“Having Down syndrome is like being born normal. I am just like you and you are just like me. We are all born in different ways, that is the way I can describe it. I have a normal life.”–Chris Burke, a former Down’s Syndrome carrier. Down’s Syndrome is a genetic disorder in chromosome pair 21, which instead of having a pair, it has three chromosomes. Down’s Syndrome is known to cause delay in learning, but the full symptoms and the impact that it has on a person is still unknown. However, our society still values the Baroque period, and stigmas and punishments are adhered to people with such syndrome. The language used today separates people with Down’s syndrome from the rest of society. Furthermore, the modern day education system is inadequate for kids carrier of the disorder. Thus, people with Down’s syndrome are currently not fully integrated into society.
The Baroque period had a big impact in history, and its characteristics still can be seen up to this day. This era valued the aesthetic, the beauty and the perfection of the being. The perfect body is always referenced by the Statue of David or the painting of Aphrodite. The madness for physical perfection is seen in television and any other stream of media, nowadays. It is not unusual to see news about people that perform extremes, like excessive tanning or excessive plastic surgery, to have the perfect appearance. However, some people like Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve, author of the classic Beauty and the Beast, said: “If it’s not Baroque, don’t fix it,” showing the dislike towards values brought by the Baroque time. This drive for perfection has driven many people to a place of isolation from society. The Baroque values, not only isolated those with bad hair or an oily skin, but it specially isolated those with genetic disorders, like people with Down’s syndrome. After all, perfection cannot be achieved by imperfect beings like humans.
Furthermore, those with Down’s syndrome, who are far from the outer perfection of David or Aphrodite, are punished by society. People with Down’s syndrome have a small head with a flat area on the back, excess of skin at the neck, rounded eye corners, as well as other types of evident abnormalities. Carriers of Down’s syndrome also have an impulsive and sensitive behavior, and delayed mental learning (Kaneshiro.) However, they are still humans and can still have a normal life (Menear.) Still, 80 to 90 percent of parents, in the U.S., who discover that their unborn child has Down’s syndrome opts for abortion, according to David Perry, journalist of the Star Tribune and father of a child with Down’s Syndrome. It is shocking to know that a child is not allowed to live because of who he or she is. Moreover, the government has also shown prejudice towards people with Down’s syndrome. In 1927, a girl named Casey Beck, along with her biological mother and her daughter, Vivian, were forced to be sterilized because they were thought to be “feebleminded.” (Dorr.) The Supreme Court Judge of Virginia, Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., wrote in his verdict: “Three generations of imbeciles are enough.” (Holmes.) However, current investigations lead officials to conclude that all of Beck’s relatives were falsely diagnosed (Dorr.) This outrageous reality shows that people with Down’s syndrome could not have a family because they were “unfit” and “a threat to society.” However, Virginia was the only state that had a three generation cleansing law, West Virginia has the same law up to this date (FSWP.) This sterilization laws have seriously stained the American society and government, because not only it traumatized many people carriers of Down’s syndrome, but it also inspired the infamous Nazi’s eugenics (Dorr.) Therefore, the way people treated and still treats people with Down’s syndrome is egregious.
The language used towards people with Down’s syndrome harms those who carry the disorder. One term used towards people with disorders like those of Down’s is the word “retard.” “Retard” is a pejorative term that can bring a person down. Such term, when used towards a person as sensitive as a person with Down’s syndrome, can seriously traumatize him or her. Another repugnant term is “imbecile,” which makes a person with Down’s syndrome seem to not have the ability to think. “God’s angels” is a term used by many religious groups and churches (Perry.) Although it might seem like an innocent and benign term, certain connotations can harm. David M. Perry said, “No human, including my son, is entirely innocent or angelic.” Perry doesn’t want kids with Down’s syndrome to be differentiated from other people, regardless if the term might seem good. Nowadays, the technical term for a person with Down’s syndrome is “developmentally delayed.” This term should only be referenced in the medical field. People with Down’s syndrome should not be differentiated from other kids, and this will stop when society stops labeling people in general. Therefore, the language, instead of uniting the people, is separating carriers of Down’s syndrome from the rest of society.
The education towards kids with Down’s syndrome needs a global reform, even though there have been some improvements. According to UNESCO, “All children and young people of the world, with their individual strengths and weaknesses, with their hopes and expectations, have the right to education. It is not our education systems that have a right to certain types of children. Therefore, it is the school system of a country that must be adjusted to meet the needs of all children.” This means that even a child with Down’s syndrome has the right to have a proper education. Countries like Australia, United Kingdom and the United States have had already positive results by including kids with Down’s syndrome into the education system, and by including them into classrooms with kids who don’t have any sort of disability. The U.S. has also made specific laws like the IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act), which grants services to more than 6.5 million people (Disability & Education Laws.) American public schools have been receiving more children with disabilities than ever before. In Cleveland the students with special needs rose from 13.4 percent to 22.9 percent, and in Los Angeles from 8.5 percent to 13 percent. Also, according to district officials, “all schools that receive public funds should share the cost of special education.” (Hoag.) However, charter and magnet schools have been rejecting kids with “significant needs,” including kids with Down’s syndrome. This creates conflict between schools, because the public schools cannot afford to have all the kids with disabilities, since it is one of the most expensive types of programs; for example, Los Angeles spends $40,710 just for kids with disabilities compared to $15,180 for kids without any disabilities (Hoag.) Therefore, the education for kids with Down’s syndrome must improve.
Ergo, society has not adopted people with Down’s syndrome to the fullest. This is because the Baroque period core values are still prevalent today, and those who do not fit in it become punished outcasts. The language used today towards people with Down’s syndrome separates instead of uniting. Lastly, the education system has improved in some areas, but it’s far from ideal. People with Down’s syndrome are humans and deserve to be treated like humans. Our society is full of vanity. The human need for vanity is to make one feel better over the other. This has occurred from Ancient Egypt, with the slaves and pharaohs, to the Medieval Age, with serfs and lords, and it still lives up to this day. The human vanity is the real pure venom that kills our society. Thus, the problem that currently exists with carriers of Down’s syndrome just emphasizes the arrogance and the lack of equality that exists among humankind.
Pedro Del Cioppo Vasques, Age 16, Grade 10, Eleanor Roosevelt High School, Silver Key