but in practice. After all, as author and teacher John Taylor Gatto poignantly articulated, “The trouble in school arises from disagreement about what life is for? […] Life commands your answer. You cannot refuse because your actions write your larger answer for everyone to see, even if you don’t see it yourself. As you regard human nature, you will teach.” [1] Life experience has taught me that you cannot be an effective teacher without recognizing the humanity and intimacy of our work, as I will hopefully demonstrate in this essay.

I also want to articulate that it is with some trepidation I proceed. I can see A Nobel Lie I once told unraveling before me. It was planned, but now that it is happening I fear I am losing control over a narrative which protected my son from the stigma, stereotypes, and labels that function as oppressive tools to perpetuate cognitive conformity. As my son’s mother and protector, I have done my best, to my knowledge and abilities, to arm him with skills and tools to combat the risks that come with his specific neurodiversity. It is with faith and goodwill in the future of education and humanity that I continue.

 

THE DIAGNOSIS

My son, Preston, is ten years old. His brain is wired differently. He is on the autistic spectrum (ASD). He has strabismus, palilalia, and suffers from night terrors and sleepwalking. All of which likely have to do with the way his brain operates. He's also exceptionally intelligent.

I have taken him to psychologists and speech therapists to better understand him, yet in the process I have learned some disconcerting truths about our education system, particularly in relation to the neurologically diverse child. Preston has been diagnosed with many things, but diagnoses are about as good as they are accurate and/or useful. He was three years old when he received his first incomplete and inaccurate diagnosis. It was a rather troubling experience.

He was a very inquisitive child, but didn’t speak much. He loved numbers more than the average toddler. I would spend many of our afternoons teaching him basic mathematics and introducing him to fractions at age four. His mind had an uncanny ability to decipher and decode numbers and letters. He could organize them and create sounds from what he saw. By definition, he was reading at age three. He could read words I had never taught him. I would open a new pack of flash cards and he would read them without stopping. It was quite a sight.

Yet, something was off. I had a toddler who could read me a textbook, but could not formulate a sentence to tell me his favorite color. He rarely looked at me in the eyes. He didn’t express much emotion. It was as if his ability to compute and dispense information impaired his ability to communicate his thoughts with me. There were days he would stand in the kitchen screaming and pointing at what he wanted, yet he couldn’t collect the words to tell me what he wanted to eat. When all communication broke down, there were times I sat on the kitchen floor crying as I held my screaming child.

The first psychologist I took him to diagnosed him in 20 minutes. She informed me he had ADHD and ASD, then handed me a prescription. This was my first child and I had no idea what to expect, but I left the prescription unfilled. I questioned how she could so quickly diagnose what I had been contemplating for months. Like many parents in that situation, I immediately became an amateur researcher of childhood cognitive disorders. It was a lonely experience. I felt immediate distrust in a system that would so quickly diagnose my child with a “disorder” and sought to medicate him. It had become clear to me he did not have ADHD, but ASD seemed fairly accurate. But what does it mean to be “diagnosed” with a “disorder” at such a young age? What did this mean for his future interactions with a world that has stigmatized ASD?

Autism Spectrum Disorder has been defined by The Center of Disease Control as a set of development disabilities causing “significant social, communication, and behavioral challenges.” [2] While this is accurate in the case of my son, it is also a very vague way of categorizing children who don’t conform to societal expectations as having a “disorder.” I suppose in some regards, a child having a “disorder” could be a child who doesn’t want to sit at their desk. Refusing to sit is a behavior which challenges the expectation of obedience in schoolrooms. If so, is a “disorder” bad? Don’t we need “disorder” in order to have any chance at development? Perfect conformity, compliance, and order hardly seems ripe for creativity and discovery. Perhaps “disorder” is a necessity to the diverse neurological abilities which function as a force for dynamic change. It could be the case that part of the rise in childhood cognitive “disorders” is that society is ready to label any behavior which deviates from the mythological “norm” as something which disrupts social or neurological conformity. In either case, the word “disorder” carried stigma.

