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An Equity Literacy Approach to (dis)Ability and Schools By Paul C. Gorski [email protected] @pgorski (Twitter) 1

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Page 1: An Equity Literacy Approach to (dis)Ability and Schools By Paul C. Gorski gorski@edchange.org @pgorski (Twitter) 1

An Equity Literacy Approachto (dis)Ability and Schools

By Paul C. Gorski

[email protected]

@pgorski (Twitter)

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Page 2: An Equity Literacy Approach to (dis)Ability and Schools By Paul C. Gorski gorski@edchange.org @pgorski (Twitter) 1

Thanksgivings

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Page 3: An Equity Literacy Approach to (dis)Ability and Schools By Paul C. Gorski gorski@edchange.org @pgorski (Twitter) 1

- Humbled

- Thankful

- A little anxious

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Page 4: An Equity Literacy Approach to (dis)Ability and Schools By Paul C. Gorski gorski@edchange.org @pgorski (Twitter) 1

Humbled

- Don’t see myself as an expert on (dis)ability or special education, but as an expert on educational equity

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Page 5: An Equity Literacy Approach to (dis)Ability and Schools By Paul C. Gorski gorski@edchange.org @pgorski (Twitter) 1

Thankful

- To be in a room full of people who are advocates for youth who often are marginalized (more on this in a moment)

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Page 6: An Equity Literacy Approach to (dis)Ability and Schools By Paul C. Gorski gorski@edchange.org @pgorski (Twitter) 1

A Little Anxious

Because I’m about to talk about something I have never talked about in a live, public forum

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Page 7: An Equity Literacy Approach to (dis)Ability and Schools By Paul C. Gorski gorski@edchange.org @pgorski (Twitter) 1

6 years old

When I started getting into trouble at school, not for being bad but for being restless

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Page 8: An Equity Literacy Approach to (dis)Ability and Schools By Paul C. Gorski gorski@edchange.org @pgorski (Twitter) 1

6 years old

Also when I started to experience what I know today as clinical depression

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Page 9: An Equity Literacy Approach to (dis)Ability and Schools By Paul C. Gorski gorski@edchange.org @pgorski (Twitter) 1

8 years old

When I was forced to sit in an empty classroom all day and do worksheets while classmates were on a field trip because I was restless in class

- The dreaded demerit system

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Page 10: An Equity Literacy Approach to (dis)Ability and Schools By Paul C. Gorski gorski@edchange.org @pgorski (Twitter) 1

9 years old

When I learned from PE teacher Mr. DiSimone (jackass) that my reputation was following me

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Page 11: An Equity Literacy Approach to (dis)Ability and Schools By Paul C. Gorski gorski@edchange.org @pgorski (Twitter) 1

10 years old

When I knew I had ADD, but neither I nor my teachers had a word for it except for “misbehaving”—also when I started to feel abnormal and a little freakish

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Page 12: An Equity Literacy Approach to (dis)Ability and Schools By Paul C. Gorski gorski@edchange.org @pgorski (Twitter) 1

12 years old

When I had to sit in in-school detention while my classmates went on a field trip

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Page 13: An Equity Literacy Approach to (dis)Ability and Schools By Paul C. Gorski gorski@edchange.org @pgorski (Twitter) 1

13 years old

When Mr. DiSimone made fun of me in front of the PE class for being a boy who had won a poetry writing contact at the school (nothing to do with disability, but more evidence that he was a jackass)

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Page 14: An Equity Literacy Approach to (dis)Ability and Schools By Paul C. Gorski gorski@edchange.org @pgorski (Twitter) 1

14 years old

When my depression started getting worse and I began withdrawing from friends

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Page 15: An Equity Literacy Approach to (dis)Ability and Schools By Paul C. Gorski gorski@edchange.org @pgorski (Twitter) 1

15 years old

When I, along with a couple of friends, egged Mr. DiSimone’s house (thanks for teaching me to throw, mom)

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Page 16: An Equity Literacy Approach to (dis)Ability and Schools By Paul C. Gorski gorski@edchange.org @pgorski (Twitter) 1

16 years old

When I was given the Commodores cassette tape. (Seriously, how did my parents not know?)

