The Tangled Ethics of the Down Syndrome Cheerleader

There’s a lot going on here, and I may lack the ethics dexterity, or perhaps the courage, to figure it out.

I learned about the story on CNN this morning, as the newscasters were getting misty-eyed and “Awwing” all over the place. With a lot of fairly disturbing ethics issues rotting on my plate, I was looking for something uplifting to write about. I’m not sure whether this is it or not.

Here is the most recent on-line story about Kory Mitchell, a sophomore on the varsity cheerleading squad for Manitou Springs (Colorado) High School, who was born with Down Syndrome:

DENVER, Colo. – A Colorado teen with Down syndrome has made her dream of competing in a cheerleading competition come true.

Colorado’s 3-A cheerleading champions hail from Manitou Springs. At the top of their pyramid is a teenager who has overcome serious challenges in her life. The countdown is on as thirteen girls get one last practice in at the Colorado School of Mines. In minutes, the Manitou Springs Mustangs huddle will compete against other top teams.

Cheerleaders take center stage showcasing their spirit and synchronicity. The Manitou Springs Mustangs huddle one last time. And for the first time, joining them in competition is 16-year-old Kory Mitchell.

“She is full of life and full of energy and always wants to be a part of everything,” says her mom, Bonnie King, as she watches with pride.

Her daughter has dreamt about being a cheerleader since elementary school. Her mom is emotional.

But learning these already complicated routines is harder for Kory. “It`s just a tough road when you have a differently-abled child. And to see them have a sense of belonging and acceptance is what she wants, of course, is just so beautiful to see it,” mom says.

Kory’s teammates see what’s under the surface. Things like courage, patience and unconditional acceptance.

“She`s pretty spunky. And she`s got some sass. She loves being out there. It`s nice to see her smile and part of the team,” says one of her teammates. Sometimes competitions aren’t about who wins, but a little hardware doesn’t hurt.

Kory accepted the trophy and a hand from her teammates.

“It`s my dream come true. I love my girls a lot. I`m a big fan of cheerleaders,” Kory said.And Kory’s teammates are big fans of her. This was Kory`s first competition, but she has cheered with the team since last year at football and basketball games.

Observations (some of them reluctant):

1. We learn in some other reports that this cheerleading squad does not have try-outs. Any student who wants to put in the work and to be a cheerleader can be on the team. Good, then Kory showed character to take on the challenge, and the team had no basis upon which to reject her.

2. It also deserves no special credit for not rejecting her. However, I question the standards that caused her to placed be on the varsity team. It depends on what the team wants to be, of course. Are the cheerleaders there to represent the school’s diversity and values, including dedication and enthusiasm? If so, I can easily believe that Kory earned her spot over others. Is the varsity supposed to present the best cheerleaders in term of athleticism, coordination and aesthetics? If so, I question the integrity and motives of the selection process. Kory is by all measures remarkable. She is not an objectively excellent cheerleader. Even in the brief videos I have seen, she is often out of synch with her team mates. Personally, I would say, “So what?” If the cheerleading team is about leading cheers and showing earnest support for the school, nobody should care. If it has another purpose, like choreography and precision of execution  however, one cheerleader being a bit off matters.

3. Are there objectively better cheerleaders than Kory who she has displaced? That’s OK, and perhaps admirable, if everyone, including those cheeleaders,  genuinely endorse a kind gesture that reflects well on the school and its students, and allows a young woman who has a lot to overcome in life to feel included and valued. If not, however, it is unfair. What of other, non-Down Syndrome girls who dream of being cheerleaders and included among the elite? Are they not worthy of kindness too? Why should a student with one handicap get an advantage over those girls with others, who may be too short, or fat, or awkward but who still have dreams?

4. Is this ethics, or is it the “Awww!” factor, sentimentality that masquerades as ethics, and hides some dubious conduct in the process?

