BRAIN AND BEHAVIOR INSTITUTE 2003

Forum 5 - Culture As Disability and ...
(Thoughts After Day 3)


Name:  Antoinette
Username:  tonisisco@aol.com
Subject:  July 9, am
Date:  2003-07-09 12:29:59
Message Id:  5890
Comments:
The discussion of the morning was and remains stimulating. Why, as educators who are seemingly open to accept the Nuerobiological explaination so "afraid" of the exsistance and workings of GOD?

Sometimems as people present thier points of view from the scientific perspective, they treat people who beileve in GOD as if the witches in Salem, MA, back in the 1600's.

If it is better teaching practices that we want, why not accept that could be some things for which we may never be able to fully understand?
And others still that we may only have a limited understanding of...or the stories we currently tell.


Name:  Paul Grobstein
Username:  pgrobste@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  for Antoinette
Date:  2003-07-09 19:07:50
Message Id:  5892
Comments:
Nobody should EVER dismiss people as defective for ANY reason (as per Culture and Disability). At the same time, it is worth noting that in this particular case the disabling has historically gone in both directions, and still does (cf. On Being a Lonely Atheist).

That said, let's agree that what HAS been does not forever HAVE to be. Serendip has a section for people who feel they have been discouraged from telling stories that include concepts like God, so their stories can be clearly heard by others (Science and Spirit). And I personally am more than willing to agree that "there are some things we have only a limited understanding of" (indeed, I'm SURE of it; its fundamental to the "getting it less" wrong principle). And I'm also more than willing to believe I can learn from other people's stories, whether they include the word God or not (cf. How to Get Through the Veil).

Where there may be an interesting difference in our stories (perhaps useful to both of us to see in getting it less wrong?) is the idea that there may be some things "which we may never be able to fully understand". I'm fully prepared to admit that as a "possibility" but very much disinclined to accept it as a starting point ... and even more disinclined to have people specify for others (or themselves) particular things that should not even be examined to see if they can be "understood". Is that a meaningful difference between us, one that would incline us to make different choices in education (or in life)? If so, we have some more things to talk about. If not, we're pretty much in the same place, the words we use notwithstanding.


Name:  S. Herdan
Username:  Anonymous
Subject:  Culture as Disability
Date:  2003-07-09 20:08:28
Message Id:  5893
Comments:
I once again realize how technologically challenged I am. I just spent quite awhile and have not found the correct web site B&B2003, I will not give up. Iam feeling the way students who are classified as disabled must feel in school on a daily basis. It doesn't feel good.

Now to the article--The session this afternoon brought some thoughts and ideas about the article together for me. I see how in our culture we classify people as disabled who do not meet the "requirements", the "standards(artificial at that)", the mold of our culture. We need to treat each person as an individual. We need to look at a person's strenghts and go from there. We all have disabilities and these are on a continuum--our students disabilities are on a continuum also. Why do we have to classify them and make them feel inferior. We need to be able to get help for all students and not classify them. This sometimes creates a self filfulling prophesy.

The World of the Blind was interesting. The blind were not able to accept a sighted person because he was different--we are not able to accept a LD person. This story showed me how ridiculous our values are.


Name:  
Username:  Anonymous
Subject:  antoinette
Date:  2003-07-09 20:53:52
Message Id:  5894
Comments:
It doesn't matter what is said .Reactions to a thought which has been presented to generate discussion from an opposing point of view, and ,immediately discounted because religion "may' be a focus comes from a place of ignorance! How sad for them!
Name:  CarolTyson
Username:  Anonymous
Subject:  culture as disability
Date:  2003-07-09 21:54:21
Message Id:  5895
Comments:
The issue here is not what happens to those who rise to the "standard ". But, what programs can be implimented to benefit the vast number of students who continue to rank below basic.If there exist few outlets for these children to exhibit some wonderful inherent talent ,what shall become of them? We continue to struggle with budgetary constraints ;loss of programs ,etc.With the bleak economic picture it is foolhardy to expect corporate partners to assume responsibility for providing our schools with the disappearing arts programs. Can there possibly be a solution to an all to familiar problem?money!


While alternative programs must be created,the challenge will be to avoid tracking poor and minority students(once again)into the trades.This practice was prevelant in the period from approximately 1930-1960.


