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Math. Nature. Reality.

Chewy Charis's picture
  • Shock. Confusion. Denial. More shock. That was how I felt as I was reading the introduction on Normalcy. As a math lover, I have never thought that eugenics movement was in any way linked to math. I’ve never known that terms I am so familiar with, such as “normal curve,” “standard deviation,” “quartile,” and “ogive,” can be interpreted from a disability study’s point of view. Right after I read it, my initial response was something like “This person must be deliberately looking at math from a harsh angle; this is not the designer’s intention.” The fact this is my automatic response scares me—it’s like I’ve been programmed to think this way. Even when facts were pointed out to me, I refused to accept it. This makes me wonder: what happens to those who are never aware of this? How do we restrict the mathematic terms to math-specific areas without linking it to the way to think about people? How much application of math is too much? In a more extreme way, I start wondering the value of statistics versus the potential harm from the mode of thinking it brings. But it’s also outside of math class. From test scores to ranks, from dress codes to unspoken social codes, from metaphors we learn in English class to regression analysis we used in the sciences…every aspect of our education system is filled by the idea of normalcy or comparison to what is normal. And with normal, comes the idea of deviant.  


  • The idea that nature prevails in novel is another point that stays with me. Like normality, it’s also ingrained in our minds. One critic in the More Intellectually Disabled Youths Go To College says, “It may make intellectually disabled people feel better, but is that what college is supposed to be all about?” The question implies that people with intellectual disability cannot learn because they lack that innate ability, and that the whole going to college thing is only an unnecessary show of our society’s progression. The idea that having an intellectual ability makes a person unworthy for any kind of investment is the underlying message.


  • Toward the end of Gabbard’s article, he writes, “August’ disabilities…do not mean anything at all in and of themselves—they have no intrinsic significance. They simply are what they are.” Gabbard is talking about detaching meanings from disability itself. I actually really like his approach of describing disability because of how real it sounds, at least from the caretaker’s point of view. Yes, having a family member who is disabled can cause a lot of hassles. And I feel like that a lot of the readings we’ve done (including those in my writing seminar) are based on people whose social-economic class enabled them to be under good care, good enough that they can even start contemplating about disability as a positive thing.  But most of the time, especially when we think of how many disabled people are unemployed, and how many people with mental disabilities are locked into asylums or prisons, the reality is more grim. It's important to acknowledge that having certain kinds of disabilitis is inconvenient to say the least, but we shouldn't deny what we can gain from them.