October Education Reading

Interesting books and articles I read in October:

  • ‘The Brave Little Surveillance Bear’ and Other Stories We Tell About Robots Raising Children “no matter the stories we tell about innovation, no matter the predictions we make about disruption, in time everything in ed-tech becomes indistinguishable from the learning management system.”
  • Autism 101 – Erin Human “Autism is type of brain wiring (neurological type) that processes information differently than typical brains do. This means that autistic thought patterns, sensory perceptions, social interactions, language processing, and emotional regulation all develop differently than those of people who are not autistic. Modern societies operate in ways that often disadvantage autistic people, which makes autism a developmental disability.”
  • The Cult(Ure) of Strength | USENIX “Strength is a tax paid with emotional labor.”
  • A perspective on modern schooling in WEIRD (Western Educated Industrial Rich Democratic) societies. – Educating The Young Heart “WEIRD societies not only are not representative of humanity as a whole, they are, in fact, among the least representative populations one could find for generalizing about humans.” / “Our approach to education is extraordinarily authoritarian. It is obsessed with compulsion and control.”
  • Why I Don’t Grade | Jesse Stommel ”grades are the biggest and most insidious obstacle to education. And they’re a thorn in the side of Critical Pedagogy.” / “Grading is a massive co-ordinated effort to take humans out of the educational process.”
  • Principal: ‘Money matters. Race matters. Grit talk makes me angry.’ – The Washington Post “I believe deeply that we can actually teach anti-racism. And we must.” / “Money matters. Race matters. Grit talk makes me angry. We have to stop making everything about the individual.”
  • When Grit Isn’t Enough: A High School Princ… – Kindle ‘”If I could do it, so can you” is an echo of the “just work harder” assumption. It is the “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” ethos to which so many generations of Americans adhere. Yet data repeatedly show how poverty, social class, race, and parents’ educational attainment more directly influence an individual’s success and potential earnings than any individual effort. We clearly do not yet have a level playing field, but this belief is all but impossible to challenge.’
  • Grit: A Skeptical Look at the Latest Educational Fad (##) – Alfie Kohn “When you hear about the limits of IQ these days, it’s usually in the context of a conservative narrative that emphasizes not altruism or empathy but a recycled version of the Protestant work ethic. The goal is to make sure kids will resist temptation, override their unconstructive impulses, put off doing what they enjoy in order to grind through whatever they’ve been told to do”
  • Rejecting Growth Mindset and Grit at Three Levels | radical eyes for equity “growth mindset and grit speak to and reinforce powerful cultural ideologies and myths about meritocracies and individual character—ones that are contradicted by the evidence; and thus, growth mindset and grit contribute to lazy and biased thinking and assumptions about marginalized groups who suffer currently under great inequities.”
  • How to Improve Math Class “The problem is the performance culture in our schools, more present in math than in any other subject. Students believe that the purpose of math class is to demonstrate that they can quickly find the answers. An undergraduate recently told me that when she writes down her ideas, even when working alone, she expects someone to judge her.”
  • A Call for Critical Instructional Design “Operant conditioning and the manipulation of response to stimuli are at the heart of theories that support instructional design. But more, they form the foundation of almost all educational technology—from the VLE or LMS to algorithms for adaptive learning. Building upon behaviorism, Silicon Valley—often in collaboration with venture capitalists with a stake in the education market—have begun to realize Skinner’s teaching machines in today’s schools and universities.”
  • To Ban or Not to Ban? Technology, Education, and the Media – EdTech Researcher – Education Week “The final assumption guiding these editorials is that everyone learns in exactly the same way. Research on accessibility in higher education (as well as K-12) and Universal Design for Learning clearly contradicts this assumption.”
  • Hack Education Weekly News “I sense a theme in this week’s stories about profiting from preschoolers, don’t you?”
  • “Why Don’t Students Like School?” Well, Duhhhh… | Psychology Today “Children hate school because in school they are not free. Joyful learning requires freedom.” / “In school they are told they must stop following their interests and, instead, do just what the teacher is telling them they must do. That is why they don’t like school.”
  • The Business of Ed-Tech: October 2017 Funding Data
  • A Teacher’s Dilemma: Take a Stand Against Testing or Keep Abusing Children | gadflyonthewallblog “These are the kinds of students I have – victims of generational poverty, malnutrition, childhood trauma, violence, drug abuse and systemic racism and prejudice. Strong-arming them into another standardized test isn’t doing them any favors.” / “What purpose do I serve enforcing policies I know to be detrimental?”
  • THINKING PERSON’S GUIDE TO AUTISM: Why Autistic Students Need Autistic Role Models “We realized that the people society says are the most qualified to help him are the people least equipped to understand him.” / “Everything that the school’s professionals tried was behavior-related, and it wasn’t working. So we implemented a root cause approach instead. I asked everyone in the room who had worked with Nick if there was anyone there who didn’t believe that at his core Nick was a good kid and wanted to succeed. And everyone raised their hands. So, working from that point of trust, I asked everyone to support efforts to help Nick succeed, items that empowered him to make good choices.”
  • WBEZ Investigation: CPS Secretly Overhauled Special Education At Students’ Expense | WBEZ “The overall effect is really to wear parents down in every way that they can, and wear the staff down in every way that they can, so that the ultimate outcome is giving less”
  • Why Students of Color Don’t Take Latin – EIDOLON “The challenge that the grammar-translation approach poses to inclusivity is that it takes language, something universally accessible to all, and creates a series of unnecessary and onerous roadblocks that render it accessible to only the few.” / “Grammar-translation and its demands have served as something akin to voter I.D. laws in the United States.”
  • The Cost of Success: How Letting Billionaires Shape Early Childhood Education Harms Kids—and Democracy | Alternet ”Child-centered, experiential learning, on a timeline that allows for the natural variability of development, has become a province of the elite.”
  • Why a key research finding is ruining teaching in Texas – The Washington Post “when classrooms are too rigid, controlled and task driven, students cannot initiate and continue conversations with their peers”
  • Why I Don’t Have Classroom Rules | Edutopia “I wanted my students to do more than just follow rules handed down to them. I wanted them to understand why those rules exist, and be willing to interrogate ones that didn’t seem valuable, meaningful, or useful.” / “The reason I find this strategy better than rules is because it teaches students to become active participants in the formation of a community. Rules alone tend to condition the students to become dogmatic followers, while broader imperatives guide them to be critical and reflective participants.”

Selected Tweets

Favorite tweets collected in Twitter Moments:

Selected Quotes

More quotes from the pieces listed above:

“Strength,” “Courage,” and “Bravery” are virtues often heaped upon individuals undergoing hardship. These compliments come from a deep-rooted cultural value that sacrifice should be praiseworthy and that performing in the face of difficulty is a sign of virtue. In tech, strength is valued to the point of caricature, creating a culture of depersonalization and overwork that disproportionately affects people who by their identities or job descriptions are asked too often to “take one for the team.”

Through the lens of my 15+ year journey through the STEM pipeline, I’ll talk about the culture of strength and how we can better set expectations to manage hardship and workload in the workplace or community.

 Strength is a tax paid with emotional labor.

Tech is full of hero worship; heroism is only achievable through sacrifice.

Strength becomes an easy thing to assign deficit to and to use as a scapegoat.

If your process requires regular sacrifice, your planning sucks.

Over-emphasizing extraordinary acts of sacrifice normalizes them and turns them into expectations.

We are workers. And expectations of strength compel us to perform free labor.

Source: The Cult(Ure) of Strength | USENIX

Operant conditioning and the manipulation of response to stimuli are at the heart of theories that support instructional design. But more, they form the foundation of almost all educational technology—from the VLE or LMS to algorithms for adaptive learning. Building upon behaviorism, Silicon Valley—often in collaboration with venture capitalists with a stake in the education market—have begun to realize Skinner’s teaching machines in today’s schools and universities.

And there’s the rub. When we went online to teach, we went online almost entirely without any other theories to support us besides instructional design. We went online first assuming that learning could be a calculated, brokered, duplicatable experience. For some reason, we took one look at the early internet and forgot about all the nuance of teaching, all the strange chaos of learning, and surrendered to a philosophy of see, do, hit submit.

The problem we face is not just coded into the VLE, either. It’s not just coded into Facebook and Twitter and the way we send an e-mail or the machines we use to send text messages. It’s coded into us. We believe that online learning happens this way. We believe that discussions should be posted once and replied to twice. We believe that efficiency is a virtue, that automated proctors and plagiarism detection services are necessary—and more than necessary, helpful.

But these are not things that are true, they are things that are sold.

Source: A Call for Critical Instructional Design

Agency, dialogue, self-actualization, and social justice are not possible in a hierarchical system that pits teachers against students and encourages competition by ranking students against one another. Grades (and institutional rankings) are currency for a capitalist system that reduces teaching and learning to a mere transaction. Grading is a massive co-ordinated effort to take humans out of the educational process.

Learning Outcomes: More and more, we are required to map our assignments, assessments, and curricula to learning outcomes. But I find it strange that teachers and institutions would pre-determine outcomes before students even arrive upon the scene. I have argued, instead, for emergent outcomes, ones that are co-created by teachers and students and revised on the fly. Setting trajectories rather than mapping in advance the possible shapes for learning.

Require teachers to give more B and C grades and they give more B and C grades disproportionately to black students. In education, I think we should be creating opportunities, not limiting possibilities for success.

Grades as Motivators: Alfie Kohn writes in “The Trouble with Rubrics,”“Research shows three reliable effects when students are graded: They tend to think less deeply, avoid taking risks, and lose interest in the learning itself.” Grades do motivate, but they don’t motivate the kinds of peak experiences that can happen in a learning environment. Something like “have an epiphany, communicate an original thought, sit uncomfortably with your not knowing, or build something that’s never been built before” can’t be motivated by a grade.

