On Sunday I sang with a friend at church. This friend is an older fellow (64, I think) and he is mentally retarded. Despite his handicap, my friend comes to church regularly, participates with the choir, serves as an usher, and has an uncanny knack for keeping schedules of his friends, such as myself, straight. He has a heart of gold. He looks forward to singing a solo every summer during a service, but prefers to have someone sing with him, so he and I usually sing a duet together toward the end of the summer. We did so this past Sunday.
On the way out of church, another older member of the congregation stopped me and, after telling me that he enjoyed listening to us, volunteered that he's known my friend since he was a young man because he "worked at the institution" into which my friend was enrolled as a boy.
Though it's obvious my friend has intellectual deficiencies, it's hard for me to imagine that those deficiencies were so great as to have need to institutionalize him. Certainly in today's education system that wouldn't happen: he would be in a segregated classroom for nearly the whole day, but there would be a place at school for him.
So I left church Sunday thankful that I work in one school system (and pay taxes for another) that has a place for students like my friend. Hopefully we won't be so hasty in our attempts to eviscerate America's public schools that we forget the good work we do including students of all types in our mission.