In some ways it was empowering to have a label to describe the experience. Preston was unique and having a label made the experience real. However, labels can also carry negative consequences. Upon discovery of his ASD, my husband and I confided in some close family members. This was a mistake. They immediately began to treat him differently and shared his diagnosis with others. He was no longer Preston. He was now ASD.

 

A NOBLE LIE

It was as if Preston’s diagnosis was the most notable part of his identity. I could see the transition happening right before my eyes. People saw him as a “disorder” and condescendingly looked at him as subhuman, unteachable, or incapable of learning. Yes, he was non-verbal and unresponsive at times, but that did not mean he was unintelligent.

After much discussion, we decided to remove any diagnosis out of conversation. We told “A Noble Lie.” [3] It went as follows:

Family and friends, Preston’s diagnosis was a false alarm. After a second opinion with a new psychologist, it is clear he does not have ASD, but rather a mild speech delay. I have enrolled him in speech therapy and our classes start next week. The doctor said she wouldn’t be surprised if he was all caught up in the next couple months.

It was lie, but it was necessary. We needed to believe it. Just as quickly as before, people began to treat him like Preston again. The truth was I did take him to more psychologists who offered a different diagnosis. I took him to speech classes, but labeling him was not going to happen. We would wait until he could label himself with his own diagnosis.

There were certainly risks to not sharing this information with his Sunday school teachers, preschool teachers, friends and family, but the risk of Preston being taken over by a diagnosis was far worse. As Gatto put it, “One thing you do know is how unlikely it will be for any teacher to understand the personality of your particular child or anything significant about your family, culture, religion, plans, hopes, dreams.” [4] I had to trust that I knew my child enough to override the system which sought to manipulate him into a cog which upheld the order of “normal” human behavior.

I was on my own. I would have to find a way to make the system work for us, not the other way around. Yet, I had no idea how to do it.

 

THE EMPTY CHILD

Part of the problem is we are working under an educational system predicated on ideas which even the most well-informed philosophers don’t agree on. What is the purpose of school? What is the purpose of education? What are we educating children for and why? Are children blank pieces of paper waiting to be printed on? Or does each come equipped with their own talents and abilities?

According to philosopher John Locke, a well-known empiricist, there is no knowledge before experience. His epistemology leaves no room for a priori. In his essay, Concerning Human Understanding, he states, “Let us suppose the mind to be, as we say, white paper, void of all characters without any ideas; how comes it to be furnished? […] To this I answer in one word, from Experience; in that all our knowledge is founded, and from that it ultimately derives itself.” [5] [6] Without diving into the debate of a priori verses a posteriori knowledge, I am confident in saying that even if all knowledge is gained through experience, not all humans are “white paper, void of all character.” John Locke’s view, though revolutionary for his time, did not account for neurological diversity. If every child were an empty vase waiting to be filled with knowledge through experience, each child is different. If a child is an empty vase, they still have different shapes, contours, and openings. Every child has their own talents, abilities, strengths and weaknesses, yet the modern educational systems hardly seem to consider these neurological diversities other than through diagnosing difference as “disorder.”

Schooling often functions as a place to reform a child through the assumption that child plasticity is so elastic a child can be placed on a conveyor belt and come out the other end a domesticated adult. We put them in schools which take away their autonomy and difference and then wonder why our school systems aren’t producing more geniuses. But there in lies the problem, geniuses are not conformers. They are the exact opposite of conformers. They challenge systems, dogmas, dominate theory, and discourse with new ideas. Yet, in our schools we seek to stamp out any such behavior in a system of rewards and punishments. Gatto describes this as, “Children would have to be disciplined through a new universal or of conditioning.” [7] This idea of “universal conditioning” is one that destroys the free thought which leads to new discoveries. In this model, it is obedience to the system which is prized more than the neurological diversity of geniuses.

Children cannot be universally molded into little factory workers, or if they can, they shouldn’t be. We all suffer when we homogenize into conformity and teach children as though they are empty awaiting our imprints. Children are not empty.