Name:  Julie Leavitt
Username:  julieleavitt@comcast.net
Subject:  culture as Disability Article
Date:  2003-07-09 22:16:14
Message Id:  5896
Comments:
I've just spent the past hour rereading the "Culture as Disability" article. (Perhaps I have a reading disability). Certain points stand out. The notion of the "arrogance" of a "developed" and "cultured" society (read as Western Culture) to determine that others are "less cultured" and therefore inferior and we must help these "poor people" become more like us.Aren't we doing the same thing to our kids identified as Learning Disabled? If you don't read and calculate as well as "the rest of us" we're going to put you in a room with others like you and make you learn.The current politics of special education seems to be- separate and educate. I prefer inclusion. Let's give up the notion that every student must read, write, and calculate on a 12th grade level and then go on to a four year institution. It's arrogance at its worst.
Name:  Joyce Theriot
Username:  jtheriot
Subject:  Culture as Disability
Date:  2003-07-10 00:31:27
Message Id:  5897
Comments:
McDermott and Varenne's article might be simply summarized as viewing culture as the glass half empty or half full. I take the latter view based on my early confrontation with culture while serving in the Peace Corps. Prior to departing for Asia, we had a 3-day culture training in Seattle and then a six week training in country. In Seattle they told us to begin to think outside of the box, beyond our frame of reference. I had no idea what it meant but we played some great games. In one role play I was asked to predict my reaction to a cultural scenario. I responded within the bounds of my culture and the trainers gave their very negative feedback. The games ceased to be fun; I was crushed that I would be expected to do such a thing.

Usually I respond to the forum by writing 3 paragraphs: introduction, explanation and conclusion but Paul never reads my second paragraph, so I'll just jump to the last.

Living in another culture was enlightening, enriching and liberating. Learning how to behave in order to be successful in another culture illuminated the artificial and meaningful boundaries of my own Americanism. I could look down at the ground when a Filipino male spoke to me and in the same minute stand as a PROUD equal with a PCV male.
Culture is like a wheeled baby chair. It keeps you on both feet and gives you a soft place to lean on. It allows you to look up, down and spin around. It can keep you immobile or send you flying. Culture as ability or disability is up to you and your choices.

Nunez missed the greatest experience of his life.


Name:  Paul Grobstein
Username:  pgrobste@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  after a full day (wed) ...
Date:  2003-07-10 08:40:10
Message Id:  5899
Comments:
Not sure how you're feeling but it feels pretty rich (maybe even a little disorienting) to me. LOTS of balls in play.

Good rich discussion of "two minds" yesterday morning, with I thought a pretty good consensus that understanding the conscious/unconscious thing IS important in education (as well as in neurobiology). Along those lines, does one learn unconsciously? How does that relate to wanting our students to "think"? Can on lie unconsciously? How can one tell if someone is doing that or consciously lying?

And some bonuses in the morning discussion. Noticing that it is for some reason harder to write in forum than to just talk ... maybe because one's conscious, with an editor built into it, gets in the way? Maybe that's why students ... ? Was struck also by the playing with "I think, therefore I am". Maybe it should actually be "I am, and find I have the capacity to think, which I can use to change who I am" ... and explore?

Also in the morning was the idea that the nervous system is just neurons, pretty much the same not only morphologically but also functionally ... the same signals, and the proof that indeed those signals could start in the box rather than result from experiences (in some cases EVER, because of the genome). There's certainly more to think/talk about there.

And then there was everyone tells me was a rich session with Kim in the afternoon. I saved the blackboard as a photo and will post it. And then there's the Culture As Disability article (and the fortuitously related conversation between me and Antoinette

So, how about writing TWO entries in the forum this morning? One, if you haven't already done it, about the Culture As Disability article. The other about whatever part of yesterday you thought particularly interesting, have reactions/thoughts about. Yeah, please write TWO entries instead of one about both things. Then I can archive them under separate topics. And remember, don't "think" WHILE you're writing. Just write.


Name:  Regina Toscani
Username:  reginatoscani@hotmail.com
Subject:  )7-09-03 's discussion
Date:  2003-07-10 09:07:37
Message Id:  5900
Comments:
If the brain is made up of neurons, and if neurons need action potentials to work, then :
1) Can we increase the number of action potentials to increase brain activity?
2) Can we somehow direct action potentials to "fire" certain neurons?
3) Can we stop action potentials (as in the case of Tourette syndrome)?
4) Where does personal responsiblity come into play, when talking about the unconsious part of the brain?
5) How much control do we actually have over our brain (and consequently over behavior)?
I also wonder how many more questions will arise before these questions are answered.
Name:  John Dalton
Username:  JD5258875@aol.com
Subject:  sundry musings
Date:  2003-07-10 09:28:47
Message Id:  5901
Comments:
An interesting issue that arises from positing two parts of the brain, or more, centers on responsibility and free will. If more of our behavior is unconscious, are we responsible? It's also difficult to posit just how much interaction occurs.

