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«Challenging the Achievement Gap by Disrupting Concepts of “Normalcy” Presented by Shawna Draxton, Kirstee Radley, and Joanne Murphy Cal-TASH ...»

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Challenging the Achievement Gap by Disrupting Concepts of “Normalcy”

Presented by Shawna Draxton, Kirstee Radley, and Joanne Murphy

Cal-TASH Conference, Irvine, CA March 4, 2011

We propose that Disability Studies in Education (DSE) offers a framework that (a)

grounds policy and practice in the experiences and perspectives of people with disabilities, (c)

challenges practices/ policy that isolate, de-humanize individuals, and (c) leads to new questions

to pose. In this session, we describe the pedagogy that we used to develop the constructing position papers from a DSE perspective. We believe that our reflective essays can help others critically examine their own disciplines and the foundational principles on which the disciplines are built. We hope to challenge and change particular foundations that allow us to continue to marginalize people with disabilities.

We have two objectives in writing this paper. First, we describe the process of writing position papers to challenge current policies and practices, which we discovered led us to understand why a DSE stance is important for 21st century teachers, administrators, and teacher educators, Second, we share examples of position papers and activities that helped us interrogate and critique our current beliefs, and we conclude with our discoveries and insights about how our own interpretations changed.

We argue that teacher educators can guide their teacher and paraprofessional candidates to challenge the paradigms, policies, and practices that lead to presumptions of failure of America’s Pre-K-12 children. Educators who are able to do so are more likely to advocate for changes that result in correcting socially unjust practices and policies.

The ideology of ableism promotes the notion that it is better to be as “normal” as possible rather than be disabled, or different (e.g., speak languages other than English, come from non- Anglo heritages). Ableism pervades the American K-12 public education systems and is reflected the deficit-oriented perspective that children should be sorted and labeled. An ableist perspective considers “disability” to be a personal condition that must be corrected or cured through accommodations, interventions, and/or segregation. In contrast, a DSE approach views disability as a social construction that lies within the oppression of a given culture and historical period rather than in impairments per se.

Who are We?

Challenging the Achievement Gap by • Shawna Draxton, principal of an inclusive school and doctoral student in the College of Educational Studies Ph.

Disrupting Concepts

–  –  –

Authors: Kirstee Radley, Lawrence Taniform, Shawna Draxton, Trisha Nishimura, Darla Hagge, and Joanne Murphy 1 Editor: Ann Nevin (Professor, EDUC 776: Fall 2010 Chapman University Doctoral Seminar Abstract Using a Disability Studies in Education lens, we will share position papers and discuss strategies to guide preservice and inservice teachers to challenge the paradigms, policies, and practices that lead to presumptions of failure of America’s Pre-K-12 children. In this volume, professionals who prepare future teachers in general and special education and communication sciences and who work with children and adults with disabilities share their observations and concerns about their respective disciplines. We argue that a Disability Studies in Education (DSE) perspective offers a way to (a) ground policy and practice in the experiences [and] perspectives of people with disabilities, (b) challenge practices and policy that isolate and dehumanize individuals, and (c) lead to new questions to pose.

–  –  –

Public Intellectuals Speak Out!

Dr. Ann Nevin, Ph. D.

This collection of essays represent position papers that emerged over a 2½ year period of study with professors at the College of Educational Services at Chapman University, professors with many years of expertise in Disabilities Studies (DS) like Dr. Phil Ferguson and professors with only a few years of experience with DS like Dr. Ann Nevin. As a result of tapping the expertise and viewpoints of scholars who write in the arena of Disabilities Studies in Education (DSE)—notably Scot Danforth and Susan Gable, Beth Ferri and Linda Ware, Robin Smith and Julie Allen—we were invited to write a persuasive essay which uses the intellectual tools of a DSE approach. From our studies, we have prepared essays that attempt to show how we are beginning to critique our respective professional disciplines. We hope that our reflections can help others critically examine their own disciplines and the foundational principles on which the disciplines are built. We hope to challenge and change those foundations that allow us to continue to marginalize people with disabilities.

We know that we are continuing a long tradition in education that requires us to be public intellectuals. In special education, the tradition has been influential in creating change on behalf of more socially just treatment of those with disabilities. For example, Burton Blatt’s Christmas in Purgatory challenged institutional care for those with disabilities. This volume featured a photographic essay of legally sanctioned inhumane treatment of children in state institutions written and photographed in 1965, long before the current right-to-treatment lawsuits on behalf of institutionalized people. In 1971, M. Stephen Lilly wrote an essay in which he challenged the prevailing model of segregating students and teachers to deliver special education instruction by arguing that regular class teachers can, with support, learn the skills for coping with problem situations. New ways of thinking and acting towards parents and family members of children with disabilities were called for by scholars like Phil and Dianne Ferguson (1986).