 

STICKY NOTES

It was 2011, I was on my own with a child I could not communicate effectively with. I had to develop new communication techniques quickly. The simplest tasks became grueling and laborious. Getting into the car to go to preschool was particularly difficult. He refused to get into his car seat, buckle up, and at times became violent—thrashing about while screaming hysterically. There seemed to be no way of reason with him.

One day after being kicked in the face by Preston while trying to put him into his car seat, I broke down in tears on the garage floor without any idea of how to proceed. With all the medical technologies available it seemed appealing to medicate him into submission, but my heart knew he didn’t need medication, he need communication. He was not unteachable. His brain just functioned under an operating system I was unfamiliar with. Compelling him to adopt my operating system wasn’t working. I had one tool at my disposal that was consistently reliable, Preston could decode just about anything. I grabbed the pad of sticky notes from the kitchen and desperately scribbled down directions.

1. Open the car door
2. Get in the car
3. Sit in your car seat
4. Buckle up

I peeled off the sticky note and handed it to Preston. He immediately began to read each step out loud. As he read each step, I helped move his body to follow the direction. After step 2 he began to scream again. I didn’t know why. So instead of trying to control him I let him show me. He climbed over the seat to the dashboard where he adjusted the temperature settings to 72 degrees. He then looked down at the stick shift and pointed to each letter that represented a position (park, reverse, neutral, 4-wheel-drive, 3, 2-L). He then went into his car seat awaiting me to buckle his seat belt. I grabbed a new sticky note and wrote down the revisions, before we left for preschool.

1. Open the car door
2. Get in the car
3. Temperature 72
4. P, R, N, 4-D, 3, 2-L
5. Sit in car seat
6. Buckle up

A few hours later, after I picked him up from preschool. I pulled out the revised sticky note. He read each direction out loud and followed them precisely without any resistance. It worked. We were communicating. He didn’t need medication. He needed sticky notes.

I began to carry a pen and sticky notes with me at all times—the grocery store, church, birthday parties, theme parks, vacations, etc. For the most part they worked. If he had a set of instructions to follow he usually followed, unless he wanted to change the instructions. There was also friction when the instructions weren’t followed precisely. However, disagreement about process shouldn’t be conflated with non-communicative. I needed to learn his language before I could teach him mine.

 

HOMESCHOOL

Armed with sticky notes, speech classes, and a great preschool teacher, we saw progress with Preston. He wasn’t particularly social, nor did he talk much, but we could see improvement. Preschool offered a sanctuary where creativity and play was encouraged. Most of the time he played with calculators, a wooden numbers set, a clock, and a watch. We put him in a private school for kindergarten which offered smaller classrooms and flexibility to let Preston set his rules. The small school knew he had talents and quirks, but didn’t take it upon themselves to label his experience. He even started taking math classes with the older children where he excelled beyond what any of us had expected. By the time the left kindergarten he was doing 3rd grade math.

Sadly, my husband finished grad school and it was time to move. I had severe anxiety over finding a school that would work with our family’s particular needs. I needed a school that would allow Preston a space to flourish without labeling him as a “disorder” or a “savant.” After several interviews, we sent him to a preparatory academy with tuition expenses which exceed my husband’s recent grad school tuition expenses.

Our hopes were quickly met with disappointment. It was extremely difficult to get him the attention he needed and enrolled in math classes he would thrive in. They did not place him in the upper division math classes as we had previously discussed. Instead, he was in drama and music. If you know anything about autistic children, putting them in a room full of children waving tambourines is not going to provoke “good behavior.” Despite my attempts to explain my son’s specific needs they were met with skepticism or dismissed as non-essential without an “official diagnosis.” About two weeks into the school year I was already regretting the situation.

The final straw was pick-up. I was late arriving to the pick-up zone due to a diaper explosion by my daughter. As I rushed to the school I ran quickly into Preston’s classroom which was empty. I went outside looking for my son or his teacher. To my relief, I saw his teacher walking away from the administration office across campus. I called out, “Hi, I’m so sorry I’m late.” She replied, “It’s no trouble. I sent Preston to the office.” I questioned, “Alone? But it’s on the other side of campus?”

