George Will's son Jon, and the worth of a human with Down syndrome

George Will:  “This year Jon will spend his birthday where every year he spends 81 spring, summer and autumn days and evenings, at Nationals Park, in his seat behind the home team’s dugout. The Phillies will be in town, and Jon will be wishing them ruination, just another man, beer in hand, among equals in the republic of baseball.”


I have a family member with developmental disabilities.  And so I do take it personally when I’m told by the media, educational elites, much of the Republican Party, and most of the Protestant Church that:

  • Public schools are awesome.  Everywhere.  Don’t question the $25,000 per student that is spent in Kansas on special education, which so often results in kids with ENTIRELY different social skill sets (but similar “standardized test scores”) being thrown into the same classroom.  We know better than parents about how to educate society’s children.  Don’t question the efficiency of dollars spent, either.  Ignore the opportunity costs — the friends that would be made and the real-world education that would be received elsewhere.  We went to school for this.  Look at all the letters after our names.
  • Current abortion “policy” is just fine.  No big deal that women make same-day decisions to abort unborn children who have “defects.”  Those unborn have no right to live.  In fact, it’s better off that many of them didn’t.  No big deal that many women secretly, deeply regret their decisions for the rest of their lives.  Ignore the fact that most laws world-wide are much stricter.  No, men have no role in this decision.
  • From Protestant churches (I was baptized Presbyterian) — our first mission is to protect our tax-exempt status, so don’t criticize government.  Many of our donors might stop donating to us if we didn’t promise them tax deductions.  If Protestant churches raised less money, well, God would probably be limited in his ability to do anything in America.  With regard to the disabled: isn’t that what government is for?  OK, OK… if you’re lucky, you’ll go to an enormous, impersonal church that also has 20 families with developmentally disabled children, so they can have their own get-togethers.  And politics… it’s so… complicated… so we don’t really want to learn more about it… unlike religion, which is… uncomplicated.

George Will’s recent column celebrates the 40th birthday of his eldest of four children, who has Down syndrome.  Please read the whole thing.  To quote some of the column:

— “When Jonathan Frederick Will was born 40 years ago — on May 4, 1972, his father’s 31st birthday — the life expectancy for people with Down syndrome was about 20 years. That is understandable.  The day after Jon was born, a doctor told Jon’s parents that the first question for them was whether they intended to take Jon home from the hospital. Nonplussed, they said they thought that is what parents do with newborns.”

– “Two things that have enhanced Jon’s life are the Washington subway system, which opened in 1976, and the Washington Nationals baseball team, which arrived in 2005. He navigates the subway expertly, riding it to the Nationals ballpark, where he enters the clubhouse a few hours before game time and does a chore or two. The players, who have climbed to the pinnacle of a steep athletic pyramid, know that although hard work got them there, they have extraordinary aptitudes because they are winners of life’s lottery. Major leaguers, all of whom understand what it is to be gifted, have been uniformly and extraordinarily welcoming to Jon, who is not.”

More commentary on this article can be found at The BlazeThe American Spectator, and Patheos.com.  George Will wrote this 1993 column when his son turned 21 years old.



Connect with Benjamin Hodge at FacebookTwitterLinkedInGoogle PlusThe Kansas Progress, and LibertyLinked. Hodge is President of the State and Local Reform Group of Kansas.  He served as one of seven at-large trustees at Johnson County Community College, a member of the Kansas House of Representatives, a delegate to the Kansas Republican Party, and was founder of the modern Overland Park Republican Party.  His public policy record is recognized by Americans for Prosperity, the Kansas Association of Broadcasters, the Kansas Press Association, the Kansas Sunshine Coalition for Open Government, the NRAKansans for Life, and the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE).


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