Defeating the Purpose

For a long time there was a sheltered work program in Australia for the mentally disabled.

It operated like this: people would be assessed according to how great their level of disability, how much they could contribute and how much support they would need. They would then be given simple tasks to complete. Employers would take them on because the wages would be lower, and just because they wanted to do some good.

This was an excellent way for the disabled to gain greater independence and feel part of society. They were a common sight traveling to work together on the bus from their share houses, just living normal lives like everyone else but at a lower level of complexity. Their nominal wages would be supplemented by welfare which I’m sure no one ever begrudged.

But then some (certainly not all) parents of the disabled complained. There was a court case which found that the wages were discriminatory because they offered the mentally disabled a rate lower than the minimum wage.

The result, of course, was that employers were forced to increase their pay to minimum wage. But why should they do that when they could hire more efficient, non-disabled people for the same price? And so the disabled faced having no work at all, being separated from the community again and having nothing meaningful to do.

Thus defeating the original purpose and ensuring everyone loses.

That was some time ago and I’ve been in the jungle so I don’t know how that situation is now. Perhaps they patched things up.

There was a similar situation with MOOCs (massive online open courses). The whole idea of them was that they could offer education to vastly more people, in more places, far more cheaply. Some qualifications might even one day be accepted by employers, while others might assist disadvantaged students gain entry to more mainstream courses. It was potentially a great idea, though a long way from being fully figured out.

Then one of those ever-helpful regulators had a look and decided no, they can’t be allowed because they don’t meet education requirements to make allowances for the inclusion of the blind, deaf etc. They had to either shape up or close down. They were unable to shape up because that would cost money, and they weren’t really making much money as it was, so they closed down.

Hence, the very program that attempted in good faith to broaden access to education, and did so with extraordinary success, got shut down because there were a few people it was not yet able to offer access to. Brilliant.

Aspects of the War on Terror are like this, though one could fairly wonder if stopping terrorism was ever the real point.

In China you can be charged with Gross Stupidity. A couple of brothers were convicted of this crime after buying up all the garlic in a province in order to sell it at monopoly prices, then realizing they didn’t know how to store it properly. The garlic rotted and the province experienced a shortage. I think the brothers got about three months in jail, which sounds fair enough.

There should be an offense like this on the books in western countries. ‘Stupidity’ here could be defined as an ill-considered act which adversely affects everyone, even oneself.

People or organizations found guilty of Gross Stupidity should fix the dumbness, apologize with due humility, or be locked up until they learn some bloody sense.

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One comment

  1. redpillgirlnotes · January 28

    This reminds me of a program in my area that focused on training special needs teens in greenhouse and nursery work. Like the program you describe, employers paid less and I think the program made up the difference between that and minimum wage. The teens enjoyed the work. It was easily learned, enjoyable, repetitive, and predictible. One gal with Downs Syndrome started making very artfully combined mixed planters that sold like hotcakes! The kids had pride in being self sufficient, it helped the businesses, and they were learning real life marketable skills. At the time huge resources were being spent trying to get these kids up to grade level in reading, writing, math, etc. so they could pass standardized tests and the organizer of this program argued that was such a huge waste of time (some of the kids would not be able to be at grade level no matter how much time was spent on that) vs. focusing that time and energy on teaching them practical and in demand life skills like this. It made sense to me!

    Like

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