Sunday, April 10, 2016

Citizenship in Schools: Reconceptualizing Down Syndrome by: Christopher Kliewer

Citizenship in Schools: Reconceptualizing Down Syndrome

By: Christopher Kliewer


"...legitimize discrimination and devaluation on the basis of the dominant society's preferences in matters of ability, gender, ethnicity, and race..." (73). 

     When reading this quote I immediately thought of the class we had when we talked about SCHWAAMP and the dominant ideologies of society. "Abled-bodieness" was one portion of this that really stood out. In class we talked about how the idea of having a slim, muscular, and strong body are what is valued in society. This excludes thinner people, larger people, people in wheel chairs, and many other "less desirable" attributes. These types of people are given a label. This is the same idea as people with mental disabilities including down syndrome. School systems are labeling people with mental disabilities as handicapped; and they are placed in special courses. This can be a great tool in helping these students receive a better education; but it also limits their learning as well as their social interactions. 

"Such acceptance is the aim when children with Down syndrome join their non disabled peers in classrooms, and many schools and individual teachers have entered into this effort, which seeks and finds community value in all children." (74). 

     This section focuses a lot on the idea of community in schools between children with Down syndrome and non disabled children. Having the separate classes for special needs students sometimes can limit their social interaction. One example given was about a boy named Isaac Johnson who went to a school that was run by parents. In his classroom there were six students who has severe disabled students and ten who did not have any disability. While the classroom still kept the guidelines of a public school in mind, they allowed the children to learn in very different ways. Isaac had a lot of trouble with verbal communication but he was able to get his point across through physical movements. The teacher of this class used this as a tool in the classroom by designing an assignment that would benefit all the children. They were to put on a play about Isaac's favorite book. This would incorporate all the children with the many different aspects of the play, and still allowed for Isaac to contribute and learn but in his own way. I think that this is an incredibly important part of education. Just like in Collier's piece, it's like letting Isaac use his first language so he is more successful in the classroom. 

"It's not like they come here to be labeled, or to believe the label. We're al kids here- kids, teachers, parents, whoever- it's about all of us working together, playing together, being together, and that's all learning is." (75). 

     Labeling children and expressing to the child that they will only be as good at their label is not a way to create a successful learning environment. Having a very relaxed feel in the classroom where it seems fun to the children rather than busy work will create a better path of learning. If they are given the chance to explore and express themselves in an open, yet structured environment, the idea of "disabled" vs. "normal" would be less prominent and possibly nonexistent. 

   The article talked a lot about having all children be on the same level and I think that is a very good way to have a classroom. However, I still believe that having special classes for special education students is beneficial to them as well as the students who are not mentally challenged as long as there still is social interaction with others. For example, in my high school there was a boy with Down syndrome and he was like a movie star. All the sports teams would high five him in the halls and everyone would cheer him, and the other members of the unified basketball team on when they played. 

One of the senior football players catching CJ for a hug after he was announced homecoming king. 


  1. Great post Kate! I really liked your post and I liked how you added in the picture. I see a lot of those situations happening where a student that is categorized as one with special needs is becoming homecoming king or queen and prom king or queen and it's a positive thing. I also see situations where people who win give up their crowns to another student who has a disability. I agree with what you had to say in your points to share section as well because those special education classes have purpose but I think it would be beneficial if the student maybe has a chance to interact in another classroom as well so they get the social aspect.

  2. The picture you added grabbed my attention right away, I absolutely love it! I definitely agree with the SCWAAMP connection, the quote you used to connect the two works well because it shows how America discriminates those who are not the "ideal person". I also agree with you and Katherine, special education classes do have a purpose but it would be beneficial to have them interact with other peers to experience the social aspect.

  3. While having special education classes is a good thing, I think that including them in the classrooms is even better. From the video we watched in class, you see the children with special needs learning more than I think they would normally. At the same time, would these children be considered a "distraction" to the class? I'm not sure. It's a very tough line to walk on, because everyone does deserve an equal education. While adding children with special needs into the classroom gives them an equal education, does it take away from the children without special needs? PS: love the picture of Dillon and CJ.