Serendip is an independent site partnering with faculty at multiple colleges and universities around the world. Happy exploring!

Keeping Disability Quiet and Our Love of Comparison

Polly's picture

On Tuesday, the guest speakers talked a little about how we see things related to disability-the ramps and parking and automatic doors, but we never talk about disability. Then later, people were talking about how at Bryn Mawr, a lot of people want to know if they are doing worse/as well/better than other students, but we don't talk about grades here so we don't know where we stand. When my math midterm was handed out before break, I saw that on the front cover it had spaces for percentage and number correct, but also for standard deviation and the average grade. I was happy to see that, because I knew that when I got the midterm back, I would be able to see if I was around or better than the average (hopefully not worse). But when I actually received my graded midterm, only the percentage and number correct were filled in. I was disappointed because I wanted some sort of confirmation that my grade was good.

Kelly brought up that students are likely to see professors as people who have successfully gone through what we are going through now, and that it is hard to be ok with failure in that environment. When Anne responded that the students don't know about any failures that the professors may have had, it made me think that not talking about the failures causes a stressful expectation. Knowing where everyone else stands in the world (or just in your class) can make you feel good, or motivate you to improve. But when we don't know, I think it is natural to be worried or self conscious that others are performing better than we are.

But what about disability? If we talk about our disabilities in the open, we will probably discover that way more people than we expect have something that disables them. But would comparing ourselves to others in terms of ableness be a good thing? Would that comparison just contribute to ableism?