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Notes Towards Day 6 (Thurs, Sept. 20): On Being Mad @ School

Anne Dalke's picture

from Miriam Posner's blog about making room in the academy for everyone...

I. Uninhibited will end today's class w/ silence;
Dan is up for Tuesday...

II. coursekeeping

* Shannon's weekly assignment list is now "sticky @ the top" of in course forum, so you'll always find it now @ the beginning of the forum, as she revises it week-to-week (feedback welcome on this initiative...)

* I have also added your posting deadlines to the cluster's calendar (linked to from top of course page)

* Shannon & Barb will review details re: Saturday's field trip  and hand out your round-trip train tickets on Friday (catch the R5 @ the Bryn Mawr station @ 9:50 --> Market East at 10:21am; we'll meet @ the Mural Arts office (level 2 of the Gallery, next to Wet Seal): see what's in progress there before getting on the trolley, 11-1--> to Eastern State for 1-2 p.m. tour; on your own thereafter ...

* Jody also told you about invitation to have lunch w/
her, me, Barb, Shannon next Friday @ noon?

* your second 3-pp. paper is due by Sunday @ 5 (questions?); that marks the end of the first section of the course, on "silence in class"....

We are moving now into the second section of the course, "Silent Cultures"
(expanding on Kim and Markus's idea that there are different cultural practices of talking and being silent, and different ways of understanding these divergent practices...)

"Each people leaves some things unsaid, to be able to say others" (Ortega y Gasset).

We'll spend the whole week, next week, on the 1983 memoir by
Rigoberta Menchu, a Guatemalan Indian woman whose text and whose silences have been very controversial; it's several hundred pp. long--some of this skimmable! (you know about skimming? making judgments about what's worth it?). Please try to read it all for Tuesday (I'll focus us on the first 1/2, but it's hard to discuss 1/2 a book...).

Anyone familiar w/ this? Studied it in other contexts? Can provide some Central American context? (it was first published in Spanish; if you'd rather read it in that language--anyone?--there is a Spanish language edition; available in Canaday and two more copies in Swat and HC libraries).

It's a complex dance between being silenced and chosing silence, so of course watch for those keynotes (as well as anything else you'd like to talk about...your assigned posting this weekend is your paper, but if you want to give us a heads up about what interests you/where you'd like us to focus our discussion, please do so in the course forum...)

III. afterthoughts from the fishbowl: having to speak/remain silent in that configuration?
cf. also Jo's post about "silencing myself": "the permanence of what I say here [on-line] makes me feel less confident...Here, anything I write is open to judgement, and ...this added pressure makes me freeze up sometimes... I'll be able to figure out what I want to say easier in class when I can bounce my thoughts off of all you lovely people and your words.... "

[cf. Rigoberta's editor: "Rigoberta has chosen words as her weapons and I have tried to give her words the permanency of print"...]

when might we want such permanence...and when/why avoid it?

IV. A couple of stories about Margaret Price's visit to campus last winter:
* my own pedagogical innovations--which tend generally in the direction of less structure, more fluidity--
might be particularly disabling for brains that operate differently than mine, which find not more comfort
and more freedom to do/be, within structures of clear expectation (the lesson here is like Delpit's)
* building access into the infrastructure of the class (rather than as an "add-on," accomodation);
yet the risk that we will all disable one another thereby...
* the difficulties my Assessment group had, in talking w/ Margaret, and
her difficulties in "decoding" what we were doing/wanting in that "kariotic space"

V. To help us make sense of Mad @ School, I thought we could create a "barometer" with our bodies
(inspired by quote from Bracken and Thomas, on p. 15):
"human mental life ... is not 'some sort of enclosed world residing inside the skull,'
but is constructed 'by our very presence and through our physical bodies' "
and in our social settings through time and space

Please stand in a single line.
I will read a series of sentences from Margaret Price's book
(selecting discriminatingly from those below....);
if you agree w/ the statement, please move towards the screen (English House?);
if you disagree, please move towards the stairs (the woods?).
Please explain yourself, first to those closest to you, then to us all.
If hearing these explanations affects your position, please re-locate your body accordingly.

"If you are crazy, can you still be of sound mind?" (p. 1) --yes to the screen, no to the stairs

"Madness is usually not threatening" (p. 1).