5. How can the squad’s victory in the competition be taken at face value? Does anyone believe that if the team had a non-Down Syndrome member slightly out of synchronization with the rest of the team, it still would have won? Isn’t there a legitimate suspicion that the prize went to Manitou Springs because of Kory, to salute the team for its compassion, diversity, caring and kindness? Except that the competition was for cheerleading, not compassion, diversity, caring and kindness. If the latter were the basis for the standard applied by the judges, rather than execution and routine difficulty, then the other teams were treated unfairly.

6. The difficult aspect of these kinds of ethical/non ethical scenarios is that nobody in their right mind will ever complain—not the girls unfairly penalized because they don’t have Down Syndrome, not the teams penalized because they don’t have a Down Syndrome member. Who is brave or foolish enough to blow the whistle on “Aw!” and be labelled a heartless monster?

7. I know what you’re thinking. I know I have a heart because mine dropped a bit when I read this, in another article about Kory:

She’s a born performer and entertainer who dreams of moving to New York City. “I’m a great dancer,” Mitchell said. “I sing.”

When does it stop being kind to encourage dreams that can never become reality?

I don’t know. As I said, I can’t untangle this: if you can, please do. I admire Kory in every way. I’m very happy that Kory is where she is right now, happy for her family, and happy for the inspiration she will give to other Down Syndrome children and they families.

Other than that, however, I can’t tell where the “Aw!” starts and the ethics ends.


Pointer: CNN

Facts:; WPTV



61 thoughts on “The Tangled Ethics of the Down Syndrome Cheerleader

  1. “When does it stop being kind to encourage dreams that can never become reality?”
    Never. Neither she nor we will ever know whether or not that dream can or will become a reality. She may (and is) a little off sync right now, but who’s to say that she will be forever. I dream (still) of being an astronaut. I’m 69 with various physical ailments, so it is PROBABLE that it will never happen, but who knows. The horse may learn to sing.

    • I don’t know about never. It reminds me of the Cook and Moore skit about the one-legged man who auditions to play Tarzan, or some of those American Idol contestants. Those conjoined twins who are essentially a two-headed girl gave an interview where one said she wanted to be a lawyer, and the other a pilot. Don’t you think someone should tell them?

      • It ceases being kind when the dreamer reaches the point intellectually to understand what can’t happen and why it can’t. Someone with a neurological impairment like Down’s Syndrome is probably never going to grasp the what and the why. It’s also my understanding that those who suffer from Down’s syndrome have a shorter lifespan than most, and therefore are unlikely to ever “get it” completely during their time in this world.

        • Down’s Syndrome is actually way more complicated than that. On average, yes, Down Syndrome sufferers have shorter life expectancies than “normal” people. However, there is a smaller population of Down Syndrome people than otherwise, and the actual life-expectancy range can be, very much like anybody else’s. Now, there is an obvious physical component, and it does, to varying degrees, involve the heart. But life-expectancy predictions for Down’s Syndrome are no more accurate than for the general population.

          • There’s also a pretty wide range of intelligence in people with Down syndrome. There are poets, business owners, and many other things among that population…

            • This young woman is obviously an example of that. But there are no Olympic athletes, tap-dancers, opera-singers, software designers, auctioneers, linguistics professor, Nascar drivers, heart specialists, commercial airline pilots, lawyers, accountants, Major League Baseball players, film director, newspaper editors, military officers, news anchors—with, as you point out, so many attainable challenges, is it fair and reasonable to encourage the unattainable ones?

              • Nope. Makes me think of a PBS series where a Down’s syndrome woman and a man afflicted with cerebral palsy attempted to become boyfriend and girlfriend on the sly and a pregnancy and subsequent stillbirth resulted. I know “love is love” is the latest refrain, but why set up a situation that can never work? At the end of the epi the man is transferred to another facility FAR away that houses only men and we the audience are supposed to feel sorry for him. I of course went along to some degree, but it’s hard not to feel like both families dodged a real problem.