Source: Why I Don’t Grade | Jesse Stommel

1. Money doesn’t have to be an obstacle

2. Race doesn’t matter

3. Just work harder

4. There is a college for everyone/everyone can go to college

5. If you believe in yourself, your dreams will come true

Taken together, the five assumptions listed above can be dangerous because they reinforce the deeply held American belief that success is individually created and sustained. “If I could do it, so can you” is an echo of the “just work harder” assumption. It is the “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” ethos to which so many generations of Americans adhere. Yet data repeatedly show how poverty, social class, race, and parents’ educational attainment more directly influence an individual’s success and potential earnings than any individual effort. We clearly do not yet have a level playing field, but this belief is all but impossible to challenge. Whenever we hear of another bootstraps story, we want to generalize. We disregard the fact that luck often plays a major role. And in generalizing and celebrating the individual nature of success, we disregard the imperative to rethink social and economic policies that leave many behind.

Source: Nathan, Linda F.. When Grit Isn’t Enough: A High School Principal Examines How Poverty and Inequality Thwart the College-for-All Promise (p. 6, p. 8). Beacon Press. Kindle Edition.

Money matters. Race matters. Grit talk makes me angry. We have to stop making everything about the individual.

But as I began to visit more schools and talk to my alums who were incredibly “gritty,” I became actually disgusted with the “movement.” It is a movement, for the most part, “owned and operated” by white folks and executed onto black and brown bodies.

Of course you don’t get ahead without determination and persistence, and it’s one of the reasons I’m such an arts advocate. That’s what you learn in the arts: how to practice, how to work together, how to persist through difficult scenes, lines, choreography, etc. . . . but this notion that “if we show grit by having strict behavioral codes/rules, all will be well” is ridiculous.

I’ve seen too many boys (especially black/brown boys)  suffocated by what has become grit pedagogy. Kids need to jump and play and yell and run. Of course not in the classroom all the time, but we must ensure that there are multiple methods to reach and teach our students. I think this “movement” needs to be curbed and I am pleased that even some of the “worst” offenders are now questioning their tactics.

Source: Principal: “Money matters. Race matters. Grit talk makes me angry.” – The Washington Post

Consider the current buzz about self-regulation: teaching students to exercise self-discipline and self-control, to defer gratification and acquire “grit.” To discipline children is to compel them to do what we want. But because we can’t always be there to hand out rewards or punishments as their behavior merits, some dream of figuring out a way to equip each child with a “built-in supervisor” (as two social scientists once put it) so he or she will follow the rules and keep working even when we’re not around. The most expedient arrangement for us, the people with the power, is to get children to discipline themselves – in other words, to be self-disciplined.

Proponents of this idea like to point out that cognitive ability isn’t the only factor that determines how children will fare in school and in life. That recognition got a boost with science writer Dan Goleman’s book Emotional Intelligence in 1996, which discussed the importance of self-awareness, altruism, personal motivation, empathy, and the ability to love and be loved. But a funny thing has happened to the message since then. When you hear about the limits of IQ these days, it’s usually in the context of a conservative narrative that emphasizes not altruism or empathy but a recycled version of the Protestant work ethic. The goal is to make sure kids will resist temptation, override their unconstructive impulses, put off doing what they enjoy in order to grind through whatever they’ve been told to do – and keep at it for as long as it takes.

Good grades, in other words, are often just a sign of approval by the person with the power in a classroom.  And even when they serve other functions, grades suffer from low levels of validity and reliability.  Moreover, students who pursue higher grades tend to be less interested in what they’re learning, more likely to think in a superficial fashion (and less likely to retain information), and inclined to prefer the easiest possible task whenever they have a choice — because the goal isn’t to explore ideas but to do whatever is necessary to snag the A.  Those who snag a lot of them seem, on average, to be overly conformist and not particularly creative.  So if students who are more self-disciplined or persistent get higher grades, that doesn’t make a case for grit so much as it points up the limitations of grades as an outcome measure

In her recent research, she created a task that’s deliberately boring, the point being to devise strategies so students will resist the temptation to do something more interesting instead.

This is the mindset that underlies the campaign for grit and self-discipline, even if it isn’t always spelled out. Which is why it’s critical that those of us who don’t share Duckworth’s values – and are committed to changing the system rather than just making kids adapt to it – maintain a healthy skepticism about that campaign. While we’re at it, we might bring that same skepticism to bear when the next bandwagon rolls through town.

Source: Grit: A Skeptical Look at the Latest Educational Fad (##) – Alfie Kohn

At the first level, I question the ideological motivation for doing research to find the source of success and failure within individuals-assuming that individual character and behaviors are primarily or solely the source of both success and failure.

As a colleague noted during comments after the keynote, this is a “very American” way of thinking; and I would add, a flawed view of the relationship between human behavior and social forces.

At the second level, I am cautious about the quality of growth mindset and grit research as valid, and that caution is grounded in the first level-both concepts fit well into American myths about rugged individualism and the Puritan work ethic; thus, even so-called dispassionate researchers are apt to see no reason to challenge the studies (although some have begun to unpack and question Angela Duckworth’s studies on grit).

Scarcity, mentioned about, is a compilation of powerful studies that make a case unlike what most Americans believe about success and failure: those living in scarcity struggle because of the scarcity (think poverty), and those living in slack are often successful because of the slack. This work has not been embraced or received the celebrity of growth mindset and grit because it works against our narratives.

Privileged researchers blinded by their own belief in American myths as well as trust in their own growth mindset and grit, I fear, are not apt to challenge research that appears even to a scholar to be obvious.

The third level is the most damning since growth mindset and grit speak to and reinforce powerful cultural ideologies and myths about meritocracies and individual character-ones that are contradicted by the evidence; and thus, growth mindset and grit contribute to lazy and biased thinking and assumptions about marginalized groups who suffer currently under great inequities.

K-12 applications of growth mindset and grit have disproportionately targeted racial minorities and impoverished students, reinforcing that most of the struggles within these groups academically are attributable to deficits in those students, deficits linked to race and social class.

All three levels, then, are born in, protected by, and prone to perpetuate race and class stereotypes, and as a result, work against inclusive pedagogy and culturally relevant pedagogy.

Finally, stepping back from these levels, I also remain skeptical of growth mindset and grit because they are very difficult to disentangle from deficit perspectives of students and from monolithic, thus reductive, views of identifiable groups by race, class, gender, or educational outcomes.

Source: Rejecting Growth Mindset and Grit at Three Levels | radical eyes for equity

Until we change the way we teach math to emphasize learning and exploration, rather than performance, we’ll continue to produce students who describe their math experience as a hamster wheel, or worse, a prison. We’ll continue to produce anxious students who experience fear when they see numbers. The performance culture of mathematics has destroyed a vibrant, essential subject for so many people. As schools have worked to encourage a few speedy calculators, they’ve neglected to teach the kind of creative, quantitative thinking that can open new worlds. If we encourage new generations of students who love learning and love math, we’ll raise up kids who are prepared to take their place in society as free, empowered thinkers.

Source: How to Improve Math Class

Operant conditioning and the manipulation of response to stimuli are at the heart of theories that support instructional design. But more, they form the foundation of almost all educational technology-from the VLE or LMS to algorithms for adaptive learning. Building upon behaviorism, Silicon Valley-often in collaboration with venture capitalists with a stake in the education market-have begun to realize Skinner’s teaching machines in today’s schools and universities.

And there’s the rub. When we went online to teach, we went online almost entirely without any other theories to support us besides instructional design. We went online first assuming that learning could be a calculated, brokered, duplicatable experience. For some reason, we took one look at the early internet and forgot about all the nuance of teaching, all the strange chaos of learning, and surrendered to a philosophy of see, do, hit submit.

The problem we face is not just coded into the VLE, either. It’s not just coded into Facebook and Twitter and the way we send an e-mail or the machines we use to send text messages. It’s coded into us. We believe that online learning happens this way. We believe that discussions should be posted once and replied to twice. We believe that efficiency is a virtue, that automated proctors and plagiarism detection services are necessary—and more than necessary, helpful.

But these are not things that are true, they are things that are sold.

The critical instructional design approach prioritizes collaboration, participation, social justice, learner agency, emergence, narrative, and relationships of nurture between students, and between teachers and students. It acknowledges that all learning today is necessarily hybrid, and looks for opportunities to integrate learners’ digital lives into their digitally-enhanced or fully online learning experiences.

Importantly, in keeping with its social justice roots, critical instructional design seeks to create learning and educational opportunities for students of all backgrounds, leveraging techniques especially to give platforms for those voices most usually suppressed or oppressed, including the voices of women, people of color, LGBTQ folk, people with disabilities, and more. It works against the standardization of so many educational technologies, and aims for the fullest inclusion possible.

One of the key principles of critical instructional design is that concept of emergence, that outcomes are determined by the learning process, and not as much predetermined. Jesse recommends that we don’t wield outcomes like weapons, and I usually give the advice that if you must include learning outcomes in your course, plan for everyone to meet them mid-term… and let the rest of the term emerge.

Source: A Call for Critical Instructional Design

The first assumption is that all learning is synonymous with memorization and facts. Certainly, students need to know information and facts before they can move on to higher order skills like synthesis and application, but there is so much more to learning than what Paulo Freire called the “Banking Concept” of education, where an instructor deposits information and students withdraw it for exams.

The second fundamental assumption inherent in these pieces is that learning is primarily an individual rather than a social endeavor. However, classrooms are social spaces, and our students are human beings who interact with each other — and with us — in order to build knowledge.

The final assumption guiding these editorials is that everyone learns in exactly the same way. Research on accessibility in higher education (as well as K-12) and Universal Design for Learning clearly contradicts this assumption.

Source: To Ban or Not to Ban? Technology, Education, and the Media – EdTech Researcher – Education Week

Ask any schoolchild why they don’t like school and they’ll tell you. “School is prison.” They may not use those words, because they’re too polite, or maybe they’ve already been brainwashed to believe that school is for their own good and therefore it can’t be prison. But decipher their words and the translation generally is, “School is prison.”

