Cupcakes, Gifts and Crosses Inclusion Based on Gospel Values©
The Cupcake Theory of Fairness©
For my 10th birthday, my mom made the most incredible cupcakes and packed one in my lunch. I managed to slip the cupcake out of my Bionic Woman lunch pail and into my desk, so I could nibble on it during class. I was caught by my teacher and her Catholic school, stealth capabilities, as I heard her say, “Miss Wedemeyer, whatever you are eating, you better have brought enough for the whole class.” Of course, I didn’t have enough for everyone in the class, so I had to turn over the half-eaten, most wonderful cupcake, to my teacher.
The Cupcake Theory is a lesson in fairness learned from that cupcake episode. If you are caught having something special, you better find a way for everyone else to have it too, or you will have to give yours up. Everyone gets a cupcake or no one gets a cupcake because that is what’s fair. This outdated concept of fairness, this Cupcake Theory, is haunting us and penalizing students with special needs. When we apply the Cupcake Theory to students with special physical needs, we see how this outdated concept of fairness does not hold up. A Cupcake Theory Scenario:
- You would not object to a child wearing glasses in the classroom
- The child wearing glasses does not have an advantage over the students who do not wear glasses
- The glasses do not give the child x-ray vision
- The glasses give the child the opportunity to see, to the extent that all of the other children can already see, without glasses
- The child is given the advantage of wearing glasses to balance the disadvantage of not being born with vision equal to that of the other children
- In this scenario, the teacher would never invoke The Cupcake Theory: either all of the students wear glasses or none of the students wear glasses. This is what’s fair.
Although this may appear ludicrous, it happens every day, in classrooms throughout the country, as teachers are haunted by the belief that an advantage given to one “must be given to all …or not at all.”
The Gifts and Crosses Strategy
In my classroom, the general education students would see the special education students receiving accommodations and modifications. Some students used tape recorders; others had their test read aloud or were permitted to give an oral presentation in place of a book report. Every “disability disadvantage” was countered with an “adaptation advantage” in an effort to bring that student even with their peers. I never had a single complaint from a student or a parent and this is why. Every day, the class would recite together, “God gives everyone gifts to share and God gives everyone a cross to bear.” The students had been taught that God gives each of us gifts and crosses and although we use our gifts to help one another, helping a person in need does not transform that person’s cross into a gift. As one of my students said, “Giving a dollar to a homeless man doesn’t make him Donald Trump.” No, sharing a gift with a person in need does not give that person an advantage. It merely lightens the load of a cross they will never be able to set down. We are there for each other and when it all seems too much to bear, we remind our friends in need that under the weight of His cross, even Christ, himself, fell three times.
Perhaps things are not supposed to be fair. If we all had the same gifts, we wouldn’t need one another. God gave us gifts and crosses to help keep each other balanced and that is what a child with a disability really needs, that … and the occasional birthday cupcake from a Bionic Woman lunch pail. I find it particularly ironic to note that an overwhelming amount of special education teachers, with whom I have spoken, agree that an instructional technique used to target a single student with a learning disability usually improves the educational experience of all students.
So, in essence, by allowing a single student to get a little extra, everyone does get a cupcake.