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S. Yaeger's blog

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Challenging The Idea of Independence As A Desirable End

In thinking about a topic for this paper, I was utterly confused.  I have never actually written a promptless paper before, and the idea of doing so ramped up my anxiety to the point of crippling any productive thought.  Then, I encountered Margaret Price and her writings on the intersection of mental disability (an umbrella term for mental and neurological illness) and academic discourse.  I am drawn to Price’s analysis of how academia excludes those who have mental disabilities for several reasons.  The first is that  I have, as some would say, a dog in the race of disabilities studies as the interact with academia, since I have a variety of common mental ailments, including several learning disabilities and what therapists are now thinking might be P.T.S.D.  Additionally, my peer mentor at my previous school is a schizophrenic who actually uses the rigors of college to cope with the hallucinations and delusions which plague him.  However, beyond the initial attraction of seeing something of myself reflected in a non-cure oriented text, I was driven to interest in some of the issues which Price examines through our classroom discussion on the topic. 

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My hopes for our visit to the high school

In thinking about what I hope to learn from the students of the high school, my gut answer is "everything".  I hope to learn what their lives are like, how they see education fitting into those lives, what they hope to gain from their education, and how they'd like to see their education change or grow.

In terms of what I'd like to take to them, I'm even less certain.  Looking back on myself at their age, one of the things that no one ever told me is that there is no single way to have a successful and happy future and what works for one person may be fundamentaly impossible for another.  I was also never told that one misstep, or even many, doesn't mean that one is doomed or that all possible doors to a fulfilling future are closed.

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Working Class Heroes, Rock n Roll Niggers and the American Ruse

After our viewing of Kai Davis' poem last week, and in light of a conversation I had had about it's possibility to offend people, I began thinking about powerful and eloquent uses of "vulgar" language and racial epithets throughout our pop cultural history.  As some of you may know, I have an overwhelming interest in pop culture and especially in rock history.  As such, Davis' poem caused me to think about other instances where poets or lyricists have used vulgar or offensive language and imagery to discuss their thoughts on their education and on their chances in life.  I initially planned to write a post about the uses of language in the classroom, but then I though about the uses of language as tool for expressing our frustrations with our class and education situations and prospects.  As part of this discussion, I am offering you three videos from youtube.

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The Closet as a Means of Self Perservation

I have been thinking about the problem of external categorization since our second class meeting, when we discussed “Living The Good Lie”.  I have been chewing on the idea that academia has a habit of categorizing behaviors, world views, and modes of operation from the outside, as though we are somehow rightful arbiters of others’ behavior.  I think this is a natural thing for us to do, especially since we are doing it within the context of a class which seeks to explore the issues of categorization and false binaries.  However, I wonder if we are not so entrenched in our ideas of what is “right” that we are unconsciously mapping our preferred MO’s onto others.

For instance, when we discussed the men in the Times article who were seeking to remain deeply closeted in order to not break away from their religious communities, we all seemed to react the same way, at least initially.  Many of us wondered why these men, who were born gay, would not just choose to find a new church. 

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What playing field?

In thinking about whether education levels the playing field, I’m drawn to the experiences of my closest friend and her students.  My friend, Christy, works for the School District of Philadelphia in a disciplinary school.  Before she was assigned to her current school, she worked in more traditional Philly high schools, including Simon Gratz and Kensington Business.  These schools are all in deeply impoverished areas and all have student bodies that are primarily black or Hispanic. 

I mention this because, as we discuss education, we seem to all look at college as the end of the road, but for students like my friend’s, college is not even a possibility.  Many of her students are far behind where standardized tests say they should be in all subjects.  Some of them, high school students, can’t read or write.  They have been passed upward, from grade to grade, based on their age. Their schools have no books, no computers, and no climate control.  They are forced into overcrowded classrooms;  their lives are dictated by budget cuts and teacher lay-offs.  When they leave school for the day, they exit back into a city that doesn’t want them, doesn’t keep them safe, and sees them as criminals.  They are the living embodiment of a citywide tradition of racism and oppression. 

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"Britain's Missing Top Model": Super-Sexy-Supercrips, or Empowerment?

Since our last meeting, I have been thinking about the photo of the apparently “disabled” women from Britain’s Missing Top Model.  Specifically, I have been thinking about how my initial reaction to the photo, before reading the Clare book, was one of disgust; not at the women themselves but for the fact that they we being exploited.  Later, as I read the Clare piece, I began to feel ashamed of myself for that initial reaction.  I wouldn’t have looked at a cheesy glamour shot of someone who was not visibly identifiable as disabled and felt such disgust or annoyance, and even if I had, I certainly wouldn’t have voiced it.  However, the fact that I was looking at women who were wheelchair bound or missing limbs was enough to make me forget that I have no right to dictate what is or isn’t appropriate for another person.  Once I had worked through Clare’s book, and our discussion of it, I began to wonder if maybe I hadn’t been guilty of infantilizing these women and expecting them to be a-sexual, simply because they appeared to fit the model for disability.

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Reflection on education and access

When I initially began thinking about my Friday night paper, and what, exactly, education allows one to access, I was thinking that I might make a distinction between formal (classroom based) education, and informal (life based) education, much like the women in the Lutrell piece did.  However, after thinking about it carefully, I decided that I didn't want to make that distinction at all.  Instead, I started to think about Dewey's theory of education as requiring both experience and reflection, and how that can come from a variety of sources.  This lead me to question the standard line of formal education: That it is the one definite path to future success.  

Instead, I wondered if all forms of education actually allow us to access the same exact thing: An awareness that we know virtually nothing, and a desire to continuously test new ideas, which would lead to further assurance that we know nothing, and so on.  This is basically where I centered my argument.  I believe that all education can really offer us is a desire for more education, and that this desire is inherently valuable, far beyond the value of a good job or future connections.  

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Access to education, Edmunson and Shoris

After leaving class today, I thought about Edmunson's assertion that not only do his students treat their education like a consumer product, but that they also lack a certain sense of self-hatred needed to really grow as a student.  In our discussion this afternoon, we touched a little bit on what that meant, but I was left thinking about some of the factors that may lead to Edmunson's students feelng the need to be constrained, unexctied and always looking for the fastest track to the next thing.  One of the things I was struck with today was how much pressure is put on students to alays be doing just that.  What I mean by this is that many of the student who spoke today about their educational histories spoke about the kinds of pressures that have been placed on them for their entire lives.  It seems like there is a constant push to be the best, so you cen get to the next level, so you can be the best there, so you can move and continue to compete.  In this kind of system, you're not only the consumer, but you're also the product.  It seems to me that, for 12 years, students are taught how to best market themselves in 3 pages or less and how to look impressively well rounded by the numbers.  To then expect them to view college as anything more than another link in that ongoing chain seems a bit unfair.

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My access map

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Introduction and Thoughts on Play, Potential, Performative

Hello.  My name is Shannon Yaeger and I am a junior at Bryn Mawr who is majoring in English Literature and considering a minor in gender studies.  In thinking about the 5 P's in the title of this class, three which I most drawn to are play, potential, and performative.  I think these three words are interlocked for me when I consider gender and sexuality, and the ways in which our social conceptions of them are changing.  We all start out with playing at our own genders, both as children modeling what we see in adults, and then as adults who are trying to find their place on the spectrums of gender and sexuality.  Similarly, I think that most expressions of gender are largely performative as our expression of our genders are displayed through action.

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