“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.” George Orwell


Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Return on Investment

The following is a quote from the book Instruction of Students with Severe Disabilities by Martha Snell and Fredda Brown (Pearson, 2006).
Another misguided value system, called return on investment, places a high value on serving students who have a favorable, history and prognosis for being "fixed" - those likely to contribute the most, economically, to society. The return-on-investment approach fails to recognize the many noneconomic contributions made by people, including those with the most severe disabilities.

The return-on-investment value orientation is based on a curative mentality that sends negative messages to children with disabilities and their families. Imagine what it might be like to continually get the message, "You are not OK the way your are. In order to be OK, your disability has to be fixed and you need to be more like us (people without disabilities)." Increasingly, self-advocates are asking that their disabilities be viewed as a form of natural human diversity and that others' efforts be less about "fixing" a person's disabilities and more about accepting individuals for who they are and providing necessary and self-determined supports.

In addition, the return-on-investment approach tends to discriminate against individuals with the most severe disabilities. It seeks to justify the differential valuing of people and the services they recieve on the basis of the severity of their disability characteristics. Anytime schools sanction practices that imply that some students are more worthy of staff time and resources than other students, there is a serious problem. All children are worthy, although they have differing needs.

Note the final comment "Anytime school sanction practices that imply that some students are more worthy of staff time and resources than other students, there is a serious problem. All children are worthy, although they have differing needs." How does the church fare using this criteria? Are we a place that emphasizes a return-on-investment philosophy? I hope we aren't but I am afraid we are.

McNair (fcbu)

2 comments:

Vanessa Brahm said...

I can't agree with the "return-on-investment" concept either, because I cannot focus solely on the utility of persons with disabilities. I like the quote toward the end of the first paragraph that says "The return-on-investment approach fails to recognize the many noneconomic contributions made by people, including those with the most severe disabilities." That reminds me of my loving grandmother who used to have a special compassion for people with downs syndrome because they were the sweetest people she knew. It also reminds me of the girl in class who shared about the disabled boy who earned his allowance by "spreading joy." It is completely true that people with disabilities affect us in very positive although not necessarily "economic" ways. Christ's heart is definitely with people with disabilities, and as Christians it is our PRIVILEGE to reflect that love.

Kenneth N. Vinson said...

Is not return-on-investment something we begin learning at a very early age. I can see why this is the basis of our thought processes. We trade time for money, and many of our decisions have their basis in a return-on-investment. We have demonstrated this mentality without a second thought, so much so that it has become a genetic trait of our society. Unfortunately, we have let our economic considerations infiltrate our thinking process into how we perceive a person’s usefulness.

It is unfortunate that we look for a return on our investment when it comes to a person’s existence. There are going to be individuals who are not able to contribute economically to society and to expect a return-on-investment from these individuals seems absurd. This mentality does discriminate and somehow we have justified these acts.

When it comes to the disabled, it is not what they can give back it is about the life that is made better. Resources are available to individuals with disabilities, but people with the power to make a difference allow the numbers to dictate their decisions. This return-on-investment philosophy should remain in financial decisions and not pertain to a person’s usefulness. It will take knowledge, information, and enough people who care to make a change in society’s attitude.