In other words, position papers and persuasive essays have led to changes in national policy as well as public attitudes towards people with disabilities. Many students with disabilities experience bullying in their lives, a bullying process that is often not addressed by their educators or their classmates. Suzanne SooHoo tackled the issue of bystanderism when she argued, “We change the world by doing nothing.” Her position paper is sprinkled with first hand accounts of teachers’ experiences in being bullied as well their expressed hopelessness in dealing with bullying in their classrooms. SooHoo further argues that naming the problem is the first step that can lead to a journey of discovery for how to resolve the problem. I believe that the persuasive essays in this volume help all of us “name the problem” in ways that allow us to act in new ways to correct the social injustices we confront in our every day lives in school. We hope that readers can imagine how the position papers and persuasive essays presented in this volume might change the words we use in our work and thereby change the worlds of people with disabilities and those who work with them.

–  –  –

development, pedagogy for students with disabilities). The essays also reflect their experiences in practicing their disciplines in public schools, private and charter schools, and international schools as well as clinics. We believe that each essay provides evidence for knowledge claims through citing relevant research for their respective stances. To be sure, controversies abound with respect to dealing with each of the issues raised by the authors. Their voices represent fresh insight into how best to redress the social injustices that they have identified.

In her essay entitled Disability Studies Training Module: A Grass Roots Movement, Darla Hagge refers to the overall goal of speech-language pathology services to optimize individuals’ ability to communicate so as to improve quality of life. She argues that a DSE approach can lead to an increased quality of life because an understanding of the social construction of disability can mediate the effects of the medical model of disability that permeates the personnel preparation programs for speech language personnel (SLPs).

As a curriculum specialist for a large urban school district, Joanne Murphy poses several questions to address vexing issues that face educators who teach in today’s inclusive schools-How can educators be responsive to all learners through standards based instruction while

exemplifying inclusive, critical pedagogy? In her essay, entitled Presuming competence:

Resisting ableism in the classroom, she hopes to raise our critical consciousness by confronting the realities of ableist assumptions about student learning and exploring standards-based, instructional techniques based on assumptions of student competence.

Similarly, Kirstee Radley argues for a new way to speak about the role of special educators in her essay, entitled From Naming to Doing: DSE Principles in a Special Education World. She describes how they might transform their classrooms from nouns to verbs, from manipulating things (and children) to interacting, and from marginalizing to including those who are different.

In her essay, entitled Untangling Family and School Relationships through a Disability Studies Perspective, Trisha Nishimura asks how might a DSE perspective help us change how professionals and parents and family members of children with disabilities. She hopes to change the historically entangled web of distrust and conflict that pervades family-school partnerships.

Shawna Draxton asks an editor of an online resource for teachers to include resources about DSE so as to support the efforts of creating inclusive schools in a school system that traditionally sorts and labels children on the basis of race, disability, socio-economic status. In her essay (entitled, Why Teach DSE Principles to Students in Elementary School?), she argues that lessons designed to explicitly teach disabilities studies concepts to students in kindergarten through sixth grade classrooms may allow students to appreciate where they are in the range of human variation.

–  –  –

stigmatization, discrimination, and fear? How might DSE principles be implemented so that people with albinism may develop resistance to the prevailing public attitudes towards their color and differences?” Lawrence writes a letter to the Secretariat in the hopes of influencing the policies and practices for promoting the African Decade of Persons with Disabilities.

–  –  –

Blatt, B. (1965). Christmas in Purgatory. Syracuse, NY: University of Syracuse, Human Policy Press.

Ferguson, P. M., & Ferguson, D. L. (2008). Finding the “Proper Attitude”: The potential of disability studies to reframe family/school linkages. In S. Danforth & S. Gabel (Eds.), Vital questions facing disability studies in education (pp. 217-235). New York, NY: Peter Lang.

Lilly, M. S. (1971). A training based model for special education, Exceptional Children, 37(10), 745-749.

–  –  –

Educators are always looking for resources to support fine-tuning of their pedagogy. As the principal of an elementary school I frequently hear my teachers discussing where to find the best tools online for teaching lessons in their classrooms. Teachers often purchase accounts to access databases that supply books, lessons, and prepared units. Frequently the free Scholastic resource database is cited as a useful place where teachers can find just about anything. Due to the accessibility of your website because it is free and well respected in the profession it is essential that it include curriculum that not only meets grade level standards but also enhances the classroom community in ways that develop the whole child, including their social and emotional development. As I reviewed your incredible website, I noticed there was an ample supply of learning tools to assist with math, reading, and writing. Lessons for a generous amount of social studies and science curriculum also exist on this site. In this essay, I hope to persuade readers to agree that what is missing is lessons that create understanding and acceptance of human variation.

Disability Studies in Education (DSE) provides a way to addresses issues and problems of education that affect or are affected by disablement in educational contexts defined by people with disabilities as they relate to social exclusion and oppression and embraces a social model of understanding disability. In other words, DSE “focuses on social relationships among people and the interpretation of human difference” (Valle & Connor, 2011, p. xi). Three areas in particular where Disability Studies in Education can be integrated into the curriculum include teaching ableism, integrating the struggle that people with disabilities faced historically to establish civil rights, and integrating understanding of human variation into the standards involving student identity. By addressing these areas in our classrooms, teachers and students will begin to see the intersections of race, ethnicity, class, gender, sexual orientation, and disability.

Ableism is a critical concept that needs to be integrated into elementary curriculum.



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