I heard something on the radio a few days ago that riled me up. It wasn’t that it was a bad thing, but it was just so incredibly divorced from reality that only someone in government could possibly come up with it. And, of course, it would cost money to prove that reality doesn’t bend to some do-gooder politician’s bright idea.
The issue was a Title IX like piece of legislation granting equal access to school sports for disabled (or special needs) students. The idea, as the woman on the news was explaining it, was that disabled kids would be eligible to try out for regular school teams (I had no idea they were banned from trying out… I thought they just understood that they had little chance of making the team so they didn’t bother). Further, special needs (or disabled) teams would be created in schools and would compete in their own leagues. The idea, of course, was to make disabled/special needs teams equal, just like with women’s sports under Title IX. The woman speaking about it said that the hope was that the student body would support the disabled teams with the same fervor that they support the other sports teams at the school. (Apparently, at this point, there isn’t a “parity” demand, like with the Title IX demand that women’s sports have parity in terms of numbers of participants as men’s sports.)
Obviously, this is a demand that schools spend money. It may not look like it yet, but when activists get involved, schools are going to have to create teams, hire coaches, allot practice time, etc. to make this happen. And, they’ll have to do it, or at least try to do it, whether or not there are even enough disabled kids who are actually interested in participating. I’d assume that disabled kids are just like the rest of the student body, in that only a fraction have interest in playing competitive sports.
The thing that drove me crazy, however, was the spokesperson’s statement that she hoped that the student bodies of the school would support the disabled teams like the support the rest of the teams. You know what? They will NOT. Has she never noticed the difference in television ratings between the Olympics and the Special Olympics? God love Special Olympians… They are inspiring and wonderful. But, the reality is that people don’t support (in terms of being fans) the Special Olympics the way they do the Olympics. Has the woman ever noticed the disparity in the numbers of students that attend boy’s basketball games VS girl’s basketball games? Title IX aside, the “parity” is in number of participants, it isn’t even close in number of interested spectators.
The whole thing is an exercise in legislating a fantasy. It would be great if a disabled person could make the Varsity in some sport. I’m sure it would happen once in a blue moon, but it would happen no more frequently than it does already. The other part of the fantasy is that there are even enough disabled kids at most schools who are interested in becoming athletes to field a team in any sport if they had their own league. Throw on top of that the expectation that student bodies would support those teams “like they do other non-special needs” teams and you have a pure disconnect from reality.
It’s a simple example of politicians and do-gooders passing legislation that is not grounded in reality. And, of course, it will end up costing money to try to implement it. It’s an unfunded mandate on schools, or, as bad, will become a funded mandate that is a complete waste of tax dollars.
Have you followed the results of the government study of Head Start? The conclusion after a long study involving thousands of students is that Head Start makes absolutely no difference. By the third grade, even the minor gains in the earlier grades disappears. But tens of billions of dollars are spent on this program that makes no difference. Politicians stand before crowds talking about education and claim “We need to fully fund Head Start!” or “We need to expand Head Start so every child who needs it has access.” People cheer the politicians making these proclamations. It sounds so noble and like it is a really good idea. But, now we know that the reality is: Head Start makes no difference. Will politicians ever admit that it is a waste of money and should be shut down? Oh hell no. Anyone who says that will be accused of being against poor people, or, worse, racist (because liberals always see people of color as the only poor people).
This story about equal athletic opportunity for disabled kids is another perfect example of a utopian vision not being subject to a reality check. How many examples can you name right now, just off the top of your head, of government programs (upon which your money is spent and that affect your lives) that have not been subject to a reality check?
(Note: I’m not sure I used the politically correct language referring to “disabled” or “special needs” people. Differently Abled? Handicapable? Special ability? I don’t know and I didn’t mean to be insulting if anyone was insulted.)