Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Against Ableism

While checking the blogs I follow tonight, and stumbling along my non-linear reading journey, I came across a blog, Playing with Ideas written by Anita (I couldn't find her last name anywhere). I have made reference earlier to another blog she writes. She comments on a book called, New Directions in Education: Eliminating Ableism in Policy and Practice by Thomas Hehir. Particularly interesting statements she notes,
Hehir defines ableism as ” deeply held negative attitudes toward disability that are analogous to racism”.
Then I looked up “racism” according to Merriam-Webster racism is:
“a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race”.
YIKES!! if we superimpose ableism onto racism that is frightening!!!!
In his book Hehir encourages educators to carefully consider each student individually rather than as a group of people with similar traits and capacities.
Hehir recommends that educators to consider all planning for students with disabilities through the lens of: minimizing the impact of the disability while maximizing the child’s ability to participate.

Very interesting point of view when we consider Universal Design for Learning in the classroom. These belief of Ableism runs deep in classrooms today, however, and this belief will require a massive paradigm shift for change or reform to occur. We still say that "these children" need their own classroom or contained space. Is that because students with special needs require us to move beyond easy to better?
Will Richardson blogs,
Many of those old answers are feeling less and less useful when it comes to actually developing learners out of our kids instead of workers. Yet we stick to them. And I know the reasons are many and complex (it’s what we know and what we expect schools to be,) but I think at the end of the day, we’re loathe to change because it’s just easier this way. It’s not what best for our kids, but it’s what’s easiest for us. (I know…a lot of you are thinking “there ain’t nothing easy about this,” and you’re right. Caring for kids and doing right by them educationally in whatever system we have is hard, hard work.)

But I’m thinking it’s time to call some of these old school habits out and ask, “are we really doing what’s best for kids, or are we doing what’s easiest for us?”
Like:
Is it better for our kids to be grouped by chronological age, or is it just easier for us?
Is it better for our kids to separate out the disciplines, or is it just easier for us?
Is it better for our kids to give every one of them pretty much the same curriculum, or is it just easier for us?
Is it better for our kids to turn off all of their technology in school, or is it just easier for us?
Is it better for our kids that we assess everyone the same way, or is it just easier for us?
Is it better for our kids for us to decide what they should learn and how they should learn it, or is it just easier for us?

You get the idea...

So, are we in the business of easy? Or do we want to find ways to do this education thing in ways that best serve our kids given the realities of this moment?



Anita also shares an interesting video called, Animal School to send the message home. She retrieved the video from http://www.raisingsmallsouls.com/


What does this look like in your classroom? Easy or Better? Universal Design for Learning or Ableism? Important questions for reflection.

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