I wonder this often when I ride the train, I see people that society is just not designed to benefit and I imagine how hard everyday life must be in their shoes. One of the first things that comes to mind when you hear about the NYC subway system are the people who call it home, the homeless population that seeks refuge on the iron horse. I’m sure I’m not the only person who wonders when their life went left and they ended up homeless? Where are their family members? Didn’t they have any friends? Was it drugs or just hardship? The questions are endless and I’m sure in some cases it’s a result of poor choices and bad judgment but what about the people who are just failed by society? What about the guy who’s on the spectrum but grew up in a time where it wasn’t recognized and can’t hold a job because he was never given the tools to do so. What about the child who was born to drug addicted parents and thrown into the system at 2 years old and aged out at 18 with no idea how to navigate society, higher education or make stable life choices?
Society, while it’s slowly becoming more inclusive, has a longer more harsh history of excluding those who need guidance the most. Instead of just tossing these people who need more time, more space, or more guidance, into rooms, jobs and settings where they’re competing with the mainstream we should develop ways to help these people, give them tools, not pink slips. In most NYC public schools classrooms are inclusion classes where kids of all levels are expected to learn the same material at the same rate. While the argument is pitched to say kids learn better off their peers, this sentiment ends when the school year does and they fall behind.
We need to recognize that not every person learns the same, comprehends and functions the same and we can’t skew the system to support kids until their 18th birthday and then expect them to figure it out on their own when the training wheels are abruptly yanked. A few months ago I read a post on a blog from a photographer who photographs the homeless across the country and tells their story. One of his posts though, from a 19 year old homeless kid, really struck a cord. This poor kid had been raised by his grandparents, didn’t know where his parents were, and when his grandmother passed away he found himself homeless when the bank took the house he grew up in. His job couldn’t support rent and life expenses and so he took refuge in city muni stations.
How do we call people adults when we’ve never provided them the proper tools to function as one? How many high school students learn about taxes, IRA’s or retirement? We teach students to pass, not to know and we then have adults who relied on being told what to do and how to do it and when that structure is gone they fall through the cracks. Society fails them.
We as a society need to make a change, we need to change the method and change the approach. You can’t expect kids to just figure it out of their peers or after having it done for them for years, you have to offer a safety net and not a hand out. Until then though I’ll hope for the best and teach my own daughter to do for herself and learn the steps and not just the outcome.