Sunday, April 10, 2016

Citizenship In School: Reconceptualizing Down Syndrome


Douglas Binken
"Society itself is hurt when schools act as cultural sorting machines-locations that "justify a competitive ethic that marginalizes certain students or groups of students" (73)

I found this quote thought provoking in the sense that what Binken is saying relates to Kozol. Binken is saying that society is damaged when students are being categorized and sorted through matters of ability, race, gender and ethnicity. He states that while this separation process meets "bureaucratic organizational needs" it takes away tremendously from a community's intellectual, spiritual, emotional and economic needs (Kozol) While reading this I could not help but making a Harry Potter connection. I imagined each student entering their school and being sorted into sections depending on their abilities and race as the Sorting Hat does while putting each student into their house. I agree that this is not beneficial at all, separating students who have different learning skills and abilities from being exposed to such learning techniques and opportunities that students considered to be "higher up" have. 

John Dewey 
"Dewey believed schools must serve as the sites in which children develop both a sense of commitment to one another and a sense of self-direction leading to the deepest and best guarantee of a larger society which is worth, lovely and harmonious" (74)

Throughout my service learning something I have noticed is that some of the students feel more comfortable asking one another for questions over the teacher. I believe maybe this is because they feel more comfortable with a fellow student/friend than asking an adult professional. Maybe they even feel embarrassed to ask the teacher. I then imagined a classroom setting where students with disabilities like down-syndrome were emerged with students without said disabilities. This is when teacher Shayne Robbin's story connected with the quote and gave me a sense of release that some teachers can see how the interactions are extremely beneficial on both ends. When Shayne tells the story of how enthusiastic and interactive student  Isaac got with the book Where the Wild Things Are and how she then had the class put together an acting assignment of the book I related this to SCWAAMP. Leslie Grinner discusses how some categories of people are higher valued in our culture thus receiving higher opportunity. She stresses the "tap the glass" technique to expose and explore categories society may seem as "lower" and become informed about them. This is what Shayne did as a teacher. She viewed that Isaac was able to interpret something in a unique way that came not only easy but enjoyable to him. Having the rest of her classroom take part in a similar activity not only exposed her other students to a different way of learning but I'm sure made Isaac feel great having his own idea spread throughout the classroom. Shayne established a representation for Isaac's learning techniques and used it as an educational opportunity. This was inspiring.

"The townspeople assumed John's humanness, which left to community connections that further established his thoughtfulness, individuality and community value" (89)

Another example of this representation lies in the story of John Mcgough. Mcgough was labeled "mentally retarded" throughout his life and lacked the ability of communicating thoughts beyond a rudimentary level (I had to look that word up) John had strong feelings of disconnection and isolation, feelings nobody should have to go through. After his move, he was entered into a community in which recognized and valued his abilities. This just goes to show how some communities and school districts have more friendly views and creating this atmosphere in every school can help those who may need it not only in school but mentally and socially. 

Points to Share:

In my elementary school, all students with special needs were in their own classroom named the "Star" classroom. In middle and high school these students were now taking classes with me and I did not feel like it negatively affected my learning at all. If anything it made me feel grateful for the opportunities I have and hopeful that they were receiving the same. I hope someday as a future educator I have the opportunity to work with students who have special needs. 

1 comment:

  1. Great post Callie! I liked the quotes you picked and I think you explained them well. My concentration in studies doesn't involve working with kids that would be categorized as having special needs but I have the same thoughts on the opportunity if it ever came along. I would love to work with a classroom with mixed kids because it doesn't have a negative affect on everyone else in the class. I think in ways it would make that classroom experience better.