Let me say that a few more times: School is prison. School is prison. School is prison. School is prison. School is prison.

But I think it is time that we say it out loud. School is prison.

If you think school is not prison, please explain the difference.

The only difference I can think of is that to get into prison you have to commit a crime, but they put you in school just because of your age. In other respects school and prison are the same. In both places you are stripped of your freedom and dignity. You are told exactly what you must do, and you are punished for failing to comply. Actually, in school you must spend more time doing exactly what you are told to do than is true in adult prisons, so in that sense school is worse than prison.

Children, like all human beings, crave freedom. They hate to have their freedom restricted. To a large extent they use their freedom precisely to educate themselves. They are biologically prepared to do that.

In school they are told they must stop following their interests and, instead, do just what the teacher is telling them they must do. That is why they don’t like school.

There is no evidence at all that children who are sent to prison come out better than those who are provided the tools and allowed to use them freely.

Children hate school because in school they are not free. Joyful learning requires freedom.

Source: “Why Don’t Students Like School?” Well, Duhhhh… | Psychology Today

These are the kinds of students I have – victims of generational poverty, malnutrition, childhood trauma, violence, drug abuse and systemic racism and prejudice. Strong-arming them into another standardized test isn’t doing them any favors.

Because they knew what was expected on MY test, and they knew they could meet my expectations. I was there for the lesson. I made the test. I would grade it. I have a relationship with these kids and they know I will assess them fairly.

But not on this standardized CDT nonsense!

Data Recognition Corp isn’t there for the lesson. It has no rapport with students. Kids don’t know what the expectations are and don’t think they can meet them. And they have no sense that this multi-billion dollar corporation will grade them fairly for their efforts.

So they act out.

What purpose do I serve enforcing policies I know to be detrimental?

Source: A Teacher’s Dilemma: Take a Stand Against Testing or Keep Abusing Children | gadflyonthewallblog

“Strength,” “Courage,” and “Bravery” are virtues often heaped upon individuals undergoing hardship. These compliments come from a deep-rooted cultural value that sacrifice should be praiseworthy and that performing in the face of difficulty is a sign of virtue. In tech, strength is valued to the point of caricature, creating a culture of depersonalization and overwork that disproportionately affects people who by their identities or job descriptions are asked too often to “take one for the team.”

Source: The Cult(Ure) of Strength | USENIX

Unqualified for Tech, STEAM > STEM, and Tech Ethics

The #UnqualifiedForTech discussion is an important one. In response to the Equifax CSO being ridiculed for having a music degree instead of a tech degree, many tech workers pointed out that they too don’t have tech degrees, or degrees at all.

There are many aspects to this discussion. There is plenty of straight up misogyny.

There’s privilege.

There’s disdain for the liberal arts—degrees that are more necessary than ever.

There’s academic treadmill thinking reinforced by deficit model capitalism.

And there’s misunderstanding about how tech hires.

The academic treadmill to a BS in CS is not the only entry into tech. To hire strictly from credentialist pipelines is bad for your company, bad for society, and just bad ethics. During my career, I’ve coded alongside people with music degrees. I’ve coded alongside the gamut of liberal arts degrees. I’ve coded alongside those with no degrees, those who stepped off a treadmill that often goes nowhere to avoid student loan debt and deficit model pathologies. I’ve coded alongside great people who would never have gotten into tech if we all hired strictly from credentialist pipelines and demanded technical degrees.

We shouldn’t want only those with technical degrees making software. Such gatekeeping is harmful, misguided, and out-of-touch. We need liberal arts majors writing code, and we need every tech worker with a tech degree to get a better liberal arts education than they’re currently getting. We need the arts and humanities throughout the ranks of tech.

Much too belatedly, we in tech are realizing how much we need soft skills and non-technical backgrounds in order to build good teams, design for the diverse actuality of humanity, and be ethical. Over and over again, we demonstrate poor ethics and a stunted understanding of people and society. We need historians, anthropologists, and sociologists in design and decision making processes. Hire these folks, now.

We also need to get over our STEM preoccupation in education. This fascination has been at the expense of liberal arts education. We should emphasize STEAM over STEM. Instead, we’re devaluing liberal arts and pushing people away from the very necessary humanities. Restore the Arts. We need that A in STEAM.

We need it because tech is in structural and ethical crisis.

We don’t hire enough people, and those we do hire are pretty homogenous.

Instead of criticizing tech workers with music degrees, accelerate hiring from the arts and humanities. Open our pipelines. We need more people. We need more perspectives. We need more humanity.

Cultures that embrace inclusion, compassion, soft skills, and the social model are more productive and humane. We’re better at everything when we hire inclusively and hold the arts and humanities close.

How Nadella turned things around comes back to the book he had his top lieutenants read, and the culture that took hold from there. He has inspired the company’s 124,000 employees to embrace what he calls “learn-it-all” curiosity (as opposed to what he describes as Microsoft’s historical know-it-all bent) that in turn has inspired developers and customers-and investors-to engage with the company in new, more modern ways. Nadella is a contemporary CEO able to emphasize the kinds of soft skills that are often derided in the cutthroat world of corporate politics but are, in today’s fast-moving marketplace, increasingly essential to outsize performance.

Nadella’s approach is gentler. He believes human beings are wired to have empathy, and that’s essential not only for creating harmony at work but also for making products that will resonate. “You have to be able to say, ‘Where is this person coming from?'” he says. “‘What makes them tick? Why are they excited or frustrated by something that is happening, whether it’s about computing or beyond computing?'”

His philosophy stems from one of the principal events of his personal life. In 1996, his first child, Zain, was born with severe cerebral palsy, permanently altering what had been a pretty carefree lifestyle for him and his wife, Anu. For two or three years, Nadella felt sorry for himself. And then-nudged along by Anu, who had given up her career as an architect to care for Zain-his perspective changed. “If anything,” he remembers thinking, “I should be doing everything to put myself in [Zain’s] shoes, given the privilege I have to be able to help him.” Nadella says that this empathy-though he cautions that the word is sometimes overused-“is a massive part of who I am today. . . . I distinctly remember who I was as a person before and after,” he says. “I won’t say I was narrow or selfish or anything, but there was something that was missing.”

Source: Satya Nadella Rewrites Microsoft’s Code

Inclusion is the new normal.

In my professional tribes, we hew to these codes of conduct.

We are committed to making participation in this project a harassment-free experience for everyone, regardless of level of experience, gender, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, disability, personal appearance, body size, race, ethnicity, age, religion, or nationality.

Source: Contributor Covenants & Codes of Conduct

Inclusion is the new normal. Diversity and inclusion are how we build the teams that build the future.

LGBTQ+ folks are well represented at my company, Automattic. We hold events for our 500+ person company all over the world–but not at venues that discriminate against our own.

The norms of professional collaboration are not the norms of the Texas legislature, alas. Here in Texas, we are fighting bathroom bills that threaten inclusion in public schools. Public education should be free, life-changing, and available to everyone. Schools with transmisic bathroom policies break the codes of collaboration and the promise of an education available to all of our kids. Such schools don’t meet the standards for hosting WordCamps, WordPress Meetups, or Automattic sponsored events. They eliminate themselves from hosting meetups for many open source communities, something schools should be doing more of, not less. Phobic policies distance public education from the creative commons and the engines of modernity.

Automattic and the industries we inhabit reject the transphobic values @txvalues and many Texas politicians champion in Texas schools. They are incompatible with our collaborative cultures. The future of work is diversity and inclusion.

Howdy! We are an international company with employees who come from a wide variety of backgrounds. We believe that the more perspectives we embrace, the better we are at engaging our global community of users and developers. We want to build Automattic as an environment where people love their work and show respect and empathy to those with whom we interact.

Diversity typically includes, but is not limited to, differences in race, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, political and religious affiliation, socioeconomic background, cultural background, geographic location, physical disabilities and abilities, relationship status, veteran status, and age. To work on diversity means that we welcome these differences, and strive to increase the visibility of traditionally underrepresented groups. We see inclusion as the ongoing, conscious effort to celebrate difference and welcome people of differing backgrounds and life experiences, whether they’re current or prospective employees, partners, or users of our software.

In 2014 we started to work, as a company, on facilitating spaces for discussions about diversity at Automattic. And at the 2016 annual gathering of all of our employees from over 50 countries, we decided to share with the rest of the world what we are doing about diversity and inclusion here. Because we want you to think about working with us.

Source: Diversity and Inclusion —  Automattic

More diverse companies, we believe, are better able to win top talent and improve their customer orientation, employee satisfaction, and decision making, and all that leads to a virtuous cycle of increasing returns. This in turn suggests that other kinds of diversity—for example, in age, sexual orientation, and experience (such as a global mind-set and cultural fluency)—are also likely to bring some level of competitive advantage for companies that can attract and retain such diverse talent.

  • Companies in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity are 35 percent more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians.
  • Companies in the top quartile for gender diversity are 15 percent more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians.
  • Companies in the bottom quartile both for gender and for ethnicity and race are statistically less likely to achieve above-average financial returns than the average companies in the data set (that is, bottom-quartile companies are lagging rather than merely not leading).
  • In the United States, there is a linear relationship between racial and ethnic diversity and better financial performance: for every 10 percent increase in racial and ethnic diversity on the senior-executive team, earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT) rise 0.8 percent.

Source: Why diversity matters | McKinsey & Company

Simply put, diversity increases the likelihood of a tech company’s survival.

Source: Biased by Design

The business community, by and large, has consistently communicated to lawmakers at every level that such laws are bad for our employees and bad for business. This is not a direction in which states move when they are seeking to provide successful, thriving hubs for business and economic development.