I hoped back in my car and drove to the other side of the campus to see my child wandering into the street while looking at a sign with numbers on it. I pulled over, grabbed my child, and left. He would not be attending that expensive preparatory school again.

After multiple conversations with multiple teachers and explaining repeatedly what his needs were, he still wasn’t getting what he needed. For $30,000 a year, I could do a better job than that. I pulled him out of the system and decided to homeschool him. I wrote in my personal journal:

Monday, September 22, 2014
 
Since we moved I have had the hardest time figuring out the best schooling option for the boys. I miss their old school in Utah so much I can’t even mention it without my eyes welling up. The insanely expensive preparatory school we had them enrolled in here in Florida wasn’t cutting it. So after thorough research, meditation, and prayer, we have decided to homeschool the boys this year. I have not felt this much peace since we left Utah, so I’m thinking that’s a good thing. 

We’ve made it through our first week together and it’s been strangely fantastic! I love being able to teach them that learning is a life-long process from which they can derive happiness and joy. I also love teaching them at their own pace which allows them to fulfill their unique potential without constraint. Elizabeth has even enjoyed some of the lessons and is learning so much from her brothers’ good examples. There is a limitless amount of learning opportunities at our finger tips with nothing to hold us back! I’m not exactly sure what I’ve gotten myself into this year, but I know it’s the right choice. Wish us luck! 

I haven’t showered in 3 days.

 

PROGRAMMING EACH OTHER

It was 2014. I had three children and no plan, but also the dedication of a mother fiercely invested in giving her children the best opportunities possible. This included trusting myself enough to throw out the standard curriculum along with my son’s “diagnosis.” I would homeschool our children for one year to see if my devotion to my children as a mother could yield results better than the mandates of a governmental programming of the presumably empty children awaiting our imprints of so-called objective knowledge. Over the course of the year, I was the student just as often as I was the teacher.

Sometimes it feels as though we are sending our children into school without a thought as to what or why we are even teaching them. The system is supposed to turn out well-rounded obedient workers who uphold the system which turned them out. It’s as if every movement, comment, or behavior is under a microscope to be inspected to receive it’s “diagnosis.” As philosopher Michel Foucault pointed out in Discipline and Punish, at any given moment our social institutions control our bodies, movements, and actions into order to create docile bodies which don’t challenge order. [8] Each body becomes a faceless cog in a machine of production without serious consideration as to why we are doing what we are doing. What is the purpose of education? What are we programing our children for?

The school system often operates under the premise that there is one universal way of teaching a child—that programming a child is as Locke described. However, I think it’s a mistake to assume each child comes with the same hardware. In her essay, What Counts as Philosophy of Education?, Maxine Greene illuminates that our educational systems can be oppressive and dominating when we do not consider the feeling, emotion, individuality, or motive behind our educational efforts. She states, “Reason, like science itself, can be dominating and oppressive, especially when it claims under all circumstances to have the ‘best answer’ to social problems.” [9] In the case of my son, it was assumed that the psychologists, along with their medications, would be the remedy to his “disorder.” Yet, with all their scientific and technological advancements, they didn’t stop to consider the individual child they were attempting to medicate and manipulate into submission. When science and technology are used without consideration to the individual they are oppressive.

However, this does not mean all scientific and technological remedies, even medications, are oppressive. In fact, they too contribute to the growth and liberation of many children. The point to demonstrate is not the condemnation of science, institutions, programs, medications, and technologies, but rather a call for the reevaluation our prescriptive measures. My son didn’t need medication, he needed sticky notes. Both function as technologies, but technological applications aren’t a one-size-fits-all solution.

Too often people rest in a state of epistemic arrogance believing that their experience is the objective experience—that objectivity is something they can know independently through verifiable means. Experience has shown me this view is false. There isn’t an objective standard which we can point at as a universal truth and call “normal.” People who think this often consider themselves of “neutral cognition” [10] with the ability to discard their biases. However, we all have biases, and thinking one can remove their biases seems like a fast way to further distort how their biases are influence their perceptions of reality. No one has “neutral cognition.”

