No, I’m not talking about the Beatles song that was certainly one of the most popular and most frequently performed tunes of the 20th century. Rather, I am inviting you to join me in thinking way out of the box and imagining what would happen (or should I say, is happening!) as neuro-engineering, robotics, and neurosciences in education converge and dramatically change the ways we think about addressing the needs of individuals with disabilities.
Why think about this now? First, I was saddened by the recent passing of Ray Bradbury, whose classic books such as Fahrenheit 451 and The Martian Chronicles were essential reading, even for non-sci fi enthusiasts like me. His storytelling demanded that readers abandon preconceptions of what was possible and struggle with ideas that could not only reshape society but challenge our personal and communal values.
Then I read a fascinating article in The Wall Street Journal titled, "Bionics and Beyond," about the rapid progress being made in high-tech implants to address medical problems (e.g., epilepsy, hearing loss, heart beat irregularities) and the author’s contention that we are rapidly approaching a time when “implants will soon be commonplace enhancements under our skin and inside our skulls, making us stronger and smarter.”
Now here is where it gets scary, where I cut loose and allow my imagination to wander, and where I begin to imagine…
Might it be possible for scientists to develop a "chip" that circumvents the ill-effects of learning disabilities?
Will students with disabilities be encouraged to pursue implants as a type of educational intervention?
Could implants "change" a person from one who has a disability to one who has enhanced ability?
Will increased availability of implants result in a preferential selection process whereby schools might begin to attract (or regulate against) the enrollment of certain kinds of "enhanced" learners?
How will education and civil rights policy need to change to address (and protect) the needs and entitlements of these "enhanced" learners?