Source: Silicon Valley CEOs Sign Letter Against North Carolina Transgender Law « CBS San Francisco

The results are in. They’ve been in for so long, so consistently, that they’ve become old news: diverse teams outperform. Across industries and organization sizes, teams with more gender and racial diversity return stronger results to investors, retain top performers longer, and make better decisions. It’s not even a close call.

Unconscious bias isn’t a bleeding-heart liberal codeword, it’s a real threat to your business and your ability to find top talent.

Source: Your Diversity Problem isn’t the Pipeline’s Fault

Open Source, at its fundamental levels, is all about inclusion—it’s about always asking the question, “Who am I excluding?” or “Who have I excluded, and need to go back and include.” And then setting forth to make things right by thinking, and acting, as inclusively as possible.

Source: John Maeda: Enlisting With The Next Generation | Design.blog

As American entrepreneurs and business leaders, we believe that the historical commitment to civil liberties as set forth in the United States Constitution is a unique advantage for U.S. businesses — one that is inextricably linked with our global competitiveness and success. Any threat to fundamental civil liberties is bad for American business. It is incumbent on us as entrepreneurs, leaders, and patriotic Americans to speak up. We believe that the rights and liberties enshrined in our Constitution and Bill of Rights are under threat and need to be safeguarded.

In Tech, we have an environment that celebrates the open exchange of ideas without regard to an individual’s background, religious practice, ethnicity or sexual orientation. This ethos has led to the creation of some of the world’s most admired brands — companies that have transformed the way in which the world lives, works, and communicates.

We are concerned about recent incidents of harassment in diverse communities that could lead to a brain drain of much needed talent. Rather than attract the best from throughout the world, we risk losing our edge. Whenever our employees and colleagues experience hostility and fear, we believe, as business leaders, we must support them, unconditionally.

There is a pragmatic reason for this support. Tech talent who are confident their government will guarantee their freedoms — and operate free of fear — are better enabled to create America’s future innovative products. Simply put, innovation in Tech thrives on trust and inclusiveness.

Source: Civil Liberties are Essential for Business and Prosperity

In an era of massive software driven change, the culture of public education should be compatible with the norms of agile teams and distributed collaboration. Self-organizing teams working in open by default, inclusive by default cultures build great things. This is the present and future of work. What we’ve learned over decades of iterating development culture for adult creatives applies also to students.

Our market is the world. Our audience is the world. Designing for the lived experiences of the full spectrum of human diversity requires working inclusively. Together, we will iterate our way through massive software-driven change. We will navigate disruption with compassion, finding opportunity and inspiration in the diversity of our shared humanity. We are humans making things for and with other humans, helping each other cope with sentience and senescence on our pale blue dot.

Inclusion is the new normal. Inclusion is the way to our boldly better future. Diversity is a fact of the modern world that is good for society and good for business.

See also,

 

Diversity & Inclusion Recap #5

In this issue:

  • Autistic empathy and the mind-blindness of everyday people
  • Accessible consumerism and #FoodieAbleism
  • Decolonize science
  • Disability and in-class testing
  • #OwnVoices #CripLit
  • Disability journalism
  • #AutisticWhileBlack
  • Toxic autism awareness
  • Autism Awareness Month
  • Autism puzzle piece
  • Let them stim
  • Corporate D&I
  • Guys and bots
  • #NotSpecialNeeds
  • Trans women “male privilege”
  • Autism discovery
  • Autism representation
  • AP stylebook on gender-neutral pronouns
  • Ableism, unintentional inaccessibility, rights-based supports, universal design
  • Newsroom diversity
  • Wheelchair-bound
  • Disability and dress codes
  • Autism mom
  • Toxic Masculinity, Predatory Men, and Male Paralysis
  • Ableist gates
  • Ableist attendance policies
  • Event accessibility information
  • Analyzing inspiration porn
  • Prove your disability
  • #ThePricePWDPay, #CripTax, and #AcademicAbleism
  • Trans Broken Arm Syndrome
  • Blaming autism
  • Race and racism in the Middle Ages
  • Autism and Moonlight
  • Neuroscience and self-esteem
  • Ableist kink and relationship anarchy
  • Disability shouldn’t define you
  • Tech spreads hate
  • Inclusive work culture
  • Majorities and edge cases
  • Designing for color blindness
  • The Mask You Live In – an exploration of American Masculinity
  • Acute and chronic
  • Backstopping
  • Meritocracy myth
  • Transgender census
  • Online safety guides
  • Resisting exclusion
  • Sensory overload
  • End the awkward
  • Wheelchair flow in NYC
  • Burnt Out: Experiences of Women on the Autism Spectrum
  • Spoons, poverty, and disability
  • #Chronicloaf #FilmDis
  • Racism + capitalism + ableism + education + the violence of the security state
  • Social/medical model misery calculator
  • Data bias
  • Presentation accessibility and comic sans

Autistic empathy and the mind-blindness of everyday people

What I saw in these students instead was hypersensitivity – painful hypersensitivity that caused them to be persistently confused and disoriented about their surroundings and the people around them. It wasn’t that they didn’t care or weren’t empathic; not at all. It was that life was too loud and too intense, full of static and confusion (this idea would soon be called the Intense World theory of autism, see Markram, Rinaldi, & Markram, 2007).

My students were incredibly sensitive to everything around them: sounds (especially very quiet sounds that other people can ignore), colors and patterns, vibrations, scents, the wind, movement (their own and that of the people around them), the feeling of their clothing, the sound of their own hair and their breathing, food, touch, animals, social space, social behavior, electronics, numbers, the movement of traffic, the movement of trees and birds, ideas, music, juxtapositions between voice and body movements, the bizarre, emotion-masking behaviors of “regular” people (oh man, how I empathize)… and many of these students were struggling to stand upright in turbulent and unmanageable currents of incoming stimuli that could not be managed or organized.

These autistic students were overwhelmingly and intensely hyper-empathic – not merely in relation to emotions and social cues, but to nearly every aspect of their sensory environments. Their social issues arose not from a lack of empathy, but from an overpowering surplus of it. I knew what that was like.

I had not landed in a world of aliens; I had dropped right into a community of fellow hyper-empaths who became my friends.

Source: Autism, empathy, and the mind-blindness of everyday people – Karla McLaren

Accessible consumerism and #FoodieAbleism

I need every restaurant and gas station in America to have straws, preferably plastic and bendy. My son, a 10-year-old boy with Down syndrome, has never quite mastered that complex series of motions to drink consistently from the lip of the cup. What he can do, though, is curl his tongue around a straw and create appropriate suction to drink, which was quite the triumph when he first learned it. A whole world of easy hydration opened to us. My family is not alone. Straws are a wildly successful example of assistive technology for millions of people with diverse abilities, all of whom are best served by ubiquitous straws. If Grenier gets people to stop sucking, what about my son?

There’s a deep tension between environmental consumerism and accessible consumerism. Many disabled people have come to rely on prepackaged foods, single-serving products, plastic cups, and yes, straws. On the other hand, there are those in the environmental movement who use shame to push people toward better individual decisions for the environment. Last year, a Twitter user named Nathalie Gordon posted a picture of plastic wrapped pre-peeled oranges, taunting: “If only nature would find a way to cover these oranges so we didn’t need to waste so much plastic on them.” It rapidly went viral and today has over 100,000 retweets and likes.

But for many disabled people, these pre-peeled oranges were wonderful.

Source: Saving the Oceans With My Son and Adrian Grenier – Pacific Standard

http://autchat.com/eating-difficulties/

http://autchat.com/july-5-2015-eating-difficulties-revisited/

http://autchat.com/autchat-mar-19-2017-eating-difficulties-transcript-of-chat/

Decolonize science

Yes your work has a political program: white supremacy.  And in order to work towards one that respects & works with the everyone’s humanity in mind you must work to become a historically competent scientist.  Its time for us to examine the values and political relations in our lives and around us and envision better ones that aren’t based on colonial ideas about gender, race, sexuality, age, ability, etc..

Source: We Need Decolonial Scientists | Decolonize ALL The Things

Disability and in-class testing

I’ve been inching away from the blue book for years, but it’s time to go cold turkey and match my praxis to my principles. Whatever pedagogical gains the in-class test might bring – and I’ll argue they are few and increasingly less relevant – I can no longer justify forcing people with disabilities to disclose their conditions in order to receive basic test-related accommodations.

Not only do students have to disclose disability to their professors —who are no more immune to ableism than to any other sort of bias — but the most common form of accommodation extends the disclosure to classmates. Many students with invisible disabilities (such as anxiety disorders or ADHD) require quiet rooms and extra time to work on a test. I’m thrilled to provide both. On the other hand, when the whole class gathers to take an exam, with one student conspicuously absent, everyone notices.

Source: Why I’m Saying Goodbye to In-Class Tests | Vitae

#OwnVoices #CripLit

Use it for whatever marginalized/diverse identity you want (I personally like the WNDB definition) and for whatever genre, category, or form of art you want. As long as the protagonist and the author share a marginalized identity.

Source: #ownvoices

Disability journalism

Research shows journalists routinely fail to interview disabled people; the humanity of victims is erased from the discourse about such cases; and news outlets often imply that murders of disabled people by caregivers are “justified” or “mercy killings.”

We found it when we saw that in 2015, not a single journalist who reported on one of these stories reached out to a disabled person, let alone the professional experts within the disability rights community. Journalists don’t talk to disabled people.

In the disability rights community, we tend to pass around the worst of the articles. And the worst of the articles are really bad. But I was quite interested in the places where it was clear journalists went into reporting on a murder and were trying to do it in a neutral kind of way, and they still didn’t follow the best practices of “Journalism 101.” Being thoughtful about where you get your reaction quotes: If you get a highly prejudicial quote from one side, try to balance it out on the other side. If you hear a defense attorney put forth a theory on why a crime happened or why a crime didn’t happen, remember that they’re a defense attorney and be really thoughtful about how you use that quote. Really kind of basic stuff. Not in the worst of the cases, not in the worst of the articles, not in the cases where the journalist affirmed a “mercy killing” narrative, which is where I see the really awful examples, but in really pretty OK, kind of neutral reporting, still not following best practices. And as a journalist, that was really useful for me to see, especially to see it 50, 60, 70 times, again and again as a real pattern.