The antidote to this epistemic arrogance is epistemic humility. We need to admit what we don’t know if we are to ever learn more—this includes universal applications and prescriptions of how to best educate all students. In a sense, we need to promote relationships in our educational system which blurs the lines between teacher and student, normal and abnormal. I needed to be taught just as much as my son did. The teacher-student relationship needs to be one of mutual exploration of ideas in the pursuit of truth and discovery. It could be thought that I was the one programming my son, but the truth is he was programming me too.

I think there is something to be said about the process of programming each other. It is in the process of difference that creative and dynamic change is made possible. Neither of us came out the other end the same. As Greene articulated in her essay, “We are being asked to think of persons in their plurality, in their distinctiveness, no one a duplicate of any other. At once, we are learning to acknowledge the worth and power of different cultures are civilizations, out of which identities are being negotiated.” [11] Though Grenne is speaking to cultural difference, I think the same idea applies to neurological differences. It is in these differences that we encounter new ideas and stretch the boundaries of ourselves into the collective. Without difference our educational systems turn into echo chambers.

There is power in difference because it allows us to program one another in a system of checks and balances. As for my son, it was clear to me his neurological differences were not “bugs” in the system that needed to be removed, but “features” which allowed him to excel with unique abilities.

 

BUGS AND FEATURES

In the world of computer programming there are “bugs” and “features.” A bug is defined as a failure to conform to reasonable expectations based on requirements and norms. Bugs are things which are thought to be problematic, because they don’t live up to the standardized expectation. If we apply this to the educational system, a bug is often considered a deviant behavior which produces unexpected irregularities. Children with ASD and other “diagnosed disorders” are often considered bugs. These unique identities often challenge the expectation that the best way to learn is to sit down, be quiet, listen laboriously, and conform to the conveyor belt of productivity. Children who don’t conform to these measures through behavioral difference, challenging authority, or even asking unique questions, are often “diagnosed” has having a “disorder.” However, the very idea that there is an “order” to deviate from suggests that “disorder” is a necessity of opposition.

A feature is defined as a unit of functionality which is requested as a requirement for change. This could include requirements to increase for usability, efficiency, productivity, creativity, and functionality. Features in the educational system could include anything from compliance to increased mathematical abilities. Features increase functionality through change, thus change itself is a necessary element to any kind of improvement. Yet, change does not occur without difference. There are dynamic and creative forces required for human operating systems to program each other in a vast network of intelligences. The evolution of the human species is a product of this dynamic force.

The problem is, what constitutes as a bug or feature isn’t so cut and dry. If we consider the social deviations of neurological diversities as bugs, what does this say about the objectives of our educational system? Is the purpose of the system conformity? If so, we will create a system that not only stamps out bugs, but also eliminates features because they are also deviations from institutional, structural, social, and cognitive expectations.

This is not an appeal to consider all bugs as features and all features as bugs, but a call to reevaluate what we consider to be a bug and a feature. The reality is almost any behavior, depending on the context, could be considered both a bug and a feature.

As for my son, his cognitive abilities were both bugs and features, but it is up to him to set his own diagnosis of what are his bugs and what are his features. There’s no doubt his community plays a significant role in how he is perceiving his neurological diversities, but the ultimate decision of a diagnosis of bugs and features should rest with him.

 

SUPERPOWERS

It is 2017. Preston is enrolled back in a private school. He still has strict standards of exactness, preciseness, and procedure. He has an iPad so he can write down his own schedule and can adapt it to his preferences. Every now and then, when things don’t go according to plan we can see that it is a sincere struggle for him to adapt. Schedules, rules, times, and plans will likely be an essential part of his ability to function throughout his life, but it’s also what makes him wonderful.

He is motivated and independent. He can do math better than any child I’ve ever met. His computational speed and accuracy has exceeded both me and my husband. In third grade, his ACT mathematics scores exceeded high school senior scores. The results were so unusual that they had planned to retest him, but the school principal and several other teachers vouched for his mathematical abilities. His scores weren’t a mistake. His scores were remarkable. He competes in math competitions and thrives in an environment where his neurological diversities are considered features, not bugs.