"Human life is a form of mental illness" (Lawrence Davis, qted. p. 3).

"disability is a mode of human difference ... that becomes a problem only when the environment ... treats it as such .... it shifts the "problem" of disability away from individuals and towards institutions and attitudes" (p. 4).

"the most important common topoi of academe ... include rationality, criticality, presence, participation, resistance, productivity, colegiality, security, coherence, truth, independence" (p. 5).

"Why is 'coherence' one of the most-often emphasized features of a thesis-driven academic argument; does the demonstration of coherence indicate a stronger mind?" (p. 6)

"Those of us who do function successfully in academe tend to pass much of the time" (p. 7).

"For thousands of years academe has been understood as a bastion of reason ....
Academic discourse operates ... to abhor mental disability--to reject it, to stifle and expel it" (p. 8).

"We might reconstruct 'normal' academic discourses to become more accessible for all .... to measure up to us" (pp. 8-9).

"As with queer, the broad scope of mad carries the drawback of generality but also the power of mass" (p. 10).

[Let us] "redesign our social and work environments, emphasizing the importance of interdependence" (p. 13).

"neurodiversity acts as a positive force in human evolution, enabling alternative and creative ways of thinking, knowing, and apprehending the world" (Antonetta, qted. p. 16).

"we need a way of taking inclusively about people for whom access to human interaction is problematic" (Montgomery, qted. p. 19).

"Many of us are mad at school" (p. 20).

"incorporating narratives of experience is one way to improve access to academic prose .... stories I like best ... render their own occasions of telling ... explain how and why they came about" (p. 23).

"attention to discourse is foremost an activist goal" (p. 29).

"madness [is] a radical disunity of perception from that held by those who share one's social context" (p. 32).

"we practice academic discourse ... as a project of social hygiene ... to diagnose, cure, contain, or expel the mad subject .... to protect academic discourse as a 'rational' realm" (p. 33).

[cf. Haraway on the 'god-trick,' and Nagel on the 'view from nowhere': academic discourse] "claims a gaze that comes from nowhere and everywhere all at once, omniscient and unlocatable, and therefore shielded from any countergaze" (p. 35).

[for] "rhetors whose worlds may be ... composed of ways of knowing fundamentally invested in dis/order and non/sense ... attempting to voice the 'truth' of mental disability creates a paradox ... producing rhetoric whose very authenticity destroys its fluency" (pp. 38-39).

Ellsworth's point is that reason an oppressive construct played out through seemingly benign imperatives such as "sharing" and "dialogue"...

"Dialogue ... is impossible ... because ... power relations between raced, classed, and gendered students and teachers are unjust .... all voices in the classroom ... cannot carry equal legitimacy" (Ellsworth, qted. p. 40).

Nor do all rhetors bring an ...equivalent sense of what concerns are "reasonable," what are "rational" and "appropriate" ways to voice ideas--in short, what sort of human to be in the classroom (40).

"Is it possible to listen to the mad subject?" (p. 42).

"Critical pedagogy ... requires an uncomfortable state of mind .... fear manifests as resistance .... loss of composure [is an] educational opportunity" (p. 46).

"stop seeing emotion, pain, and trauma as ... anti-intellectual, and solipsistic, and instead ... recognize them as ways of knowing" (p. 50).

[let's] "focus on the disabling aspect of some teaching" (Lewiecki-Wilson and Dolmage, qted. p. 55).

Price says that her argument "requires a disorienting shift away from presumptions of tragedy,
courage, or brokenness" (p. 4). Can you apply this claim to the current stories you know about being
Does this require any disorienting shifts?

Might applying Price's argument to the current draft of your paper require any such disorienting shifts?

(Might it invite a revision of the stories you wrote-and-told last week?)

VI. Stop by 3:30, to make space for silence to end, led by "Uninhibited"

Create a story about silence. One person completes this sentences, passes the paper to the person next to them and that person must continue the story based on what was written. At the end, we will have a story that we all wrote together, in silence.

“…. And then they chose silence”


How did it feel to do this exercise? Illuminating? Intriguing? Annoying?

What was the process of waiting for others and having to continue their story?

How did you feel about the ways in which other people picked up your part of the story?

In what ways was this community storytelling different in silence? From say, dialogue or discussion?