Children Of The Resolution
A strong wind of change was starting to circulate around the educational establishment of England in the mid to late seventies - that change was ‘integration’ Society as a whole was changing back then and integration became the decades key word, especially prevalent in relation to education.
Prior to the late seventies in the UK children with disabilities were mostly educated in ‘special’ or segregated schools or at home, that’s if they were educated at all. Disabled people then were more than twice as likely as non-disabled people to have no qualifications whatsoever. Various moves took place to change that, to move those with disabilities away from segregation, isolation, stigmatization and ‘integrate’ them into the mainstream school system.
For better or worse the whole social and educational experiment of integration under the guise of progress was underway in some British schools in the late seventies. It’s against this backdrop of change that Gary William Murning sets his deeply thought provoking novel Children Of The Resolution. No nothing to do with underage sailors on board the Captain Cook ship, but a moving account of a child going through this mode of integration. A deeply personal story as I found out when I spoke to author Gary William Murning.
Gary, your latest book 'Children Of The Resolution' takes a detailed look at the British education system at a time of revolutionary changes and the integration of disabled children into the mainstream school system. Please can you talk us through a little about that, what you think the reasons for it were and why you decided to write about it.
The pre-1970s environment was, I suppose, in many ways casually hostile towards those with disabilities—less casually the further back you go. Disability, of whatever kind, had always had stigmas attached to it. The product of ignorance and superstition in many cases, but, also, fear of difference and perceived "imperfection". That all started to change, I think, with the whole development of the civil rights movement—or movements. Everything was starting to change very quickly in the 1960s, whether for black people, women, gay people, everywhere you looked attitudes (at least ostensibly) were changing. And I suppose the natural course of events would have to include people with disabilities.
The main area of very obvious segregation at that time was education. The history of how this actually developed, the detail, isn't something I'm entirely familiar with. I was a child, then, and when I wrote it, I very much wanted Children of the Resolution to be about the child's experience of those times. I didn't really want to overload it with material on the historico-political influences or the underlying civil rights background. My job was to (hopefully) write an entertaining and thought-provoking novel that explored the results in an experiential way. In retrospect, though, it now occurs to me that there was a very strong and well-meaning whiff of pure, unthought-through idealism in the move towards integration. I think it was very much a case of people wanting to right wrongs and set things on the right course as quickly as possible. I also suspect that there were quite a few individuals who would—shall we say?—consider it a good career move, politically. (Is my cynicism showing?)Continued on the next page