                • I… ugh. That… I really don’t know where even to start on what’s wrong with this comment.

                  For one thing: Since when is a romance between two consenting adults about their families?!? Then, of course: Since when is the measure of whether a romance can “work” the kids?!?

                  Just… I’m speechless. That’s only the beginning. I… ugh.

                  • If they are physically and mentally incapable of taking care of themselves (the man couldn’t even drink from a teacup without someone else holding it for him), how are they supposed to take care of a child?

                    • Again, there are plenty of people who get into romances who can’t take care of a child. So what?

                      We don’t talk about forcibly separating them. We don’t talk about those romances as being about their families.

                      Unless, of course, they have disabilities. I’m beyond disgusted at this point.

              • I wouldn’t be surprised to see a software designer with Down syndrome; I’ve known several with much more substantial disabilities. Film directors… well, given Hollywood, sure, but the ability to do the job itself — quite well, at times — is well within the reach of many of them.

                Similarly, “news anchor”.

              • Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp,
                Or what’s a heaven for?
                Robert Browning
                “Andrea del Sarto”, line 98.

            • Absolutely! I’ve had the good fortune to have met, in her childhood, a true mosaic. All the physical characteristics, but above average intelligence, healthy, active. Bit of a surprise.

        • If you divert your energy and time to that goal, at the cost of pursuing realistic ones? Sure. Robert Benchley, one of our greatest humorists and a decent comic character actor in films, drove himself to depression and drink because he yearned to be a serious dramatic actor.

          • Amen to that, Jack. I referenced being into classical crossover music in another post, and, mostly online, but in some cases in person, I have known at least eight would-be Jackie Evanchos/Sarah Brightmans who had their hearts crushed and wasted 2-3 years pursuing things that weren’t going to pan out because “if you can dream it, you can become it.”

          • But, Jack, if you do that, it stops being a dream and starts being an obsession. And even then, it’s not all bad. You’ll have to pardon my failing memory, but how about that kid who was told that he was too small to play football and wound up starting for Notre Dame? There was a movie made about him. Anecdotal, sure, but still…

  2. This girl likes to perform. Who says she can’t? Chris Burke, from the show Life Goes On, has Down’s Syndrome and is an actor and a singer in a folk band and seems to be very active in the entertainment industry. This girl seems to have a very supportive mother and a lot will probably depend on that.

    • I’m a big fan of Corky, but he doesn’t make his living as a folk singer,and dancing is an activity undermined by the Syndrome. Chris was cast as a Down Syndrome kid in a TV show, which is called type casting. Such opportunities come up approximately once every 25 years—basing career hopes on it is like trying to win the lottery. He has not been offered that chance to play Hamlet, and Kory shouldn’t pin her hopes on playing Medea. Ain’t going to happen.

  3. Manitou Springs is a “Home Rule Municipality” of about 5,000 residents which is laid out on a narrowish strip of mountain-bound land bridging the city of Colorado Springs and Ute Pass leading up into the high Rockies. My first thought when I saw the name was that it would scarcely have enough students to form a competitive team, and good for them. If it’s any (ethical) help, it’s probable there would not have been a lot of girls fighting for Kory’s position even if there had been tryouts.

    I could be wrong – their neighboring city is an Olympic training ground, after all. And you may never know the answers to some of the questions you raise — and they’re worth raising for the sake of future competitions and other such situations, if not for your (tentatively but necessarily) raining on the proud parade that’s been and gone — but I think you hit the unethical target with #7.

    Having dreams is one thing; we all need them, all our lives. Kory sounds like a very high-functioning person with Down Syndrome. Memorizing the moves for the routines and reaching such a level of coordination as she did is proof of that. Thing is, if she’s up on top of the squad — physically balanced at the top of that pyramid — she knows what it is to fall down. A lot. She knows pain, and disappointment, and failure. She knows what Reality is. And what Dreams are. She needs encouragement to take up options on reality, to build confidence in all the wide range of skills and activites she can accomplish toward being a relatively independent adult.