Source: ‘We’re Not Burdens at All’: A Q&A on Media Coverage and the Murders of Disabled People – Rewire

#AutisticWhileBlack

Toxic autism awareness

Our autism awareness campaigns of recent years have indeed made everyone aware of autism, but that public awareness does not match the facts. In fact, in many regards, John Q. Public is only aware enough of autism so as to be toxic to actually autistic people. This is serious. The definition of toxic by Merriam-Webster is “containing or being poisonous material especially when capable of causing serious injury or death.”

Today it seems socially acceptable to blame the evil behaviors of criminals on autism and reprehensible behaviors of politicians on mental illness. Don’t buy into this societally acceptable behavior. To buy into it is to perpetuate it. Each time you do so you are drawing that line between us darker, deeper and wider inviting fear to take up residence, distancing yourself from autistics and/or people mental illness, making us “those people,” the ones othered. In turn we are feared. Remember, people in power can do strange things when they are afraid. Is this the kind of world you want your children to grow up in?

Source: Toxic Autism Awareness: Fact from Fiction? | Judy Endow

Autism Awareness Month

https://boren.blog/2017/04/01/navigating-autism-acceptance-month/

Autism puzzle piece

Let them stim

Corporate D&I

When people feel comfortable sharing their perspectives, diversity can be a competitive advantage; but you can’t have true diversity of perspective without visible diversity. If you’re visibly different from the person sitting next to you, those differences will have played a part in shaping previous interactions and experiences for both of you. As a result, you’ll approach solving problems differently, and together, you’ll make better decisions that don’t give undue privilege to one perspective. Visible diversity is a strong proxy for diversity of perspective.

Source: Monzo – Diversity and Inclusion at Monzo

Guys and bots

Even though many people see “guys” as a harmless, genderless word, not everybody does. You can think of the opposite word to guys (for example: gals or girls) and wonder if a group of men would feel comfortable being referred to as girls. When someone refers to you using a word that you don’t identify with, it’s easy to feel excluded from conversation or misidentified.

This little bot is a small way we can bake in our values, culture, and practices into a communication tool we use every day.

Source: 18F: Digital service delivery | Hacking inclusion: How we customized a bot to gently correct people who use the word ‘guys’

#NotSpecialNeeds

The 21st was Down Syndrome day, which saw the amplification of #NotSpecialNeeds by self-advocates. The effort was accompanied by this great video.

David Perry, a journalist covering disability and neurodiversity who is well-respected among self-advocates, wrote this piece for the occasion. Stop calling some needs special.

I recommend following Mr. Perry on Twitter at@Lollardfish. He is a great outlet for disability perspective.

Also, peruse the #NotSpecialNeeds and #SayTheWord hashtags.

I incorporated the video and article above into my post on The Segregation of Special. Check it out for more disability and neurodiversity perspective on “Special Needs”.

Let’s stop using the word Special. It is tired and hack and in the way of inclusion.

Trans women “male privilege”

Even those of us who spend years in relative comfort with our gender are socialized in a vastly more complex way than Adichie posits. When she says that we are “treated as male by the world,” that’s partly true, but ignores the other ways trans people are treated in Western society: as mentally disturbed fetish objects Hollywood can mine for cheap material. Small wonder I was never able to get rid of that sense of wrongness; it was always being reinforced by the world around me. This comic by Sophie Labelleillustrates (heh) the problem with movies like, say, Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, or The Hangover 2, or any number of other movies where the idea of transness is played for shock and/or laughs. Whether you know you’re trans or not, society has many ways of making sure you know the consequences of straying outside your prescribed gender.

Source: What Trans Women Have Is Far More Complicated Than ‘Male Privilege’

Autism discovery

I relate to this tale of autism self-discovery.

The discovery of my Asperger’s/autism spectrum status was eerily similar for me, except for the “frightening world” part (the world into which I awoke is colorful, peaceful, comforting, nurturing, supportive, validating, connected, and loving). This was only made possible by the loving, supportive, and comforting people and blogs I found early on, however. Otherwise, despite an increased understanding, the world might have become an even colder, pricklier place.

Like Neo in “The Matrix”, I, too, realized the truth about the world, the truth about my role and my place in it, and indeed….who I really was. I realized that my own interaction with-and responses to-the world were based on an illusion of my own: the illusion that I was neurotypical and the accompanying assumption that I “should”, then, be like the “rest of the world”.

I, too, realized that my life up until that moment had indeed been lived under false pretenses.

And in a way, I have to retrace my steps and make a correction to something I said above-the part about the “frightening world”. To be clear, it’s not the world of the Asperger’s/autism spectrum that I found frightening. I actually find the Asperger’s/autism spectrum world infinitely more peaceful and comforting. Rather, it’s the general world at large that eventually has some changing to do. Inclusion and accommodation benefit everyone.

The “rest of the” world became a bit more frightening to me. Not the anxiety-inducing kind…more of the appalling, disgusted kind. Suddenly, I had given myself permission to view the world through a raw and honest lens, and it revealed itself to be one of irrationality, obnoxiousness, boorishness, confusion, rash judgments, and harsh criticism. I gave my permission to be honest with myself about what I saw, and what I saw was unpleasant.

Source: Adult Asperger’s / autism discovery is kind of like the movie ‘The Matrix’… – the silent wave

Autism representation

Representation matters.

So when I found out that Julia was making the leap to television, I didn’t want to get too excited. But the new videos, released in preparation for her network debut in April, give me tentative hope. In particular, the videos demonstrate care and attention to showing non-autistic kids how to interact kindly with autistic friends and classmates - something that could make the new generation of little Sarahs a lot less isolated, anxious, and unhappy. That’s why watching Abby and Julia singing together makes me weep. My heart’s breaking for what could have been if this kind of programming had existed when I was growing up, but it’s also growing three sizes over the thought that it might not happen again in the future.

Whether Big Bird is learning that Julia didn’t mean to offend him when she didn’t acknowledge him right away, Elmo is using his stuffed animal to initiate a game with Julia and her bunny, or Abby is learning to interact and play with her on terms that work for both girls, there’s a distinct focus on learning to socialize with autistic people in these segments that’s been missing from most autism-related media so far. For many non-autistic kids, this will be the first time that they’ve seen autistic kids as equal human beings whose differences can be celebrated instead of shunned. For autistic kids, this isn’t just the first time they’ll be able to see someone like themselves on screen-it might be the first time they’ve ever seen anyone like them treasured by their peers. The inclusion of interactions like this in one of the most influential and beloved children’s television programs of all times has the power to change what happens in classrooms and on playgrounds across the world.

Source: The New Autistic Muppet Could Save People Like Me A Lifetime Of Pain

AP stylebook on gender-neutral pronouns

Ableism, unintentional inaccessibility, rights-based supports, universal design

Thread on ableism and unintentional inaccessibility that touches on rights-based supports and universal design. Relevant to flash talks and GMs.

Ableism threads

https://twitter.com/taylewd/status/84618203953974476

Variability and identity first

A specific manifestation of the argument that one autistic person cannot represent their community applies when considering the perspective of those people on the autism spectrum who don’t easily advocate for themselves. This includes people with intellectual disability and those who are non-speaking or who have extremely limited vocabulary. A great deal of autism research is focused on understanding and providing support specifically to those individuals, their families and their allies. How can we capture their opinions and filter those into our research?

A glib answer is to say that we should ask them. Of course this is true. We could all work harder to find effective ways to understand those autistic people who do not use traditional modes of communication. But this is a massive endeavour, and one in which I think we have only recently begun to make progress. In the meantime, I argue, talking to Autistic self-advocates and representatives of autistic-led organisations is a good starting place.

This isn’t to say that other perspectives should not also be taken into account. Parents, siblings, and people who provide professional support to people on the autism spectrum have a clear role to play. They can be proxy-advocates, with intimate knowledge of the likes and dislikes, strengths and needs of their loved ones. Furthermore, when developing new ways to provide support to autistic people, it is likely that parents and professionals will be involved in the delivery of those supports. Thus, we need to engage with these groups in their own right, as stakeholders in the design and outcomes of research.

BUT we are missng the point if we think doing so can replace engagement with autistic people themselves. Autistic people can elucidate aspects of the autistic experience which are common to many – what does it feel like to flap or stim? what does it feel like to be prevented from doing so? More than that however, I struggle to understand how anyone can claim to care about people with autism and intellectual disability if they don’t also respect people with autism and no intellectual disability. There is an interesting and important conversation to be had about how to better represent the voices of non-speaking autistics. We cannot begin to have this conversation if we don’t first demonstrate our respect for the wider neurodivergent community by listening to their voices, and amplifying them.

Source: Autistic voices, and the problem of the “vocal minority” | DART

Ableism, exclusion, and intersectionality

Newsroom diversity

Liz Spayd, the public editor of The New York Times, wrote an excellent piece noting that of the paper’s 20-plus political reporters during 2016, two were black, and none were Latino, Asian, or Native American. Susan Page of USA Todayresponded within minutes of my sending an initial email to say that the paper’s core political staff consisted of 10 women and eight men; and among those, two Latinos and one African-American. Their level of candor is both refreshing and rare. So far, several other news organizations have promised numbers but are still in the process of delivering.

So I’m going to put this out there for everyone to see. I’m looking for metrics on the racial and gender diversity of newsroom political teams-notes on how to share yours are below-and for us to self-report because it’s the right thing to do. We should not be ashamed by these numbers, whatever they are, but we should be deeply ashamed if we hide them.

Why write about diversity in newsrooms now?

