On the Border

My daughter, the newly minted freshman, came home from college over Labor Day weekend.  The first thing she did when she got back here Friday evening was to go out to the high school football game with some of her friends from high school.  A chilly wind was blowing from the west, making clear that the seasons were changing.  After watching the game, she seemed quieter than usual and more thoughtful.

“It doesn’t seem like my school anymore,” she said.

She pondered her situation a while longer and then said, “But college doesn’t seem like my school, either.  It feels like being away at camp.”

I remembered what it was like to go away to school at her age, that strange sense of dislocation one couldn’t quite put a name to.  And I found myself thinking that the experience of growing up and moving on describes so well how our society feels in these early days of the new millennium.  Our world is growing up, learning new technologies, broadening its horizons, leaving behind the insular little villages and the familiar prejudices of its past.  That’s a scary thing to do.

Not only do we have to deal with rapid changes in our physical and social environments, which are unsettling enough in themselves; we’re also faced with the question of how our society will adjust to accommodate a much broader range of neurological differences than many people are used to seeing.  Whether or not the autistic population is increasing—which, as Mark Stairwalt accurately stated in his Friday post, will likely take several generations to determine—we can at least say that its existence is becoming more widely recognized.  It’s a matter of evolution, either way, regardless of whether the human brain is actually changing or whether we are going through a social evolutionary process of learning to acknowledge more diversity.

I have every confidence that my daughter will settle in at college and that she’ll do just fine there.  Likewise, I fully expect that our world will be able to make the transition to a more mature understanding of human differences and that at some point the existence of autistic people will be seen as just another familiar part of the social landscape.

on 09/8/10 in Evolution, featured | No Comments | Read More

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