Most people who meet him, have little knowledge of the road it has been to get where we are today, including Preston. We have followed through on our commitment to not overtly label his experience. It hasn’t been until recently that he is noticing his uniqueness.

Last year, he approached me with his concerns. He asked, “Mom, I’m different, aren’t I? I’m not like the other kids. You’re different too. We’re aren’t like other people, right?”

I responded, “We are all different, but yes, our minds work a little differently than others. How do you feel about being different?”

He responded, “I’m not sure. Sometimes it’s hard to make friends. I just feel different, but in some ways, I have superpowers.”

I laughed and asked, “Superpowers? You must tell me more about these superpowers.”

He smiled, “Well, I can do math better than any of the other kids, even some of the older kids. I also can read whole books without stopping. And you know how my eye is different?”

I answered, “Yes, it’s called strabismus.”

He continued almost at a whisper, like he was telling me a secret, “Well, I’m learning to control it. Sometimes I can make my eyes look at different things on purpose. I can see things that other people don’t see. Then I can pull my eye back to normal. It’s like a superpower, Mom.”

I grinned from ear to ear and said, “It certainly does sound like you have superpowers.”

It has been a rewarding experience to watch him diagnose himself. ASD doesn’t sound nearly as authentic as superpowers! He also notices it can be difficult for him to make friends, or conform to social rules and behaviors which don’t seem to have any reason to them, but he is gaining valuable skills by putting his words to his experience without the imposition of stigma and stereotypes.

 

I HAVE A CHANCE

It is 2018. Preston is now ten years old. He’s a quirky and sometimes stubborn child with a mind that no one can keep up with. My husband regularly comments that he forgets he is talking with a child, because of Preston’s brilliance. Last month, I received the following text from my son:

I have a chance to finally go somewhere with my friends today at 3:30. I know what you are thinking—what’s the big deal? Well, I might not get this chance for months. XXXX and I are visiting XXXX’s house. She invited me! I didn’t suggest it! Her address is XXXX. I know it’s short notice, but it’s a very rare opportunity to do this. Can I please go?

I sometimes think about the days I spent crying on the kitchen floor holding my screaming child—never knowing if we would ever have conversations, if he would ever look into my eyes, tell me “I love you too, Mom,” or be invited to a friend’s house. I feel empathy for my past self. The anxiety and frustration was overwhelming. I made many mistakes. I didn't I have the knowledge and experience I have now, but I tried. The efforts weren’t perfect, but they were sincere. Perhaps I worried too much, perhaps it was not enough. Even now, I still worry, yet I remain hopeful. In his words, “I have a chance.” His future will include so much more than I had hoped for.

 

A NEURODIVERSE FUTURE

Is our neurological difference a natural manifestation of human diversity—or conditions to be cured? Is being on the spectrum an enhancement or disability? Children with neurological difference are challenging the way we view this debate, especially among autistic self-advocates. Children and adults are speaking up on behalf of their mental abilities and diagnosing their conditions as features not bugs.

Imagine humans as operating systems. If you run on Windows and I run on iOS, it doesn’t mean either of us is broken. It means we are different. Comparatively, the “normal” brain is obsessively social, easily distracted, without acute awareness to detail and routine. An autistic brain is independent, highly focused, with a heightened sense of detail and routine. One is genuinely not better than the other, they are simply different.

Steve Silberman, author of Neuro Tribes, dives into the debate by suggesting that the future needs to include neurodivisities. [12] Many professionals, academics, and advocates are starting to view autism not as a single diagnosis, but a collection of conditions and behaviors which challenge established normalities. Addressing the diversities with support, love, compassion, and understanding could be the key from turning what was once thought to be as a bug into a feature. Autistic people have always been a part of our communities, and what needs to continue to evolve is our perceptions of deviant behaviors so those on the margins are not relegated to the stigma of “disorder.” Latest research shows “cases of autism are not rooted in rare de novo mutations but in very old genes that are shared widely with the general population while being concentrated more in certain families than others.” [13] Autism is not a new phenomenon, it’s also a part of our biological past. Instead of viewing this deviation as an error of nature, advocates suggest perceiving autism as a gift of nature.

