The History Assignment

My 10th grade student, McCall, was given a History assignment. This assignment was to pick a subject and chronicle it’s evolution through History. She was to research aspects of the subject from the past and present points of view and report how things had changed.

McCall chose Down syndrome as her subject. She included how children born with an extra chromosome were once automatically labled as unteachable and their parents advised to put them in an institution and just forget about them. Many times these parents would tell the other family members that the baby had died, so negative was this stigma associated with Down syndrome.

McCall talked about Early Intervention and how children with Down syndrome are growing up and becoming valued and contributing members of their neighborhoods.

McCall played a DVD showing pictures of Parker . She noted that through many other of the presentations there was a lot of background noise and chatter. During her presentation there was total silence as each and every student listened and watched with great interest. There was an AMAZING type of education going on that day.

At the end of her presentation McCall explained the original meaning of the word ‘retarded’ and how it’s meaning has been refashioned in such a way as to be exceptionally cutting and hurtful. She explained that in reality we are all retarded (slower to learn) in some areas. And really, how many of us have mastered EVERYTHING the very first time we ever tried it?

At the end of McCall’s presentation her History teacher stood up and, in front of the whole class, apologized to McCall for his unthinking use of the word, ‘retarded.’ He also asked McCall if she would allow him to borrow her presentation and share it with the rest of the High School faculty.

McCall’s love for her little brother just radiates from her. And through her love McCall just helped to narrow the gap between those with the typical number of chromosomes and those with a little something extra. Even a little bit of awareness can go a very long way. Parker may be just a little bit of nothing physically, but on so many occasions his life has made a difference in the life of another, and in turn made this word just a little better of a place to be.

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