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Page 17: An Equity Literacy Approach to (dis)Ability and Schools By Paul C. Gorski gorski@edchange.org @pgorski (Twitter) 1

22 years old

When I had my first anxiety attack

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Page 18: An Equity Literacy Approach to (dis)Ability and Schools By Paul C. Gorski gorski@edchange.org @pgorski (Twitter) 1

23 years old

When I committed my life to the field of education and to educational equity

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Page 19: An Equity Literacy Approach to (dis)Ability and Schools By Paul C. Gorski gorski@edchange.org @pgorski (Twitter) 1

28 years old

When I first sought help for depression and was officially diagnosed/labeled

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Page 20: An Equity Literacy Approach to (dis)Ability and Schools By Paul C. Gorski gorski@edchange.org @pgorski (Twitter) 1

29 years old

When I learned that both of my parents had been taking anti-depressants for years and that my sister had been treated for anxiety (despite all those years I was suffering and feeling alone about it)

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Page 21: An Equity Literacy Approach to (dis)Ability and Schools By Paul C. Gorski gorski@edchange.org @pgorski (Twitter) 1

29 years old

When I started taking anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medication

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Page 22: An Equity Literacy Approach to (dis)Ability and Schools By Paul C. Gorski gorski@edchange.org @pgorski (Twitter) 1

29 years old

The first time in my life I read an adult-level book from cover to cover (The Autobiography of Mark Twain)

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Page 23: An Equity Literacy Approach to (dis)Ability and Schools By Paul C. Gorski gorski@edchange.org @pgorski (Twitter) 1

30 years old

When I was officially diagnosed/labeled as ADD.

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Page 24: An Equity Literacy Approach to (dis)Ability and Schools By Paul C. Gorski gorski@edchange.org @pgorski (Twitter) 1

32 years old

When I prepared a session on psychological (dis)abilities for a national multicultural education conference and nobody—nobody out of 1,200 participants—attended my session

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Page 25: An Equity Literacy Approach to (dis)Ability and Schools By Paul C. Gorski gorski@edchange.org @pgorski (Twitter) 1

Today, now, 43 years old

The first time I’ve acknowledged any of this publicly despite spending my life surrounded by advocates for equity and justice:

I am a person with (dis)abilities.

--invisible and otherwise fairly privileged…

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Page 26: An Equity Literacy Approach to (dis)Ability and Schools By Paul C. Gorski gorski@edchange.org @pgorski (Twitter) 1

Back to “Thanks”

My first thought when I decided to talk about this here:

Thank you—all of you—for being an advocate for students like me. I have never thanked you before, but I thank you now.

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Page 27: An Equity Literacy Approach to (dis)Ability and Schools By Paul C. Gorski gorski@edchange.org @pgorski (Twitter) 1

Back to “Thanks”

Thank you for:

Being a buffer between students like me and those with more visible and stigmatized (dis)abilities and the ways we’re targeted at school

(Round of applause for yourselves.)

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Page 28: An Equity Literacy Approach to (dis)Ability and Schools By Paul C. Gorski gorski@edchange.org @pgorski (Twitter) 1

Back to “Thanks”

Thank to Debra and team who invited me to do this.

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Page 29: An Equity Literacy Approach to (dis)Ability and Schools By Paul C. Gorski gorski@edchange.org @pgorski (Twitter) 1

But Here’s What I Know, Too

As advocates, we’re no less susceptible to the biases and ways of seeing that can do damage when we don’t even want to do damage.

Examples (compliments)

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Page 30: An Equity Literacy Approach to (dis)Ability and Schools By Paul C. Gorski gorski@edchange.org @pgorski (Twitter) 1

A Few Reflections: Why I’ve Been Silent

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Page 31: An Equity Literacy Approach to (dis)Ability and Schools By Paul C. Gorski gorski@edchange.org @pgorski (Twitter) 1

Reflection #1

I was punished for everything about my (dis)abilities in school—the stigma was and is still palpable

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Page 32: An Equity Literacy Approach to (dis)Ability and Schools By Paul C. Gorski gorski@edchange.org @pgorski (Twitter) 1

Reflection #2

I might strangle the next person who tells me I should just go out and have fun and “get over” my depression, so I talk to very few people about, for their own good.

So of course being compassionate isn’t enough—understanding is critical.

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Page 33: An Equity Literacy Approach to (dis)Ability and Schools By Paul C. Gorski gorski@edchange.org @pgorski (Twitter) 1

Reflection #3

Even in the circles of social justice educators and activists in which I spend my time, conversations about (dis)ability are virtually nonexistent.