Unconscious learning precedes conscious learning! The implications for education are enormous. Students should first engage in things unconsciously, busy work in a comfort zone, prior to conscious processing.

Descartes may be wrong, a cultural elitist, in positing that "I think, therefore I am." But, you also can't posit "I am, therefore I think." This is particularly relevant with regard to organisms who demonstrate activity, but have never had sensory or motor neural imput. It suggests to me that this activity may be unconscious, but the reflective activity that characterizes conscious I-function doesn't occur, therefore there might not be any "soul." Acquinas might posit some "vegatative" state.
Is refection what really distinguishes what is "human"? Do different organisms exhibit more or less reflection? The revelation and tracking of Action Potential as an indicator of the difference that humans exhibit between conscious and unconscious activity seems to me very relevant.


Name:  Angie
Username:  ajgrants@earthlink.net
Subject:  "The Great American Melting Pot"
Date:  2003-07-10 09:32:40
Message Id:  5902
Comments:
Nunez was given a second chance to get his life together by not dying. Instead he had to learn the hard way that he was not better than everyone else because he had to adapt to another culture. Respect along with the belief that no one culture is greater than the other culture. Everyone is different as well as unique. Just because one has a disability, depending upon the severity- Does that make that individual an "oddball?"
At one time, society labeled individuals as being "possessed" or "crazy" because one was different either in terms of having seizures, being blind, physically challenged, etc... I think that the feeling of the unknown and how to handle/deal with these disabilities. In terms of education, we must do everything possible to provide avenues for learning. IGNORANCE IS NOT BLISS!
Name:  Linda M
Username:  Anonymous
Subject:  thurs AM
Date:  2003-07-10 09:35:19
Message Id:  5903
Comments:
1/ response to Antoinette--I had to leave early yesterday so I don't know to when you are referring about people's attitude toward God. I, myself made a comment yesterday about not being able to quantify evidence toward the existence of a higher being. This has nothing to do with my faith (whI guess is why it's called "faith"). There are plenty of unquantifiable phenomena that science cannot explain; to me this doesn't mean they are not real. I find the brain such a marvel that I imagine it must have had some outside divine help becoming what it is.

2/ Culture as disability is reflective to me of the history of my teaching. I have, more often than not, taught students whose subculture in these United States differs from my own. Bit by bit I have become aware of my preconceptions that do not match with theirs. I can only guess as to how much I still don't know. I have students with many talents that do not include reading, writing and ciphering so they are not seen as sucessful in school yet have rich full lives in which they show varied competencies . On the other hand, if I were in a culture that measured success by how fast one can run, I would be among the disabled/limited because I do not have many fast twitch muscle cells (my physical therapist clued me in on that factoid).


Name:  Linda slattery
Username:  Anonymous
Subject:  Yesterday's class/7/09/2003
Date:  2003-07-10 09:35:35
Message Id:  5904
Comments:
ain addition to the contentbeing very stimulating, I focused on how what I have always defined as very difficult "scientific" information was presented by Paul in a simple, concreate, manner, broken down and repeatedly explained. This of course has implications for how we approach our students. Do we try to cover too much material too fast, without enough space for students to process the material. Should we be spending more time as educators observing and noticing how teachers in other disciplines, teaching different levels do their stuff?

The afternoon's discussion was interesting , particuliarly because it demonstrated how an activity could be used to engage individual thinking and awareness, promote group ideas, as well as illustrate the points for the learner to focus on - What is a diability? and who decidesthat? For what Purpose? Many of the points in our discussion were revealed or parralled in the article"Culture as a disability".

Lots more reflection of the "two minds discussion" in my head, to mull over.


Name:  Keith
Username:  Anonymous
Subject:  Culture as disability
Date:  2003-07-10 09:36:23
Message Id:  5905
Comments:
Our discussion from Wed., 7/9, related very much so to the "Culture as Disability " article. Many of the points that were brought up were discussed in the article. I found it interesting to look at some of our own personal abilities and "disabilities" and how each individual precieved those differences. The Idea of not being able to use a pencil sharpener seems trivial if not humorous to many of us. But in a setting where that process is needed, it can cause some discomfort for that individual. Especially if you are dealing with young children where that can become a center of focus and ridicule among thier youth culture.