    What she isn’t going to hear (just like any teenage girl who ever boarded that metaphorical Greyhound to Hollywood on the basis of inflated praise for her amateur hometown success) is a word of DIScouragement. (That goes for sending your first novel direct to a major publisher because your Creative Writing professor thought is “showed promise”; or showing up at a major league spring training with a commendation from your coach.) Validating the dream as such is telling Kory that it’s okay to see herself any way she wants in any way she can imagine, and … that’s “and” not “but” …. also showing her, little by little, all the real stuff that would go into making the dream come true — thus maintaining her confidence and pride in herself as well as that thin definitive line between the two that she absolutely must maintain to get on with her happy life.

    Blindly encouraging the fiction (and it is a fiction NOW, whatever miracles might occur in future) is foolish and probably cruel. As well as being unethical.

    • I think “dreams of New York” was a throwaway line. Everyone wants to be a part of it. What we have is a girl who was made an honorary varsity member after working her butt off for the past year. The reporters are then adding rosy petals to push the story. I am still unconvinced that she officially competed, since otherwise they would have probably given her scores and other details.

  4. My main issue with the story is that it’s pretty flagrant inspiration porn. As such, the coverage is a pretty blatant violation of the categorical imperative.

  5. I’m honestly surprised at the amount of push back over the girl’s dreams. Sure it possible that she’ll achieve them. But it’s possible in the same sense that’s it’s possible to be struck by lightning (twice) and bit by a shark in the same day. Could it happen? Sure. Is it likely enough to warrant any serious consideration? Of course not. Anyone who says otherwise is thinking with their feels and not their heads. And anyone who pushes this girl in the direction of her dreams is putting their feels above her future.

    We’ve already covered how spending time and energy on possible impossibilities is unethical (ideal immigration reform anyone?). This is doubly worse since it’s not just unproductive, it’s actively destructive for someone who might lack the ability to act in her best interest. For shame. Get a hold of yourselves ethics commentariat.

  6. “Validating the dream as such is telling Kory that it’s okay to see herself any way she wants in any way she can imagine, and … that’s “and” not “but” …. also showing her, little by little, all the real stuff that would go into making the dream come true — thus maintaining her confidence and pride in herself as well as that thin definitive line between the two that she absolutely must maintain to get on with her happy life.”
    Great way to approach this particular situation. Actually, a great way to approach this situation with any kid.

    • Thanks, Sharon. As I think you well understand, that’s the longer-harder way to deal with it, the reward being to save a bundle of misery for child and parent both.

  7. To address the ethics here, I wish to make some notes regarding the timeline first:

    – The team won its last state championship in December 2014

    – Mitchell’s first cheerleading competition was in January 2015 (though helped lead cheer for other sports for the past year)

    – The team came in second at Mitchell’s meet, loosing to a larger school.

    – The team is “3A”, out of “5A” which I guess means it is a medium sized school.

    – In the video, the other members looked well rehearsed.

    My analysis as follows: This is a true heartwarming tale.

    For the major competitions, the team put forth its most technically competent members, and earned a state championship. For this post season invitational, they invited a member who put in long hours, practicing at least two hours at home after practice, onto the court.

    The team might have been able to win had they not included her, but already having a state championship in hand, risked the hit to their score Depending on how large the meet was, they still may have even had a reasonable chance of winning, depending on how the scoring works. They ended up coming in second place.

    • It is heartwarming.

      But the competition is bogus. A close order drill team doesn’t finish second if 19 member are perfect and the 20th is consistently off. It isn’t based on percentages. I’m a stage director: a perfect routine where one performer is off isn’t almost perfect, it’s lousy. Same with cheerleading routines, marching bands, synchronized swimming teams and the Rockettes. If a precision sport like cheerleading gives out a prize to a team with one eccentric performer, no matter what the reason, then something is fishy, because these competitions aren’t scored that way.