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Page 34: An Equity Literacy Approach to (dis)Ability and Schools By Paul C. Gorski gorski@edchange.org @pgorski (Twitter) 1

Reflection #3 (cont’d)2011 study in multicultural teacher prep courses, average amount of class time spent on:Race: 22%Gender: 7%Sexual orientation: 4%Class: 3%

(dis)Ability: 2%

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Page 35: An Equity Literacy Approach to (dis)Ability and Schools By Paul C. Gorski gorski@edchange.org @pgorski (Twitter) 1

Reflection #3 (cont’d)2011 study Percentage of courses that did not even mention:Race: 5%Gender: 33%Sexual orientation: 41%Class: 54%

(dis)Ability: 63%

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Page 36: An Equity Literacy Approach to (dis)Ability and Schools By Paul C. Gorski gorski@edchange.org @pgorski (Twitter) 1

Reflecting on Reflections

Like most problems in education, (dis)ability inequity and bias is largely ideological, but is treated as a practical problem with practical solutions

This is the problem with the problem and equity literacy lesson #1: Inequity is first and foremost ideological and needs to be addressed ideologically.

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Page 37: An Equity Literacy Approach to (dis)Ability and Schools By Paul C. Gorski gorski@edchange.org @pgorski (Twitter) 1

Ideology Race Example

• John and the “race” problem story

• Not (usually) about evil oppressive educators– About learning to see what we’re socialized

not to see

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Page 38: An Equity Literacy Approach to (dis)Ability and Schools By Paul C. Gorski gorski@edchange.org @pgorski (Twitter) 1

What People Don’t Understand About Me:

What I care about first is what you think of me, how you interpret me because that drives how you treat me and whether you’ll find it easy to repress me.

What you believes drives what you do.

Page 39: An Equity Literacy Approach to (dis)Ability and Schools By Paul C. Gorski gorski@edchange.org @pgorski (Twitter) 1

An Initial Apology and an Initial Challenge

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Page 40: An Equity Literacy Approach to (dis)Ability and Schools By Paul C. Gorski gorski@edchange.org @pgorski (Twitter) 1

The Apology

To you

I have not done enough to challenge my educational equity colleagues to pay real attention to disability concerns. I have been complicit in its omission from conversations about equity.

This is where that ends. Today.

Page 41: An Equity Literacy Approach to (dis)Ability and Schools By Paul C. Gorski gorski@edchange.org @pgorski (Twitter) 1

The Apology

To me

I have not advocated hard enough for myself in education circles. I have participated in my own marginalization by not talking enough about disability in social justice circles.

This is where that ends. Today.

Page 42: An Equity Literacy Approach to (dis)Ability and Schools By Paul C. Gorski gorski@edchange.org @pgorski (Twitter) 1

The Challenge

To all of us

In order to talk about (dis)ability and special education we must must must be willing to (1) embrace an equity ideology, and (2) talk about how it intersects with racism and poverty.

Deal? Deal.

Page 43: An Equity Literacy Approach to (dis)Ability and Schools By Paul C. Gorski gorski@edchange.org @pgorski (Twitter) 1

Equity Literacy

A Social Justice Framework

for (dis)Ability

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Page 44: An Equity Literacy Approach to (dis)Ability and Schools By Paul C. Gorski gorski@edchange.org @pgorski (Twitter) 1

Introducing Equity Literacy

• Shift from focusing centrally on vague notions of “culture” and identity to focusing centrally on equity

• Understanding (dis)abilities is not the same as understanding how to create equity for people with (dis)abilities

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Page 45: An Equity Literacy Approach to (dis)Ability and Schools By Paul C. Gorski gorski@edchange.org @pgorski (Twitter) 1

Introducing Equity Literacy

Four Abilities of Equity Literacy

1. Recognize inequity (even subtle)

2. Respond to inequity (immediate term, interpersonal or institutional)

3. Redress inequity (institutional or systemic)

4. Sustain equity

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Page 46: An Equity Literacy Approach to (dis)Ability and Schools By Paul C. Gorski gorski@edchange.org @pgorski (Twitter) 1

Conceptualizing Equity

Important Concepts• Equity / Equality• Deficit View / Structural View• Mitigative Action / Transformative Action

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Page 47: An Equity Literacy Approach to (dis)Ability and Schools By Paul C. Gorski gorski@edchange.org @pgorski (Twitter) 1