Arguably, 2016 was the most racially contentious and gender-fraught election of the modern era. This election required extraordinary things of journalists. Sometimes we lived up to the challenge; but in many other ways, we missed the mark. When it comes to the diversity of our political reporting teams, it seems we can’t even find out what the mark is, because despite our proclaimed love affair with data, we won’t disclose our own.

Source: One question that turns courageous journalists into cowards – Columbia Journalism Review

Wheelchair-bound

Disability and dress codes

Autism mom

On the term “autism mom” and centering parents.

Toxic Masculinity, Predatory Men, and Male Paralysis

I work hard to practice what I preach and feel I make contributions small and even large to a kinder and more compassionate world - a world in which women and children need not ever fear men.

But even the best men walk in the wake of the worst men have given this world - the worst men continue to give to this world, and the females and children who must suffer for that.

Each man must moment by moment examine how he is culpable, where and how he stands in this world in relationship to females and children.

The dilemma of navigating the world as a man is couched in the unearned privilege, the potential for an abuse of unearned power that shouts out “First, do no harm.”

Source: Toxic Masculinity, Predatory Men, and Male Paralysis

Ableist gates

Ableist attendance policies

Event accessibility information

Thread on providing accessibility information for events.

https://ryelle.codes/2016/02/accessibility-for-wordcamps/

Analyzing inspiration porn

This thread analyzes an inspiration porn meme.

Prove your disability

#ThePricePWDPay, #CripTax, and #AcademicAbleism

Trans Broken Arm Syndrome

Would a licensed medical doctor with years of training really be unsure of what to do with a broken arm just because it was attached to a transgender person?

That’s the simple question at the heart of a complex issue dubbed “Trans Broken Arm Syndrome.” The term was coined by Naith Payton at British LGBT site Pink Newson July 9 to describe when “healthcare providers assume that all medical issues are a result of a person being trans. Everything – from mental health problems to, yes, broken arms.”

This phenomenon is just one of many difficulties transgender people face when seeking healthcare. Even for something as common as a cold, trans people frequently don’t receive appropriate medical care due to a combination of under-educated physicians, insurance coverage denials, and fear of discrimination.

Source: ‘Trans Broken Arm Syndrome’ and the way our healthcare system fails trans people | The Daily Dot

Blaming autism

Anthony Corona died after being placed with his head between his legs for twelve minutes. In the aftermath, the coronor at least partially blamed autism for his death.

I’m looking for the actual report, but this trend of blaming a diagnosis, rather than the violence visited on the disabled body, is both pernicious and pervasive. This kind of restraint is lethal far too often to far too many people, and in the aftermath, medical and law enforcement authorities fixate on the disability rather than the action (even should the action be justified). See both Ethan Saylor and Eric Garner for widely publicized examples.

Source: How Did We Get Into This Mess?: Coroner Blames Autism. for the death a Latino Autistic Student held Upsidedown

Race and racism in the Middle Ages

A lot of the excellent new work that has been done on race and racism in the Middle Ages-both in this series and also within academia-focuses either on telling the stories of people of color in the Middle Ages, or understanding how the racial categorizations of people of color came to be. But whiteness, as a racial category, was also under construction during this period. In medieval Britain, there was a centuries-long dispute over who had the right to feel British.

Over the course of the Middle Ages, ‘Britishness’-the right to claim British identity-became racial property. I call this racial identity a ‘property’ (an idea I’m taking from Cheryl I. Harris) to emphasize its status as an object of political power. Like real estate, Britishness in the Middle Ages became a thing to be owned. And it had value. By appropriating the anti-imperialist ideas of the very peoples they had subjugated, English writers represented themselves as the heroes of their political history.

Source: Feeling ‘British’ | The Public Medievalist

Autism and Moonlight

Everyone is human. Everyone is mundane. We are all just mundane in our own specific ways

“It’s not about homosexuality at all. It’s about what happens to you when you can’t love anybody. It doesn’t make a difference if you can’t love a woman or if you can’t love a man”).

For the autistic viewer, I Am Not Your Negro should serve as a strong reminder of the importance of self advocacy.

Source: Chiron, James Baldwin, and Autistic Experience | NOS Magazine

Neuroscience and self-esteem

Mindset marketing is not support.

Ableist kink and relationship anarchy

Disability shouldn’t define you

Tech spreads hate

One the monetization of hate.

On a website owned by white nationalist leader Richard Spencer, Ellis saw an ad for his engineering company, Optics for Hire, pop up on the screen – even though he had never knowingly bought the ad.

What Ellis had stumbled on was a little-known facet of the booming world of Internet advertising. Businesses using the latest in online advertising technology offered by Google, Yahoo and major competitors are also increasingly finding their ads placed alongside politically extreme and derogatory content.

That’s because the ad networks offered by Google, Yahoo and others can display ads on vast numbers of third-party websites based on people’s search and browsing histories. Although the strategy gives advertisers an unprecedented ability to reach customers who fit a narrow profile, it dramatically curtails their ability to control where their advertisements appear.

“No one has any idea where their ads are going,” said Ellis. In some cases, he added, ad networks “are monetizing hate.”

Source: For advertisers, algorithms can lead to unexpected exposure on sites spewing hate – The Washington Post

Inclusive work culture

In 2013, I wrote a lengthy rant about culture in tech workplaces. It was a symptom of larger problems I was experiencing at the time-I was a woman of color drowning in a tech bro’s paradise. Constant rumors and bullying caused people to form cliques; alcohol was the only escape most employees had from the hostility. It was impossible for me to be productive, and I wanted to understand why.

The only answer was culture. I couldn’t change culture at this company, so I wrote about it then left as soon as possible. Nonetheless, the experience stayed with me. How do companies, I continued to wonder, design workplace cultures that retain employees? I spent the next few years learning from my time at other companies. Now, I would like to share some of those learnings with you.

Recently, “culture” has become a buzzword in tech. Free beer, ping pong tables, and other material perks such as endless snacks and sleeping rooms are often paraded as reasons for prospective employees to join. I was swayed by these kinds of benefits at a few points in my career. Each time, I found myself burned out, overworked, and undervalued after the honeymoon period passed.

Fancy offices and alcohol-laden parties, it appears, can’t replace a lack of direction. Organizational culture is about more than materialism.

Source: Catt Small on Designing an Inclusive Workplace Culture | Design.blog

Majorities and edge cases

The Googles, Facebooks, and Twitters were conceived as services for all. And yet, they were unsurprisingly born prioritizing the needs of their creators: primarily able, young, white American men. While many of these companies are trying to march to a more inclusive tune, much of Silicon Valley still designs exclusively for that particular American man. The rest of us are an edge case, someone to deal with after the “majority,” and only if it’s convenient for this said “majority.”

If you design with a white male majority in mind, the math is easy. Inconvenience the fewest number of people, allow an escape hatch for emergencies. But what happens when someone we consider an edge case actually receives a rape threat?

Source: Ash Huang: How Much Poison Is Acceptable in Our Technology? | Design.blog

Designing for color blindness

The Mask You Live In – an exploration of American Masculinity

On the harm of “be a man”.

Acute and chronic

Backstopping

Backstopping is by nature a form of back-up support. It’s a tricky balance of recognizing that a potential crisis is arising and then giving me a chance to deal with it before stepping in to help or offer support.

Source: Backstopping: Supporting the Autistic Person in Your Life | Musings of an Aspie

Meritocracy myth

Thread.

The Pipeline Problem and the Meritocracy Myth

Transgender census

Online safety guides

http://geekfeminism.wikia.com/wiki/Online_harassment

https://onlinesafety.feministfrequency.com/en/

https://www.adl.org/cyber-safety-action-guide

http://smartprivacy.tumblr.com/buy-it-now

Resisting exclusion

Some backstory on how my town (Dripping Springs) resisted exclusion. Seeing some folks slowly change their minds was heartening.

https://twitter.com/many_stripes/status/846434938538901505

Sensory overload

End the awkward

Wheelchair flow in NYC

Burnt Out: Experiences of Women on the Autism Spectrum

Successful to Burnt Out features women who’ve considered ourselves successful in our primary role. We’ve had to slow down or stop working. Some of us didn’t know why life became exponentially harder. Why we had burnt out. We realised our limitations and finally put names to them. Anxiety. Depression. Late in life, we found out it was also from being on the Autism Spectrum. How have we dealt with being a shell of what we once were? How did we go from being successful to burnt out? Where are we now in life’s journey?

Abianac, Karletta; Abbott, Lorraine; Isaacs, Kathy; Eartharcher, Laina; Marxon, Liz (2017-04-02). Successful to Burnt Out: Experiences of Women on the Autism Spectrum (I’ve been there too Darl Book 1) (Kindle Locations 30-34). Self Published. Kindle Edition.

Spoons, poverty, and disability

Thread.

#Chronicloaf #FilmDis

Racism + capitalism + ableism + education + the violence of the security state

Social/medical model misery calculator

One of the first things I wrote on my blog that came straight out of my head, and wasn’t a commentary on something else, was an idea I called the Misery Calculator.

It grew out my attempt to more fully understand one of the core ideas of disability culture … that the suffering in disability comes from ableism and external barriers, not from our disabilities themselves. I accepted this for years. Yet, I always found that there were some aspects of my actual disabilities that were hard to live with, and couldn’t be blamed on anything or anyone else but my own physical condition. When I got into disability blogging, I found others in the disability community, particularly “chronically ill” people and “spoonies,” who seemed to have the same experience, somewhere between the Medical and Social Models of disability. A perfectly accessible, non-ableist world would be a lot better in a thousand ways, but at least some of our disabilities would still be there, causing at least some amount of misery.

So I came up with six measures of “misery” associated with disabilities. Three of them are basically “medical,” existing in your own body, and three are “social,” factors that exist in the world outside of yourself. For this post, I’ve tweaked the categories and definitions a little, but they’re basically the same. I’ve also decided to change the name of the thing to Disability Calculator. Here are the measures, roughly defined:

Medical

Pain / Illness
How much do you hurt and / or feel like garbage?

