Thursday, February 12, 2004

Social Darwinism at Its Finest - Teachers Use Boy's Deformity As Class Lesson

When I heard about this story on the radio here in Dallas, I was furious. Two 4th grade teachers pulled a 5th grade boy out of his class so they could display him in front of their 4th grade classes as a genetics "lesson." The full story is here: Teachers Use Boy's Deformity As Class Lesson.

Robert Will (Willy) Harris has Stahl's ear, which causes points to form on the ears. He and family say two fourth-grade teachers at his school in Rice, Texas, used his deformity to teach a lesson in genetics.

The boy says the teachers pulled him from his class twice in one day and took him to their classrooms to show his ears. Officials with the Rice Independent School District acknowledge the incidents happened, but say the teachers meant no harm. They say the teachers were simply trying to teach genetics and family traits.

The teachers meant no harm, eh? They pulled a kid out of class and paraded him in front of younger students like a circus freakshow without the consent of his parents. Did they even stop to think how this 11-year-old boy felt as a result of this treatment? His mother said on the radio that her son now wants plastic surgery to correct the problem and she will do anything to make that possible, including flip burgers. Willy's mom, by the way, is a reservist that just returned from Kuwait after an 8 month tour.

And secondly, AP didn't get the story completely right. According to his mother, who I heard speak on the radio, the teachers claimed that he had "Darwin's Points," i.e. vestigial organs. They couldn't correctly state that his ears were a family trait because no one else in his family has Stahl's ear. His family also said that Willy's ear deformity has nothing to do with genetics. Most likely it was a developmental defect. It might have been good for the teachers to do a bit of research first, for example, speaking with his parents. And here's a shocker:

His parents say they no longer want their son used for show and tell.

In every medical textbook or genetics textbook I have read, the privacy of the patients is carefully guarded. Their faces are never shown, or they are masked. These teachers had no concern for Willy's privacy at all.

I don't think that the teachers should be fired, but they should definitely be reprimanded. Perhaps they should take some "sensitivity training" or be assigned to work with disabled kids after school so they can learn that kids with handicaps or deformities have feelings too.

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