Sunday, November 23, 2008

(Some) People's Palace


I'm still angry.

Yesterday we decided to go to the People's Palace in Glasgow. From the information we read about it we thought we'd get an insight into the history of the city and its people. Besides, it had a nice place to have a buttered scone with tea.

It was a bit tricky figuring out where the disabled parking bays were located but once we were parked we found the building quite accessible. The Palace is divided in two halves. One half is a museum and the second half is a 'glass house' tropical garden. We decided to check out the garden first. Just off to the left was a display about education.

Joe noticed the picture first. It was a bit low for me but he got down and told me that there was a picture of some of the students involved in 'The Writer's Project'. One of the women, a Lynn Paton by name, had Down Syndrome. We both were immediately pleased that the voices of those with disabilities were included in a project about life in schools. The piece accompanying the picture hinted at the fact that some students had unpleasant experiences in school and that the writers project was to give a voice to all experiences.

There were, I believe, four panels of writing, with several pieces on each panel. I began scanning the two nearest me, Joe took the two nearest him. Some students had four or five different pieces. Apparently some students had very, very important voices.

"Is her piece over there?"

"No, it's not over there?"


We checked, and checked and checked again.

Nothing from Lynn Paton. Not a single word. Just her picture. A picture of inclusion an example of exclusion.

Was the picture simply tokenism, taken to make the school feel good about itself? Did they actually figure that no one would care to read her words, that her point of view would be looked for, that what she had to say might have been considered important to the visitors of the Palace? Did she say something that they wanted censored, did she raise concerns about the value of her education, the experience of her hallways, the treatment of the staff?

Why is her picture present and her words missing?

We pulled ourselves away from the boards and went on tour of the museum. I saw remnants of all these Glaswegian lives and yet I only cared about hers. As I looked at a very cool banner from the days of women's sufferage, I wondered about her and her voice - about how she felt when she saw the display, the display without her words and her experience. I wondered about her sufferage and the life she had yet to live.

Will her voice ever define her world?

Document her experience?

Will anyone ever ask?

Will anyone even care?


rickismom said...

good point, as always

Anonymous said...

The Peoples Palace, I remember that place. We went there on one of the hottest days in Scotland's history. That greenhouse part was like a sauna! Did you see the representation of Canada in the statue in front?

I am so used to my son's work not being displayed with his classmates, so your story really doesn't surprise me. Either he didn't do the work or else it wasn't up to the standards that some teachers want to display in their hallways. I am saddened by your story, and would love to hear that young girl's words.

mom to Adam (6)

little.birdy said...

Did they include the work of every student who was involved the process? Maybe there was a random drawing, or the students got to choose if they wanted their work displayed and she choose not to display hers. I know the likelihood is that she was the token person with a disability included, but I HOPE there is another reason why her work was not displayed.

Mikesmom said...

First, let me say I can only speak for myself. My son with DS is 27 years old now. He has held a job as a dishwasher/busboy for Chilis for 8 years. When he was little, I would have given anything to be approached by you and Joe. I asked anyone who might know anything what my son's future might hold. I never dreamed it would be so full and productive. He was only included in a few classes for a few years in a regular ed school. I can't even imagine what kids growing up today will enjoy and be able to do as adults.

Dave, the first thing I do in the morning is read your blog. Thank you so much for everything you do. You mean so much to me and so many others.

Anonymous said...

Did you ask anyone?