After reading parts of the article (I admit I did not get to read it all), I was reminded of a college professor I had who work with people who had "disabilities." He shared with us his experience when he went to a school for deaf children during the early stages of his carreer. He discussed with us his expectations and his preconcieved notions of what a school for the deaf would be. He pictured a quiet and "peacful" environment. He thought that he would be overwhelmed with the silence. He thought that this would be a relaxing environment to do his work. His experience was the contrary. He found that the students were playing their music so loud that he could hear it hundreds of yards before reaching the campus. He also found that this did not change throughout the day. It became distracting and difficult to work at times under those circumstances. He said that at first he could not understand this. Why did people who could not hear need to have music so loud? Then one of his collegues told him it was because they could feel the music.

He also stated that he knew traditional sign language. He noticed that the students were using signs when communicating that to him, seemed to be nonsense. As he spent more time, he realized that even sign language had dialects. The students had created their own slang and signs (like the codes our students write thier love letters in) to keep the teachers from understanding them.

Much like "THe Country of the Blind" his "ability" became his "disability." ONe other interesting aspect of this was that he found ways to adapt to the culture (as he put it). He began to use ear plugs while working and he also developed and internalized the sign language that they were using over time.


Name:  Joyce Theriot
Username:  jtheriot
Subject:  Kim's Session
Date:  2003-07-10 09:36:54
Message Id:  5906
Comments:
Yesterday's session with Kim was terrific! I really enjoyed her facillitation of the group's responses. She took everyone's ideas so there was owership and therefore interest. Additionally for me, there was curiosity about how she would use the material on the board. These are all the elements of good inquiry and (as expected), the result was total participation. I think that the session was enjoyed by all.
Name:  caroltyson
Username:  Anonymous
Subject:  morning session
Date:  2003-07-10 09:38:27
Message Id:  5907
Comments:
A cousin of mine has developed severe depression since the death of her mother.With the depression has come a speech impediment .Under normal circumstances she is exteremly articulate,and, is in fact a speaker for the Presbyterian Church for whom she ministers.Is she of "two minds".When questioned she maintains that she has accepted the death and cannot understand what has happened.However, at certain times she speaks as if heaing impaired,functionally retarded,and,at others with an international tongue.During the exchange of charges in the axons is the order reversing in her brain?She has received numerous neurological evaluations and has been pronounced "physically healthy "by several physicians.

If this can occur with her,what then must be the situation with many students who are unable to process information in an ordered fashion because signals are reversing.I have doubts as to what methods can be employed to "retrain"their message centers.


Name:  Antoinette
Username:  tonisisco@aol.com
Subject:  Culture as Dis..
Date:  2003-07-10 09:39:18
Message Id:  5908
Comments:
First, thanks to all who commented on my previous entry.

The article, like the discussion yesterday afternoon brings to mind that our culturre/expectations play a large role in hoe we ppercccieve and react to things. In the early 70's if a child was doing flips over a swing and fell and hurt themself...they would go home and get a bandage put on a cut or scrape and that would be all. If a child did the same thing now, they would go home, call the plastic surgeon, and their lawyer, and try to get a mega law suit from the owner of the swing set, the swing set manufacturer, the shoe manufacturer and so on.

Our culture has set up some standards that "define" minimal achievemnt standards, are those who do not meet them "dis-abled" or "differently -abled?"

When we ask our elem. students to "read, read quietly, and study" Could it very well be that they have a different mental script of what each of these words mean, and a different script of how to demonstrate that they are doing what we ask?


Name:  Sheila
Username:  Anonymous
Subject:  
Date:  2003-07-10 09:40:15
Message Id:  5909
Comments:
As I read the article, I thought of the many children I have encountered with a disability. I recall reading the article's reference to "made to order general categories". Every label has a fit! When our cultural and society do not tolerate the disbility because the disability can not be categorized do we change our view?

The seminar yesterday with Kim was very enlightening. We do we get part 2?
Abilities v. Disabilities!


Name:  Shellie Herdan
Username:  Anonymous
Subject:  Wed. Session
Date:  2003-07-10 09:40:38
Message Id:  5910
Comments:
What a day! So many questions,ideas, thoughts. I like the idea to write on the forum without that editor slowing things down. Unfortunately this is much harder than it seems. The thought don't flow -the editor doesn't want to turn off. Now I SEE how so many of the kids who spend the day doing little work feel--they are afraid to be wrong. We muswt do something about this--but what.