      • I back track on my last paragraph then. I do think the cheerleaders were willing to take the hit; that that they did not may cast aspersions on the ethics of the judges.

        The story is pretty vague; it does not give scores or technical details. It makes me wonder if Mitchell truly “competed”, or if they did an exhibition routine with her in addition to their competition routine. Human interest pieces sometimes overlook the not-so-heartwarming details. I found no evidence of this, but neither could I find any reporting on any details of the meet itself.

  8. ““When does it stop being kind to encourage dreams that can never become reality?”
    Never. Neither she nor we will ever know whether or not that dream can or will become a reality.”

    Sorry, I can’t go along with this. I advise students and I can’t go along with advising students that maybe a miracle will happen and they can achieve their dreams. I have to deal with reality, and in my reality, miracles rarely happen. I am not going to tell kids to bet their life on a 2% or 5% or 1% chance. Why not prepare for something realistic, something with at least a 50% chance of success?

    What happens when she gets to college? I have had to teach students who were told “You can do anything you set your mind to”, when they clearly had disabilities that would make many degree paths unlikely. It isn’t fun at all. Do you uphold academic standards or say “awww…they’re trying…isn’t that wonderful”? If you try to uphold academic standards, you are in for a fight and you are not going to be liked.

    What happens when Kory gets judged on her ability for the first time in her life (and not by the standard “that is pretty good for someone with Down’s Syndrome)? It won’t be pretty. What if we let her go all the way through college (with student loans, etc) only for her to find that she can’t hold down a job because employers don’t judge your work on a sliding “awww” scale? Do we pressure the employers to hire on the ‘awww’ scale? How would you feel if you find out that your child’s teacher doesn’t show up for school sometimes because she doesn’t understand the difference between AM and PM? Don’t laugh, I saw someone go through a teacher ed program with severe enough disabilities that she could not be taught the difference.

      • Look, if you had one shot or one opportunity to seize everything you ever wanted in one moment, would you capture it or just let it slip? You can do anything you set your mind to, man.

    • Just out of curiosity, when did it become a given that this young lady does not have either the intellectual capacity or physical ability to accomplish her dream? When we said Down’s Syndrome? I wasn’t aware that we all had access to her clinical record. And if we do, you might want to share it with Alexander and I, since we are both behavioral scientists, and I, at least, have spent a very satisfying career dealing with Down’s Syndrome people, at a multitude of levels and ability (among other people). If we do NOT have that record, then I suggest that the assumptions made regarding her future and her abilities be held in abeyance until we have some data with which to actually make a decision. Otherwise, we don’t just run the risk of but already are falling into the trap of judging a person based on a genetic abnormality, the results of which are, at best, unpredictable. I would also add that we, the public, have absolutely nothing to do with her decision to follow or not follow her dream, and I question the ethics of attempting to make that decision for her.

            • You’d rather I said “tart cart?” How about “weirdo wagon?” I also coined the term “mental metro” in my neighborhood for a family with 4 mentally handicapped kids who treated them as cash cows (due to disability payments).

        • In which case, the issue is them accepting someone without the talent to properly participate, not them accepting someone with Down syndrome. Frankly, her genetic condition is irrelevant.

          • Of course, but isn’t that playing word games? Sure, if a thalidomide victim can shuffle and deal cards with his feet, the disability doesn’t matter and he’ll be a superb blackjack dealer That doesn’t mean that I should encourage a child with this burden to put all his hopes into a line that is vastly easier with hands. Down Syndrome possessors typically have difficulty controlling their vocal cords. I wouldn’t say the individual can’t shoot for the Met because of their genes; I’d say that because they don’t have the ability. Yes, if one does have the ability, go for it.Is that all you’re saying? That if Down Syndrome individual has a 180 IQ, they can teach astrophysics? Yes. I agree.

