1.30.2006

right(s) to education

over the last two weeks i've attended a series of side events related to the 7th session of the ad hoc committee going on at the UN in which they are drafting a convention on the "Rights of Persons with Disabilities."

among the points raised over and over again at the side events was the need to listen to people with disabilities in the writing and hopeful implementation of this and other conventions and policies. especially poignant was the presentation by six young people ranging in age from 15 to 26 who shared stories about living with and being moved to engage in social action because of their (primarily physical) disabilities.

at the last event i attended, there was a great push by the presenters - who were mostly from NGOs in the UK, and several of whom were living with various disabilities, themselves - to distinguish between the integration of children with disabilities in mainstream schools and the real practice of inclusion, which asks educators and educational institutions to meet the learning needs of all students in their charge. naturally, teacher training (as they called it) was invoked as one area in the greatest need of attention if attitudes about disabilities - as they are made manifest in teachers' practice - were going to be changed.

this made me think about a couple of conversations i've had in which the focus was on culturally relevant pedagogy. i'm wondering how many of the missteps in teaching and learning might be avoided, or at least made addressable, if we found ways to address and decrease the abundant amounts of xenophobia that are entrenched in so many of educational practices. the very notion of special education - that children who don't fit within the general pattern of "student" ought to be isolated and visibly and repeatedly marginalized - is made more possible by national educational mandates that incentivize uniformity and make otherwise caring educators see anyone outside the normative expectations as distracting from the school's collective AYP.

i don't currently work in a school so i am aware of the potential "flippish" quality of this post, but i am only slightly apologetic b/c too many kids and young people i've worked and talked to echo similar concerns. too often they feel unwanted by their schools and teachers for requiring additional attention that few seem to be willing to spare.

so, to my colleague who wondered what's next - for after all, it's been 10 years since gloria ladson-billings wrote "Toward a Theory of Culturally Relevant Pedagogy" - and to all of us who worry about preaching to choirs, i wonder whether it's a wake up call to not only sing louder, but also to sing the same song. ok, i'm terrible with metaphors - clearly - but i suppose what i've recently been reminded of is that just b/c something is out there, it doesn't mean everyone has read it. (concerns about cutting-edge theory building and research notwithstanding...)

1 comment:

Marc Lamont Hill said...

metaphors aside, i agree wholeheartedly. in many ways i feel like our discussions of CRP and inclusion and other stuff are perfunctory and are not really able to helpus reorganize teh way we think about these students (from distractions to real people with things to offer schools)....