This February, as in every February, our schools teach Black History Month. Kids learn about various figures like Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks and other assorted figures in the #Civil Rights Movement. This is not a bad thing. This is in fact very necessary. There is another civil rights movement that should be taught about in schools but is often overlooked: The Disability Rights Movement.
Disability history is necessary
If students are lucky, they'll learn about a little #Disability History during Disability Awareness Week in late October. Even then, it's mostly the same few figures like Thomas Edison.
At absolute best, they might have a learn a few bits and pieces about the Americans with Disabilities Act during the portion near the end of the year that covers the late 80's and early 90's. That's if they're lucky. Many schools don't bother teaching it. This is a problem for several reasons. For starters, an entire population doesn't know their history. They barely know that until incredibly recently, kids like them weren't allowed in public schools in any state.
Even in many colleges, Disability History is rarely taught. Even at some of the more progressive institutions, there are no classes on the subject. There might be a few seminars held by the disability accommodation department or the college disability club (if there is one) but little else. As a result, the people who need to know about guys like Ed Roberts, a guy who was paralyzed from the neck down as a result of polio as a child and went to college at Berkeley. He was an early pioneer in the disability rights and independent living movements. But this history is almost buried..
Without disability history, mistakes will be repeated
Those who do not know their history are doomed to repeat it. Disability History is no exception. In turbulent times, the disabled are typically the first targets. Unfortunately, we seem poised to repeat the mistakes of the past. Politicians are targeting Medicaid to save money despite the fact that without it, a lot of people would be forced into abuse filled nursing homes and others would die. In response to mass shootings, people on both sides of the aisle (though more on the right than the left) are suggesting we bring back large-scale institutionalization to prevent them. This idea ignores two major things. Most of the people who commit mass shootings are not mentally ill and mental institutions were shut down for being abuse-ridden ratholes.
We teach so little about places like Willowbrook, that people honestly believe that deinstitutionalization was the result of "political correctness" and not the result of murder, neglect and sexual molestation, that occurred in these institutions to an almost universal extent.
We teach so little about the quack cures that parents forced on their kids in the 50's, parents are giving kids bleach enemas today. If ever there was a time for Disability History, that time is now.