Conceptualizing Equity

Important Concept #1

• Equity vs. Equality

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Page 48: An Equity Literacy Approach to (dis)Ability and Schools By Paul C. Gorski gorski@edchange.org @pgorski (Twitter) 1

The Big Difference

Page 49: An Equity Literacy Approach to (dis)Ability and Schools By Paul C. Gorski gorski@edchange.org @pgorski (Twitter) 1

Conceptualizing Equity

Important Concept #2

• Deficit View / Structural View

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Page 50: An Equity Literacy Approach to (dis)Ability and Schools By Paul C. Gorski gorski@edchange.org @pgorski (Twitter) 1

The Three Ideologies

1. Deficit view

2. Structural view

How are we framing the “problem” of dis(Ability) and educational outcomes?

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Page 51: An Equity Literacy Approach to (dis)Ability and Schools By Paul C. Gorski gorski@edchange.org @pgorski (Twitter) 1

Conceptualizing Equity

Important Concept #3

• Mitigative Action / Transformative Action

– The starfish and baby stories– Problem not lack of attention or even

resources, but lack of transformative use of attention and resources

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Page 52: An Equity Literacy Approach to (dis)Ability and Schools By Paul C. Gorski gorski@edchange.org @pgorski (Twitter) 1

Learning to Recognize Inequity

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Learn to See:

Subtle forms of bullying

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Learn to See:

Portrayals or non-portrayals or uni-dimensional portrayals in educational materials

The real evolution: to see people like me when the story is not about how they are people like me

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Learn to See:

The insidiousness and harm of pity—the worst kind of shaming

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Learn to See:

How some students with dis(Abilities) become spectacles or even “mascots”

--parallel with students of color

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Learn to See Bigger:

The impact of labelling when it’s both necessary (to access services) and ostracizing.

--and the trouble in higher ed with the “officiail diagnosis” rule

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Learn to See Even Bigger:

(dis)Ability is socially constructed. It’s both real and not real simultaneously (just like race and gender and…).

• The continuum of being and the arbitrariness of labelling along that continuum.

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Learn to See Even Bigger:

Though people with disabilities have become more vocal in recent years, we still constitute a very small minority. Yet the “Beautiful People” - the slender, fair and perfect ones - form a minority that may be even smaller.

--Debra Kent

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Equity Literacy

This is 90% of our task: learning how to see. We cannot address inequity if we cannot see it in all of its forms.

Page 61: An Equity Literacy Approach to (dis)Ability and Schools By Paul C. Gorski gorski@edchange.org @pgorski (Twitter) 1

A Few Central Principles

Equity Literacy and (dis)Ability

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(dis)Ability is Intersectional

• Race, Class, ELL and over-representation• Affordability of “shadow” education help• Misinterpretation of “symptoms” of

inequality as (dis)ability• And so on

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Page 63: An Equity Literacy Approach to (dis)Ability and Schools By Paul C. Gorski gorski@edchange.org @pgorski (Twitter) 1

(dis)Ability is Intersectional

• Race, Class, ELL and over-representation• Affordability of “shadow” education help• Misinterpretation of “symptoms” of

inequality as (dis)ability• And so on

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Page 64: An Equity Literacy Approach to (dis)Ability and Schools By Paul C. Gorski gorski@edchange.org @pgorski (Twitter) 1

(dis)Ability is Intersectional

If we don’t address all the ways students are oppressed, we can’t effectively address any of the ways students are oppressed.

(So if we’re not talking about racism, we’re not talking complexly about ableism.)

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(dis)Ability is Intersectional

My reflections on intersectionality, (dis)ability, and interpretation…

Race and the interpretation of “restlessness”

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Page 66: An Equity Literacy Approach to (dis)Ability and Schools By Paul C. Gorski gorski@edchange.org @pgorski (Twitter) 1

Students with (dis)Abilities are Endlessly Diverse

No set of strategies is going to work with every student

Must not look at (dis)ability outside the context of students’ full identities

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Page 67: An Equity Literacy Approach to (dis)Ability and Schools By Paul C. Gorski gorski@edchange.org @pgorski (Twitter) 1

Students with (dis)Abilities are Endlessly Diverse

My experience looking at teacher “strategies” for students with ADD:

1. I have a learning difference, which cannot be accommodated by treating me like I’m 4 years old

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Page 68: An Equity Literacy Approach to (dis)Ability and Schools By Paul C. Gorski gorski@edchange.org @pgorski (Twitter) 1