            • No, it is NOT playing word games. We do not know anything about her actual capabilities or even her level of intellectual functioning. It is entirely possible that her behavior and performance on the tapes (or lack of same) was because of nervousness at being taped. Again, show me her clinical record, and I may agree with you. Until then, she can shoot for whatever she wants.

              • Sure. And a 5′ 1″ kid should aspire to be an NBA center, and there’s no reason to presume it’s a lost cause. The principle is wonderful, except that imaginary principles are useless, and ultimately unethical.

                If she was the only girl out of synch, let’s say because of nervousness, that’s a disqualifier too. So is being shorter than the other girls So is wearing glasses. Precision teams requires conforming physique.

                • Usually he did recording, teaching, and concerts, although he did sing the small role of Titurel in Parsifal, who isn’t seen onstage. He unfortunately retired from public performance in 2012 due to the physical strains of touring and general illness, and is now active only in academia. By all means check out his recordings, though. He also did art songs and jazz if opera is not your thing.

            • No, it’s not. The point is that arguing about whether a person with Down syndrome should be on the team on the basis of presumptions about their ability is arguing based on prejudice and assumptions. If people with Down syndrome typically have difficulty controlling their vocal chords, then what about the ones who don’t?

              • As I said. But you are objecting to a very narrow type of profiling that is accurate 99.99 per cent of the time. Is that bias, or simply applying knowledge and experience rationally?

            • First off, Jack, I’m going to dispute your numbers. I will concede that you are correct that the vast majority of people with Down syndrome don’t have the ability to cheerlead competitively (or sing professionally, or whatever), although the exact numbers are open for debate.

              However, the question here isn’t whether the majority of people with Down syndrome have the ability to cheerlead competitively. The vast majority of people with Down syndrome, to be blunt, don’t want to cheerlead competitively and won’t try to join a team. Hell, most of them won’t even have the opportunity to try out, given the way our school systems are typically structured.

              The people with Down syndrome who are going to have the opportunity to try out are generally most likely going to be those who can fit in at least somewhat in a semi-normal school environment. These are, as a population, generally much more likely to have that sort of ability than average.

              The people who want to cheerlead competitively — Down syndrome or not — are far more likely to have the ability to do so than those who don’t. Those who are willing to try out for a team and are willing to seriously put in the effort are still more so.

              You aren’t, accordingly, applying your profiling to a random person with Down syndrome. For your claim that this sort of profiling was accurate 99.99% of the time to be accurate, your “number” would have to be accurate not just for people with Down syndrome in general, but for the specific subset listed above.

              And if, even then, a majority of those with Down syndrome who try out simply don’t have the talent… so what? The majority of people who try out don’t.

              The profiling — prejudice, bluntly — that I’m objecting to is being applied to someone who, frankly, deserves a fair evaluation, one which ignores such irrelevancies as a diagnostic label… and is being applied in such a way as to deprive them of said fair evaluation.

              And then, let’s say she does have the talent, does legitimately make it to a Varsity team, and does compete based on merit… does she deserve to be made the basis for ethical analysis of her situation that questions her place on the team based solely on said label and the presumption that she’s incompetent? Because, well, that very well could be exactly what you’re doing.

              People with disabilities — in general — are used to it. That doesn’t make it right.

          • Thank you, Alexander. Watching tapes is NOT a clinical record, and, while some information may be gleaned from them, an actual diagnosis needs to come from a clinical record, preferably from a mental health professional.

            • We’re not talking about diagnosis. We/re taking about auditions, tryouts. It is not at all unusual to nake such choices via videotapes, and it is not an unfair or unreliable system. A live audition is better. This is easing into political correctness. If a 200 pound girl calls to make an appointment for a kickline audition, I may tell her to say home. Unfair? Bias? Come on.

