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Great review, but are we really that stuck on style?

Posted By: Ross Mitchell on October 16, 2009
 
I really appreciate this review. Having worked with the Deaf community for several years, including six years at Gallaudet University, I am gratified that more is being done to highlight the importance of class differences in special education. I definitely want to read this book and develop my own sense of what it has to offer.

At the same time, a full three sentences of the review were dedicated to a point of style that, I think, misses its own elitist universalism. (I know, this sounds a little harsh, but allow me a moment, please.)

Here is a chunk of those sentences:

"A surprising lack of awareness of 'people first' language, for example, 'individuals with disabilities' instead of 'disabled individuals,' makes the text sound dated ... [as well as other use of] terms that have long been discarded by professionals and advocates in the field. The use of dated language is unfortunate for it may discourage readers from reaching the concluding chapter which is rich in interpretative and analytical insights."

For the group with which I have greatest familiarity, the Deaf, "person first" is the standard of universalist Hearing people and not the self-identification of those with deafness. (Wow, this is hard to write about in solely person-first or identity-first language.) I am also reminded of when I worked with American Indians who rejected "Native American" as the politically correct term invented for them by White people. Finally, as some may have noticed at the inauguration of President Obama, people may be identified by and identify with being colored, whether it be black, white, brown, red, or yellow, yet I am sure many would see this as a dated way of talking about anyone who isn't white.

My point is that advocacy and professionalism have to guard against righteousness and an unjustified sense of moral superiority. This is not just a matter of behaving as the reviewer, who stayed with the presentation from beginning to end, but a matter of recognizing that some style preferences may actually be offensive to those in whose honor they had been established.

Thanks again,

Ross E. Mitchell
School of Education
University of Redlands

P.S. Affluent families know that they often can get better special education for their children in the public schools than they can in the private schools available to them. But when the public school refuses to deliver the special education they think their child deserves, they come back and sue the public schools to pay the cost of the private education they purchased in lieu of what the public schools had to offer. I wonder if these sorts of behaviors are revealed in this interesting new book as well....
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 Great review, but are we really that stuck on style? by Ross Mitchell on October 16, 2009
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