Stamina / “Spoons”
How much energy do you have to do things?

Physical & Mental Functioning
How well or poorly is your body and / or mind operating?

Social

Physical Barriers
How often are you blocked or inconvenienced by physical barriers?

Lack Of Tools & Supports
To what degree do you have or lack the tools and supports you need, and do they work right?

Ableism
How much does disability prejudice deprive you of opportunities and / or add to your stress?

This corresponds to the Medical Model / Social Model idea. The six point set of measures, divided into two broad categories, allow you to get a feel for how much each “model” really describes your disability experience. You also get a 0 to 30 point measure of how much overall disability you experience, both Medical and Social.

Source: Misery Calculator: Reheated, Renamed — Disability Thinking

Data bias

Presentation accessibility and comic sans

The day my sister, Jessica, discovered Comic Sans, her entire world changed. She’s dyslexic and struggled through school until she was finally diagnosed in her early twenties, enabling her to build up a personal set of tools for navigating the written world.

“For me, being able to use Comic Sans is similar to a mobility aid, or a visual aid, or a hearing aid,” she tells me while we’re both visiting our family in Maryland. “I have other ways of writing and reading, but they’re not like they are for someone who’s not dyslexic.”

Source: Hating Comic Sans Is Ableist – The Establishment

Affinity Groups, Psychological Safety, and Inclusion

Dig into project-based learning, self-directed learning, and voice and choice, and you’ll find psychological safety at the heart. Dig into privilege, and find psychological safety. Dig into creative teams, affinity groups, Employee Resource Groups (ERGs), Business Resource Groups (BRGs), and Employee Networks (ENs), and find psychological safety.

Psychological safety is necessary to building creative, collaborative teams. We’re learning that in the industries I inhabit, and I see that same learning happening in the self-directed learning space. Students and workers don’t want to leave their real lives at home. They want to design for their real lives–in psychological safety.

At Automattic, we have chat channels and blogs for and by employees belonging to various identity groups. I hang out in our neurodiversity, bluehackers, and over-40 channels, as well as our inclusion channel. I participate on our D&I blog where we talk about making our company more inclusive and compassionate, about designing for the real lives of our employees, our customers, and the full spectrum of humanity. These channels and blogs are distributed ERGs. They are affinity groups where we can share in psychological safety amongst those who understand–and influence our companies and industries.

Kids at school need the same thing. They need identity, tribe, and voice. Kids should be treated at least as well as adults on creative teams. They should have the psychological safety afforded creatives. Kids are nucleation sites of creation when we provide them psychological safety and welcoming tribes who understand their lived experience—and then get out of the way.

Communication is oxygen. Provide the atmosphere, connect tribes, let affinity groups and self-organizing teams develop, and watch students thrive and create.

Cultural competence is a business imperative that can no longer be ignored and employee resource groups must serve as the engine to make us all smarter about the future that awaits.

Source: 7 Ways to Enable Your Employee Resource Groups into a Powerful Advancement Platform

At AT&T, having “a true culture of inclusion where every voice matters” is one of the reasons the company has been so successful in its diversity and inclusion initiatives, says Cynthia Marshall, senior vice president, human resources and chief diversity officer. Over the past decade, the company has created a dozen employee resource groups (ERGs) and employee networks (ENs). ERGs are nonprofit groups that provide support, advocacy, education, mentoring, and more to groups such as women, generations, military veterans, people with disabilities, and members of the LGBT community. ENs are more informal, typically focus on business or professional development issues, and are developed with cross-functional diversity as a priority.

These employee groups provide forums for people with common interests to connect, but that’s not all. “We have people that come in and want to know more about different cultures, so they’ll join that particular ERG and expand their knowledge,” Marshall says.

They help people feel comfortable and heard, and also give other employees the opportunity to learn more about people who are different than they are. In addition, leadership involvement in these groups helps employees find role models and mentors. Marshall says that leadership involvement and behavior modeling is an essential component of an inclusive culture.

Source: How These Top Companies Are Getting Inclusion Right | Fast Company | Business + Innovation

As a result, more companies are leveraging their workforces to reach diverse customers and communities. One way they are doing this is through the innovative use of employee resource groups (ERGs)—voluntary, employee-led groups made up of individuals who join together based on common interests, backgrounds or demographic factors such as gender, race or ethnicity.

That experience motivated me to conduct my own research. I discovered that more than half of the companies with fully developed diversity strategies use their ERGs to improve the business in three ways:

  • First, they make sure employees have an opportunity to be heard, valued and engaged.
  • Second, they gain a better understanding of who their customers are.
  • Last but not least, they get insight on business performance, because smart companies understand that if they don’t grow, they won’t be around very long.

More than 70 percent of the organizations I studied relied on their ERGs to build a workforce that reflected the demographics of their customer base; the thinking was that customers would be more loyal and would feel more comfortable if they did business with people who understand them. Almost 30 percent got assistance from their employee resource groups to increase the organization’s spend with diverse suppliers.

At 90 percent of the companies I examined, ERG members helped new employees to get comfortable during the onboarding process. Studies show that the first 60 to 90 days of employment are a critical time for any new hire, and they can be particularly challenging for members of traditionally underrepresented groups. That short window of time can mean the difference between whether an employee stays for the long run or leaves the organization before the year is out. ERGs can be leveraged to acclimate employees and engender a sense of loyalty and belonging to their new company.

These groups can also be great partners for identifying gaps in an organization’s talent development process. Sixty-three percent of the companies I surveyed have an employee resource group focused on young professionals. Given how fickle Millennial employees can be when it comes to staying at a job, giving them a forum to network and grow is a great way to reduce turnover rates.

Many companies also successfully use their ERGs to improve the organization’s leadership development process, to drive results, to forge relationships, and to ensure alignment between their business and diversity strategies.

The data clearly suggest that employee resource groups are not only good for business—they are essential!

Source: Are Employee Resource Groups Good for Business?

Increasingly, the roles and responsibilities of employee resource groups (ERGs) in organizations must transition from social networks to think-tank type groups that directly impact the business.  The changing face of America’s workforce demands it.  It is an opportunity that will allow the voices of employees to be heard and the power of diverse thinking to influence the new ground-rules that will define the workplace of the future; its workforce, clients and consumers.    Employee resource groups that serve only as social networks will do little to strengthen the voices and identities of those who must represent the leadership of America’s future.

For ERGs to transition into think-tank type groups requires consistent participation, with active members that remain engaged to advance its mission to impact the business.  In many companies, ERGs are being forced to redefine their “engagement model” in order to recruit and retain long-term volunteer participation that is purposeful and that rewards employees for their efforts – by helping them advance their careers, develop their leadership skills, and gain greater visibility with and access to senior executives so that they can get discovered.

ERGs must become smarter about defining what they are ultimately trying to accomplish for themselves and the business, and then create a metric to enforce accountability to assure their objectives are being measured and attained.   ERGs are only as effective as the overall commitment of their members and the incremental benefits they receive for their participation.   ERGs must view themselves as a formidable advancement platform for talent and business development activity.  They must be focused on defining a value proposition that is more strategically aligned to seeing and seizing business innovation and growth opportunities that are directly related to one’s cultural, gender, sexual-orientation and societal identity.  ERGs must become more deliberate in how to enable unique thinking into different points of view and perspectives that translate into solutions to meet corporate growth objectives and initiatives across channels, brands and business units.

Cultural competence is a business imperative that can no longer be ignored and employee resource groups must serve as the engine to make us all smarter about the future that awaits.

Source: 7 Ways to Enable Your Employee Resource Groups into a Powerful Advancement Platform

Many of our readers here know that leading an Employee Resource Group also means stretching beyond what’s comfortable, on multiple, frequent levels.

But I have seen firsthand the stories of people identifying as LGBT or working in support of LGBT equality at work – who have emerged in their companies as stronger leaders as a result of that work. I have seen this occur over and over; it has in fact happened to me, and transformed my leadership skills and style. I have come to embrace the challenges I’ve faced – both real and perceived – as a gift which shaped the uniqueness with which I show up in the world. Some of my inspiring colleagues took their own quantum leap by coming out in the workplace, while others began their transformation or connected the dots in one of our programs. As a result, many managers of these individuals are seeing their leadership show up differently. Our hope is more and more leaders are able to align their diversity story with their leadership journey. This would go a long way towards building more inclusive workplaces.

In our keynotes and workshops, we provide tools, techniques, and a trusting environment in which LGBTA employees can find their individual voice in ERGs at work and, as they do, in their role as leaders in those ERGs and in the company at large.

ERGs are workplace teams, and leading them means being able to feel confident, the way Scott did, or communicate the way Benjamin did. Openness about one’s diversity story empowers others, provides role models and is a universal leveler in which the common denominator is not only one’s humanity but also one’s strength and ability to guide others and act in an informed, constructive way.

Source: Aligning With Our Own Diversity Story Makes Us Better Leaders | Diversity Best Practices

Tolanda Tolbert, PhD, Director of the Inclusive Leadership Initiative of the Catalyst Group, responded with a fascinating idea. She points to Employee Resource Groups, (ERGs) the voluntary, employee-led organizations that typically work to smooth the way for their members, but which have been increasingly tackling the thornier issues of race, inclusion and justice in their companies and communities.

“We would suggest that the work that most ERGs do could be leveraged to create a space where the targeted communities and the authorities could meet and have a dialog,” she says, referring to the police and aggrieved activists in Charlotte. “We could also see ERGs functioning as advisors to either side of this conversation-working as a bridge to communication,” she says.

Tolbert, who studies and consults with ERGs as part of her job, thinks they can grow into a management force for change. “For example, imagine that situation with Arizona passing discriminatory laws,” she says. “We could see an ERG telling their leadership not to have their annual conference in a location, or to stop sponsorship of an event.”