  9. I’m leaning toward letting her participate in all team events (spirit assemblies, games, practices, etc.) but not competitions. I look at this story with a slightly different angle — I paid for most of undergrad with a combo of academic and music scholarships. We had a competitive quiz bowl team, more than one band, and more than one choir (we were a large school). Our top band tended to place well in state competitions — and I was first chair. I’m not sure it would have been enjoyable if it was just one large band that couldn’t compete. And, I might not have gotten a scholarship. My understanding is that cheerleading scholarships are pretty common these days — to the extent that helping one girl’s dream might be holding back another girl’s dream, doesn’t this make this decision unethical?

    • I will add that this analysis goes out the window if the rest of the team doesn’t care and votes to let her compete anyway.

    • Competitive auditions always leave a few folks disappointed, speaking as someone who has been in and out of “elite” choirs since adulthood. The disappointment is that much keener when the rules bend a little depending on who is involved. Matters of taste are always the prerogative of the artistic director, so no one has a leg to stand on if he loses out on that basis. However, if the group is supposed to be four to a part and the director expands one part to make room for someone for a non-artistic reason, well, that’s guaranteed to create a problem. If that reason is transparently non-artistic, like adding a black face to an otherwise all-white group or upping the aww factor or making room for a friend of the director, you really have a problem. What’s more, it’s an avoidable problem of your own making. It’s not ethical to create trouble where none needs to exist.

  10. The story was a happy story there’s no room for negativity- it’s meant to be inspirational –
    I applaud the points raised re: what kind of team is this cheer team, what do they stand for winning/having heart etc
    Tonight I’m going to bed thinking about this- to be awwwwww in sentiment or to question the fairness. I cud sit on this fence for a long time.

    • Well, yes, everyone understood that from the beginning. The objective is to examine what’s really happening, and not to stop with the Hallmark card level sentiment. There are other considerations that the story steamrolls over, but they are still there, and important. Go ahead and ignore them if you like—ignorance is bliss, they say.

  11. People who aspire to great heights should ideally have the emotional fortitude to deal with failure, but at the same time, refuse to succumb to it. That is, a person must be willing to try as hard as possible to win a contest, for instance, while also being determined to deal with the possibility that they won’t. This skill, the skill of sacrifice, is very rare. It requires deciding what goals are worthy, pruning off mutually exclusive goals, and putting all of one’s attention and efforts towards the futures that one chose, having accepted the potential hardships. There are other powerful skills which make success more likely, like cunning and competition, but sacrifice is the necessary faculty of knowing full well what you’re getting into and doing it anyway.

    I think you break down the issue very well, Jack, based on the contingencies involved. Taking the issue a bit further, it comes down to how we deal with situations in which disadvantaged people must be quantified in the same bracket as everyone else. For practical qualifications, it seems obvious that people who don’t qualify should not be permitted (e.g. people without arms cannot be firefighters). For aesthetic qualifications (e.g. competitive sports and performance), it seems the same, lest we end up with the world of Kurt Vonnegut’s Harrison Bergeron, where everyone is brought down to the lowest common denominator. For aesthetic contests and nonessential contests of skill, we have different tiers so that each person can compete against people of approximately their own level, and the differences between them comes back down to (mostly) the differences in effort and dedication.

    It is also worth noting that people can choose another goal which they are more likely to achieve. My ideal situation here is that a person has an accurate picture of how much work it would take to accomplish something and how likely it would be that they would accomplish it at that work level, makes the choice to either continue trying or to try something more probable (it matters not which), and then follows through on their choice, emotionally fulfilled and without regret.

    Would it be cool if the little girl found something that took much less effort from her, and which she did well? Yes. Would it be cool if she persevered and won awards based on the same standards as everyone else? Yes. Would it be cool if she competed in a category created for people with disadvantages? Yes. Would it be cool if she and her friends tried their best to compete under the same standards as everyone else, and never won anything, but were satisfied at the prospect of continuous self-improvement through their dedication to the sport? Yes, absolutely. It would just be bad if she shot for option 2 and wasn’t prepared for option 4.

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