Interesting idea--so much of what the nervous system does has nothing to do with anything that happens to it--it just does. And nothing to do withanything that ever happened to it--is this a little about psychosis. What is that anyway?

Afternoon with Kim was great. REally enjoyed hearing her own stories. Really brought culture into the realm of our problems.

Oh well Paul wants us to stop.


Name:  Julie
Username:  Anonymous
Subject:  Wednesday Thoughts
Date:  2003-07-10 09:40:53
Message Id:  5911
Comments:
Yesterday afternoon's discussion about labeling kids brought a flood of thoughts. School is one of the few environments where we catagorize by age and cognitive ability. We don't isolate kids if they can't "do" gym or art or music. Why do we label kids because they read and compute differently? We are too worried about accountability.
Name:  Angie
Username:  Anonymous
Subject:  My thoughts
Date:  2003-07-10 09:40:56
Message Id:  5912
Comments:
I went home excited because I had been given the opportunity to do something new that I never even considered. Since Monday afternoon, I am more conscious by starting to think about every action that someone performs around me. I say to myself, "What mind controlled that action?"
I told my family that they have two minds and of course my four year old daughter was running around saying that she is losing her two little minds (like she know what one mind entails- I am still figuring it out.)

When I sat home yesterday with a sick child and thought to myself that I was upset that I was missing what happened today. This is my first time attending this institute and everything is so exciting. I am lost that I missed the speaker.
Name:  Regina
Username:  Anonymous
Subject:  Culture and Disability
Date:  2003-07-10 09:43:23
Message Id:  5913
Comments:
It is impossible for me to comment on the article as a whole, since I am not sure that I understand it. The one statement that stands out is "no one is disable alone". To be "disabled" , one needs to be compare to others in one specific ability. If the comparision is unfavorable, the person is view as "lacking" and is given the label of "disabled". This is how society divides people. Those who have (or is able) and those who have not (disabled). The problem is that 1) all abilities are on a continuum, and all people fall somewhere along that continuum. (there is no seperate groups). 2) The disability becomes the identitiy of the person, regardless of what the person CAN do. 3) Society tends to view people with disabilities as "different" and perfers to isolate the disabled. We are all different, and the differences enables society to become stronger (at least I think so).
Saying all that, I can not totally dismisses the notion that there are disabilities in life. We need to address this issue in terms of personal dignity of each person, helping each other to reach our highest potenial, and to appreciate each otherf for who we are.
Name:  
Username:  Anonymous
Subject:  Culture as Disability
Date:  2003-07-10 09:43:56
Message Id:  5914
Comments:
I never really thought about culture as it related to education or disability. The more I read the more I thought of culture in political terms. If culture decides to arrange things that we should be able or not able to do, isn't that a way to keep order? And who do we usually think of as having the power to to this. I say politicians! People in power. Our discussion about Communism was interesting yesterday. Keith said that it's interesting that we cll for equality and justice for all (communism) but we insist on basing our system on Capitalism in order to do that, focusing instead on the individual. MOre.......
Name:  Paul Grobstein
Username:  pgrobste@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  after thursday ....
Date:  2003-07-10 21:43:20
Message Id:  5915
Comments:
LOTS of stuff caught my attention, triggered thoughts re Culture of Disability and the question of whether one can achieve a non-disabling culture ...

"Maternalization of education" as the message of Culture of Disability. Encouraging concepts/nurturing over critical/demanding, less attention to struggle/war/competition? Avoiding "hurt feelings by demonstrating that someone else has a different point of view? All necessarily goes together this way? A good thing or a bad thing or ... ?

Re "special ed". Why classify/analyze instead of just fixing? Could we create a less disabling culture by allowing people to develop their own goals instead of insisting they have to be achieving by a common standard? But need to be careful not to return to a time of prejudging potential based on wealth, skin color, etc. Would help if we could encourage kids to become more self-reflective from earlier ages?

Re Keith's story: VERY important that one can be (be helped to be) aware of BOTH one's strengths and one's weaknesses, without demeaning the latter characteristics in others (can be comfortable about oneself without disabling others). Is this something that can be taught early?

Would be easier for kids to work on sorting themselves out if connections among different subjects/skills in the curriculum were made more apparent. This would help one make personal choices, encourage recognition of worth of things one doesn't onself choose.


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