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Paper 2

Sarah Moustafa's picture

Sarah Moustafa


Reflective Writing 2

Critical Issues in Education

            In Ray McDermott and Hervé Varenne’s paper “Culture as Disability, the two authors discuss the concept of disability and how different cultures define ability and disability. This article focuses mainly on traits that are commonly regarded in society as being disabilities, such as trouble with reading or being deaf, but I have been considering whether being considered “able” can be a disability in and of itself. While this statement may seem like a privileged one to make, further explanation may shed light on my meaning.

            This idea was prompted by a conversation with one of my high school classmates in which we joked that not having to study throughout high school resulted in us being unprepared for college work. Reflecting on this further, however, makes me think that it is not simply a joke to excuse our procrastination. Because I never really had to study, I never learned how to study. Having the skills to succeed in the education system may be a privilege, but the lack of effort I had to put in to my schooling resulted in missing out on important skills and practices that could help me in the outside world.

            You may be saying to yourself, “Ok, you don’t know how to study. Once you leave school, you won’t need to study ever again anyway.” However, the necessity to put time and effort into your education results in the appreciation of hard work and perseverance. That is not to say that those to whom things come easily can not possess these traits, but putting time and effort into something makes the success much more memorable.

            This interpretation of disability is an example of one of the messages McDermott and Varenne convey in their article. Insinuating there are negative aspects to my privileges and abilities makes me feel guilty. Yet, if McDermott and Varenne describe the view that the definition and assignment of the term disability varies amongst cultures, who says that my lack of involvement in my learning because of the ease with which I get by is not a disability? The authors state that their article is about “the powers of culture to disable” (327). Can it be inferred that culture also has the power to enable? Just as certain cultures unfairly degrade people who cannot see, or hear, or learn at a slower pace, do they also unfairly promote those with certain abilities to a higher status? In high school, I was seen as a “smart kid.” Because of that label, I skipped over the classes and lessons that build the framework for learning as the current education system defines it. Because I could test well, because my test scores shed a good light on my school, it was apparently unnecessary to provide me with study skills to fall back on when things inevitably became more difficult for me to absorb. The more I reflect on these thoughts, the more I see how my abilities can be categorized as disabilities once we overlook how society automatically views them as benefits.