The fact is people think differently. However, I contend difference isn’t a bug, but rather a feature of human evolution. Humanity has already begun to take human evolution into their own hands. Through the invention of hand soap or the internet, we are influencing the way we program each other with the technologies we develop and social structures we create. Evolution has brought about innumerable expressions of biological diversity. It has been in these moments of friction and difference that species come into increase in complexity. If we push neurohomogenization by attempting to program the empty child with objective knowledge in our epistemic arrogance, we run the risk of cutting our legs out from under us. It is in our diversities, not sameness, that we must find unity.

Advances in technology have opened up a world of possibilities for childhood education with new teaching tools, methods, and materials. I see potential. Consider the possibility of adaptable learning environments before diagnosing a child with a “disorder.” Children could have access to headphones to dampen unwanted noise, sunglasses for light sensory control, adjustable desks so they can stand or sit, and many other easy and affordable remedies to accommodate children running on an autistic operating system. With the evolution of our technology, we must also evolve. Many people are learning to accept the concept of neurodiversity as a tool innovation—opening the world to new and exciting future for the human family.

 

NOTES & CITATIONS

[1] John Taylor Gatto, “The Underground History of American Education,” (New York: The Oxford Village Press, 2006) pg. 263. Gatto openly criticized the modern school system as a prison or a place to colonize the mind. He comments, “If ever a situation was capable of revealing the exquisite power of metaphor to control our lives, the must be it. Are children empty? As helpless infants and dependent youth we lay exposed to the metaphors of our guardians; they colonize our spirit.”

[2] Center for Disease Control and Prevention. (n.d.), “Facts about ASDs.” (accessed April 14, 2018) www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/facts.html.

[3] G.M.A. Grube, revised by C.D.D Reeve, “Plato: Republic.” (Indianapolis: Hacking Publishing Co, Inc., 1992) pg. 91 The concept of a Nobel Lie is taken from Plato’s republic. Socrates creates a myth to appease the angst of the constituents of the ideal city. Also considered a pious fiction. It’s a fiction told for the better good with altruistic motives. Many consider the basis of modern religion to be a Nobel Lie. Essentially, I’m suggesting we all tell Nobel Lie for what we deem “the greater good.”

[4] John Taylor Gatto, “The Underground History of American Education,” (New York: The Oxford Village Press, 2006) pg. XXIV.

[5] John Taylor Gatto, “The Underground History of American Education,” (New York: The Oxford Village Press, 2006) pg. XXIV.

[6] John Locke, “Essay Concerning Human Understanding” Original date: 1690, (New York, Penguin).

[7] John Taylor Gatto, “The Underground History of American Education,” (New York: The Oxford Village Press, 2006) pg. 132

[8] Maxine Greene, “Critical Conversations in Philosophy of Education,” (New York, Routledge, 1995) pg. 4

[9] Maxine Greene, “Critical Conversations in Philosophy of Education,” (New York, Routledge, 1995) pg. 5

[10] Maxine Greene, “Critical Conversations in Philosophy of Education,” (New York, Routledge, 1995) pg. 8 “Valuing distance and autonomy, such thinkers are ‘more exclusionary,’ unlikely to pay heed to the interdependence of ‘they’ and ‘we.’ It is at least likely that mode of knowing and way of being prepared the ground and origin of what is described as instrumental rationality. This is another open question to the pondered in educational philosophy. We may find it to be of considerable moment that people who think in that manner are prone to assert that the rule-governed, ‘neutral’ cognition of which they are capable can be relied upon for realistic representations of the world.”

[11] Maxine Greene, “Critical Conversations in Philosophy of Education,” pg. 11

[12] Steve Silberman, “Neuro Tribes,” (New York: Penguin, 2015) pg. 469

[13] Steve Silberman, “Neuro Tribes,” (New York: Penguin, 2015) pg. 470

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