Students with (dis)Abilities are Endlessly Diverse

My experience looking at teacher “strategies” for students with ADD:

2. I should have access to good teaching all the time, not just as a stragegy

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Page 69: An Equity Literacy Approach to (dis)Ability and Schools By Paul C. Gorski gorski@edchange.org @pgorski (Twitter) 1

Ability as a Continuum, not a Binary

The danger of the disabled/non-disabled binary

Challenge: normalize the continuum, separate access to services from the label, which requires a binary of sorts

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Page 70: An Equity Literacy Approach to (dis)Ability and Schools By Paul C. Gorski gorski@edchange.org @pgorski (Twitter) 1

Rethinking “Accommodations”

Level one: Accommodation as providing services and resources so students with (dis)abilities can participate in an existing institution or system that is not necessarily designed, at its roots, to be inclusive

- Critically important, of course, as a mitigation

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Page 71: An Equity Literacy Approach to (dis)Ability and Schools By Paul C. Gorski gorski@edchange.org @pgorski (Twitter) 1

Rethinking “Accommodations”

Level two: Accommodation as creating and sustaining systems and institutions that, at their roots, are equitable and inclusive (transformative)

NOTE: It’s a both/and not an either/or

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Page 72: An Equity Literacy Approach to (dis)Ability and Schools By Paul C. Gorski gorski@edchange.org @pgorski (Twitter) 1

Challenges to You and Me

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Work the Intersections

We cannot be effective advocates for students with disabilities if we don’t understand how disability overlaps with race, class, and other identities.

If we are unwilling to talk about race and class, we are demonstrating a kind of willful ignorance that hurts all people with (dis)abilities.

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Page 74: An Equity Literacy Approach to (dis)Ability and Schools By Paul C. Gorski gorski@edchange.org @pgorski (Twitter) 1

Target Advocacy

We can advocate especially hard for the kids whose parents don’t have the economic or political sway to guarantee their kids get a fair shake

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Page 75: An Equity Literacy Approach to (dis)Ability and Schools By Paul C. Gorski gorski@edchange.org @pgorski (Twitter) 1

Reject Deficit Ideology

We can learn to spot and respond to deficit views,

not just of students with disabilities, but of all

marginalized students

Page 76: An Equity Literacy Approach to (dis)Ability and Schools By Paul C. Gorski gorski@edchange.org @pgorski (Twitter) 1

Provide Space for Voice

Carve out spaces for people with (dis)Abilities to offer their counter-narratives

Page 77: An Equity Literacy Approach to (dis)Ability and Schools By Paul C. Gorski gorski@edchange.org @pgorski (Twitter) 1

Damn High-Stakes Tests

Fight to make sure students with (dis)Abilities are provided higher-order, engaging pedagogies

Page 78: An Equity Literacy Approach to (dis)Ability and Schools By Paul C. Gorski gorski@edchange.org @pgorski (Twitter) 1

Damn High-Stakes Tests II

Protect arts and PE for students with (dis)abilities

NOTE: not just as a mitigation, protecting arts and PE within a system where they are threatened, but as a transformation, committing to fighting the aspects of the system that are threatening access to arts and PE

Page 79: An Equity Literacy Approach to (dis)Ability and Schools By Paul C. Gorski gorski@edchange.org @pgorski (Twitter) 1

Speak Up

Challenge the cultural norms and policies and practices that paint people with (dis)Abilities as deficient

Page 80: An Equity Literacy Approach to (dis)Ability and Schools By Paul C. Gorski gorski@edchange.org @pgorski (Twitter) 1

Understand and Act

Acknowledge that some students (and some of our

colleagues) cross a sort of border when they enter

school – imagine how hard that is

– We can commit to changing that reality, first

by making sure we’re not participating and

then by naming the biases we see.

Page 81: An Equity Literacy Approach to (dis)Ability and Schools By Paul C. Gorski gorski@edchange.org @pgorski (Twitter) 1

Analyze Carefully

Analyze classroom and school policy and learning materials for hidden (or not-so-hidden) inequities and biases

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Selfish Request:

When we talk about (dis)ability, be more conscious to talk about depression and depressive conditions.• My silence, even in social justice ed circles• Impact on educators of neoliberal school

reform (Wisconsin leading the way!)

* * *

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Thank you.

Paul C. Gorski

@pgorski

[email protected]

http://www.edchange.org

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