Autism, Altruism, and Discrimination

The Chronicle has been running an investigative series on special education in Texas. The articles claim that the Texas Education Agency (TEA) has issues a guideline that school districts cap the students in special education programs to 8.5 percent as a way to cut costs. The series argues that this guideline violates federal law, which requires all government schools to provide special education to children with any type of disability.

The law is founded on altruism. Altruism holds that individuals have a moral duty to self-sacrificially serve others, that personal interests must be sacrificed for the “public interest,” that needs supersede rights.

Having a child with a learning disability or other impediment to learning is certainly tragic. But that tragedy does not give parents a claim on others’ property. Their need does not justify forcing others to finance special education for their child. Yet, this is precisely what critics of the TEA argue. As one educator put it,

The law requires that schools base their special ed decisions on need, not opinion, or space availability, or money, or teacher training or other subjective positions.

In other words, nothing should impede government schools from providing whatever a child with a learning disability needs. His needs supersede any other consideration. In more money is needed, the TEA should simply go to the Bank of Texas Taxpayers and make another withdrawl.

Interestingly, while we are constantly bombarded with messages about the evils of discrimination, critics of the guideline are demanding discrimination. They want government schools to give preferential treatment to children with learning disabilities. That treatment includes individualized programs, additional time for tests, and similar accommodations.

This is just one example of the contradictions inherent in altruism. On the one hand, altruism holds that we cannot discriminate for fear of making individuals feel excluded or marginalized; on the other hands, altruism holds that we must discriminate in order to satisfy an individual’s needs.

Altruism is impractical because it is immoral.

1 comment to Autism, Altruism, and Discrimination

  • James

    What strikes me is that they declare space availability, money, and teacher training to be subjective positions. These are things that can be measured fairly easily; money and space availability in particular are almost the definitions of objective information. But reality is subjective; the views of experts (often politically motivated, and often not truly experts or even qualified) are absolute and not to be questioned!