Sunday, June 19, 2005


Sometimes a Sanctuary is Just... a Sanctuary

About a year ago, I was riding a train into London when I came across and clipped out an utterly engrossing article in the Guardian about Botton, a village in north Yorkshire that I'd never heard of before. Turns out it's now the subject of a Channel 4 documentary, The Strangest Village in Britain, which is reviewed in today's Observer:

Half of the 300 villagers here are 'special needs'. They make wooden toys - rather well, it seemed - and fold paper for schoolbooks, and hug each other with fond earnestness, and guard their appointed jobs jealously, and in the evenings they live, mostly, with the Steiner Christians and their families. This great little programme about Botton, celebrating 50 years of the experiment, had me dangerously close to tears a couple of times, as does the ongoing argument which seeks to blame the toweringly sane Baroness Warnock for once recommending, gently, more inclusion in the right circumstances, and now mildly changing her mind after watching successive governments use her nuanced argument as a slab, a manifesto to save money and avoid complicated thoughts.

In some circumstances, inclusion works, in others it doesn't. Got it?

This is probably the most sensible comment I've seen on the inclusion-or-separation issue with special-needs populations. Denying people a way to fit in, however awkwardly, is cruel: forcing them to keep trying to fit in when this makes them existentially miserable is also cruel. And no amount of absolutist rhetoric by experts or activists on either side holds up to the harsh tests of daily life and direct experience in these matters.

I don't see any word yet on whether the documentary will have a US broadcast -- one can only hope that it will.

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