Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Citizenship in School: Reconceptualizing Down Syndrome by Christopher Kliewer - Connections

I had so many mixed emotions about this week's article. The emotions ranged from happy to sad to angry. While reading this article I found so many connections to other articles that we had read in the past. The authors that I will be using for my connections are Linda Christensen, Gerri August, and Lisa Delpit. I will also make a personal connection toward the end of this blog. My personal connection is something that I don't bring up often, but this class is practically a family now, so I am now comfortable talking about it.

"School citizenship requires that students not be categorized and separated based on presumed defect." (pg. 85)

Throughout the article, the author, Christopher Kliewer discusses school citizenship and accepting all disabilities and more specifically, Down syndrome.. School citizenship is all about recognizing each student's uniqueness rather than making assumptions and stereotypes. What really bothers me is that even  to this day at some schools, students with disabilities and Down syndrome are still put in classes that are separate from students that have no disabilities. Aren't we all supposed to be created equal? This reminded me of the article, Unlearning the Myths that Bind Us by Linda Christensen. In her article, Christensen argues that we cannot make assumptions on people just because media perceives a group of people a certain way. One of my favorite Christensen quotes is this: "The secondhand information we receive has often been distorted, shaped by cultural stereotypes, and left incomplete." (pg. 127) Teachers that get to work with students who have Down syndrome get to receive the complete firsthand information while other teachers that work with students with no disabilities tend to fall for the stereotypes.

"Like a lot of people in Mendocino, he's [John] accepted for what he is, not what he isn't" (pg. 86)

John is a kid with Down Syndrome and lived in North Hollywood, where he was separated and lonely. When his family moves to Mendocino, California, he easily connects and makes friends easily. The townspeople of Mendocino saw beyond his condition. This can be connected to Gerri August's Safe Spaces because in his old neighborhood, he was excluded just because he had Down syndrome, but his new neighborhood made him feel like an important member of society. Even in his own words, John calls his new neighborhood a "safe space." It seems like people enjoy focusing on the negative qualities of a person rather than their positive qualities, which in my opinion is a shame.

"If a misunderstanding emerges within the act of communication, we tend to fault the party with the least amount of cultural privileges and proceed to clinically identify which element of that individual's communication is responsible for the misunderstanding." (pg. 94)

This quote is sadly true because if something goes wrong, the person that gets blamed is usually not part of the culture of power. When we hear these words, culture of power, we immediately think of Lisa Delpit and her aspects on the culture of power in her article, The Silenced Dialogue. The above quote goes along with Delpit's fourth aspect on the culture of power: "If you are not already a participant in the culture of power, being told explicitly the rules of that culture makes acquiring power easier." (pg. 25) Telling people with less privileges that it is their fault that they don't understand a concept makes the teacher have more power in the classroom.

I am now going to talk about my personal connection that a lot of people don't know about. When I was three years old, I was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder because like Isaac from the article, I couldn't talk and had very weak motor skills. The doctors that diagnosed me said that I would never talk or have the ability to do anything. They recommended that I should enroll in private special education schools that are completely isolated from students that have no disabilities. My parents were heartbroken over the news, but they didn't listen to the doctors. My parents believed in me so much that they signed me up for ballet classes, speech therapy and occupational therapy. I spent my preschool years at a private school where all of the students had a variety of disabilities. When I was entering kindergarten, my parents enrolled me in a public school where most of the students did not have any disabilities. I surprisingly adapted there pretty well. Today, I still struggle a little with speech and some motor skills, but the many years of speech and occupational therapy had really paid off. If my parents didn't believe in me so much, I don't know where I would be today.

Points to make:  This article proved that disabilities can become abilities. If people tell you that you can't do something, prove them wrong. The true friends in life are the ones that do not make a big deal about your disability. Instead, they look past that and focus on your abilities. That is how I found my true friends. About sixty years ago, children with Down syndrome were placed in mental institutions. We have come a long way since then, but schools need to stop isolating students with disabilities from students with no disabilities. I found this interesting article on why Down syndrome is decreasing


  1. I really liked your blog! The quotes you chose were ones that also stood out to me and you explained them perfectly. I also didn't even think about how in the past they used to put children with Down Syndrome in a mental hospital, crazy how that used to be! I'm also glad you were comfortable enough to share your story with us, but it doesn't matter because you'd still be Julienne no matter what! Just like Kliewer said it should be :) Nice job!

  2. Great job on your blog! You have a great grasp on the article, and I really like the connections you made. Thank you for sharing your story!

  3. Thanks for sharing your story Julienne :)

  4. Great job with your blog and thank you for sharing about yourself and your connections =)