Source: Charlotte Violence: How Employees Can Make A Difference | Fortune.com

Our employees are a bridge to our customers. So it’s important that they feel encouraged to contribute their unique insight and skills to help solve some of the most complex technology challenges. We support seven major employee groups and over 40 employee networks that help us build a supportive community across Microsoft.

Source: Global Diversity and Inclusion Home

Enrichment occurs when our workplace participation leaves us energized instead of exhausted, enhances our personal identity rather than diminishes it, and provides us with skills and tools that will help us not only survive but thrive in our lives outside of work.

So how can organizations help support work-life enrichment for their employees? I reflect on that question often as I work with the organizations in our Boston College Workforce Roundtable and consider how they can enhance their employees’ work experience. In a presentation at our recent Roundtable Spring Meeting, we heard from Jennifer Brown, Founder and CEO of Jennifer Brown Consulting, a thought leader on Employee Resource Groups (ERGs). She discussed the progression of these employee networks from their origins as “affinity groups” for diverse employees, helping people connect with like others. She then highlighted the on-going transformation of these networks to Business Resource Groups (BRGs). BRGs are the new trend in employee networks, and are highly connected to organizational strategy and defined business goals. ERGs or BRGs can assist with recruiting new employees of diverse backgrounds, developing and marketing products and services to an increasingly diverse marketplace, and providing opportunities for professional growth and advancement for participants.

The evolution of these employee networks offer meaningful opportunities for employees to network, grow, learn and be energized by their experiences. In short, they can promote work-life enrichment.

While the benefits of participating in an ERG transcend the relationships formed, the message that resonated with me most was employers affording employees an opportunity to connect with others, not necessarily of similar backgrounds, but with similar interests. I realized how important making those personal and professional connections has been to me and my own job satisfaction, and recalled the research from Gallup and others on the importance of having “friends” and close colleagues at work.

Participating in an ERG can be one way to enhance the employee experience. By connecting with others, developing relationships and leadership skills, and contributing back to the community, employees may be energized and feel a greater sense of alliance with the organization. Beyond their original intent to catalyze organizational diversity, today ERGs have the potential to foster work-life enrichment and therefore become a worthwhile investment for the company as a whole.

Source: Employee Resource Groups and Work-Life Enrichment | Jennifer Sabatini Fraone | Pulse | LinkedIn

Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) have existed in organizations for more than 40 years. In the past 5 years, however, ERGs have evolved from networking groups that promote diversity and inclusion to become key contributors to business strategy and operations. In our current global economy, multicultural competency and understanding is critical for business success. ERGs can utilize employee knowledge and expertise for talent management (recruitment/retention of diverse employees); to create culturally sensitive product development, marketing, and customer service as well as supplier diversity; and for building an inclusive and engaged workforce. ERGs are known by various names including affinity groups, employee networks and diversity councils. DiversityInc found that organizations often use the word “resource” to reflect the benefits of ERGs to the business mission, approach and outcomes. Welbourne, Rolf & Schlachter (2015) suggest that the term “business resource group” will be used more in the future to emphasize the benefits of ERGs to both employees and organizations.

The ERGs with the most traction and interest tend to be those ERGs that are closely linked to business strategy. When employees perceive their efforts to as directly impacting business outcomes, they are more likely to get involved (Mercer, 2011).

Employee Resource Groups have evolved from employee support networks created to achieve diversity and inclusion to a strategic resources that enhances business outcomes in the following areas:

  1. Involve employees in recruitment and talent management efforts
  2. Offer leadership development and mentoring opportunities
  3. Capitalize on the knowledge of diverse employees to create consumer sensitive branding and product development
  4. Create an engaged and inclusive work environment
  5. Promote your organization as an employer of choice and community partner

Source: Employee Resource Groups: A Strategic Business Resource for Today’s Workplace

The Gift: LD/ADHD Reframed

This talk by Jonathan Mooney is social model music. I include it in my primer on the social model for minds and bodies. Mooney provides necessary insight into neurodivergent learners. Every minute is worth your time. I’ve pulled quotes from the talk below, as well as a handful of quotes from the introduction to his book Learning Outside The Lines: Two Ivy League Students With Learning Disabilities And ADHD Give You The Tools For Academic Success and Educational Revolution.

Mooney’s perspective offers many takeaways. Two critical ones for me are these rules of thumb.

  • agent > patient
  • identity > diagnosis

Challenge our definition of where disability lies.

We’ve built an entire edifice of intervention that’s about fixing people.

It’s not their minds or bodies that truly disable them. It’s how environment reacts to those differences. That’s where disability lies. Folks don’t have disability, they experience disability in environments that aren’t accessible and inclusive.

We should spend more time talking about how we change the environment that surrounds people and not the people themselves.

I did not overcome dyslexia. I overcame dysteachia. I overcame environments that weren’t built for my brain.

It’s that narrow definition of intelligence, behavior, and motivation that is really my disability. Not dyslexia, not ADHD.

In many learning environments we think good kids sit still. The good kid is the compliant kid.

Young folks like me are given the identity of being bad.

“What is your problem?” If I had a nickel for every time I heard that word in my life.

I was given this identity that I was a problem because of a norm in the environment that good kids sit still.

Difficult children make interesting adults.

We’ve built learning environments based on the myth that appropriate and valuable human behavior is about compliance.

We have conflated reading with intelligence.

We’ve left so many brains out.

We shouldn’t be asking ourselves, “how smart am I?” We should be asking, “how am I smart?”

I had overcome not ADHD, but I had overcome the feeling of being the defective person morally because I didn’t comply to the myth that good kids are compliant.

Intrinsic motivators are drivers like autonomy, mastery, and purpose.

We’ve built most of our learning environments with sticks and carrots.

We’ve negated the power of choice and the power of letting folks craft an education that is grounded in their aspirations, their vision for themselves.

How do we build learning environments that embrace intrinsic motivation: autonomy, mastery, and purpose?

An essential component of my journey was an identity transformation from being a patient to being an agent.

You don’t need somebody to fix you. You need somebody to fight for you, and with you, because what’s happening to you is an injustice.

It ain’t right for somebody to be marginalized for a difference.

I need to cultivate a rights based paradigm, a diversity framework, and I need to become an advocate against what is a form of discrimination and marginalization. That’s an important transformation in agency.

You gotta fight against this, you gotta be an advocate, you gotta have a voice in your education.

Consistently cultivate the language of high expectations.

Y’all know the file, right? This has been the thing that had been following me since I started special education. Those things are thick and deep. KGB got nothing on special ed.

That’s agency. That’s somebody who refuses to negate somebody’s humanity because of a label.

We spend so much time talking about the problem, we lose the person.

We spend so much time captured in this language of deficit that we lower expectations.

We’ve built this whole infrastructure about fixing folks, about turning people into passive recipients of treatment and service, of turning people into patients. But being a patient is the most disempowered place a human being can be.

We need to cultivate a sense of agency in people which is the opposite of patient hood.

The most meaningful interventions, the most meaningful people in my life were people who cultivated a sense of agency.

Real intellectuals, they don’t care how you get there, they just want you to get there.

He was gonna hold me to the highest expectations, but he was gonna give me multiple ways to meet those expectations. And that is what an agency education is all about.

How well I know something is more important than how fast I know something. We are not trying to educate a generation of Jeopardy contestants.

Accommodate, and change the environment.

Multiple ways to reach those expectations with a flexibility in the classroom that was inclusive of learning diversity.

Switch from a deficit paradigm to an asset-based strength paradigm.

When all we do is fix people, the message we give to them is that they are broken. Nobody lives a meaningful life feeling broken.

It’s essential that we cultivate that capability framework, that asset based framework.

The moment that I could switch from what’s wrong with me to what’s right with me was a significant part of my journey.

Most of my education was all about what I couldn’t do.

We spent thousands dollars, thousands of hours on trying to fix one trait, frankly, perhaps the most irrelevant trait in the world in the 21st century, and that is spelling. God bless spellchecker.

The energy gone into fixing spelling, to worrying about spelling, it’s staggering.

All week we invested time, money, and relationship capital on fixing that irrelevant trait.

We’re not doing the spelling test today. We’re ditching school and going to the zoo.

The reporter asked me, “Jonathan, give my an inspiring message about how you got to Brown University for young people.” And I said, “ditch school.” Because what we and my mom did every Friday was we spent time getting good at something. We spent time developing strength. She literally called it the “get good at something day.” We spent time being interested in the world. We spent time figuring out where my capacities were, talking about how to make my way in the world with my capacities, not my deficits, but my assets. That was a radical shift in my life.

There is research is piling up every day that shows that school, including higher education, is trying to create generalists for a world of specialists.

More than ever the world rewards specialist knowledge.

School is the only place where we ask human beings to be good at all things.

We need to challenge how we’re forcing everyone to be the same in our educational models with this ideal notion of a generalist approach to being successful. The most successful human beings aren’t good at everything, they’re good at one or two things and they scale those strengths. How do they mitigate those weaknesses? They mitigate those weaknesses the way we all do, with teams, technology, and support.

I married my spellchecker. It’s called strategic mating.

We build supportive networks, we use technology, and we build a life not about what’s wrong with us, we build a life around what’s right with us.

We have built learning environments, our culture, our communities, around the myth of normal and average. That myth of normal and average has bombarded all people with a pervasive imperative that to be okay as a human being, to be acceptable as a human, you have to strive for this mythical norm, this mythical average, which by definition does not exist.

We didn’t have the word normal in the English language until the 1860s. Normal is a product linguistically of the industrial revolution , of standardizing production, of moving in a place that’s forcing people to fit that standardized mold. Normal is a statistical concept, not a fact in the world.

Challenging that myth of normal is a philosophical imperative because we are doubling down normal.

We have a medical community that’s found a sickness for every single human difference. DSM keeps growing every single year with new ways to be defective, with new ways to be lessened.

The myth of normal is what’s broken, and the identity that, if you don’t fit it, that you are less than, that’s what’s broken. We need to reframe what we problematize, not bodies, not difference, but this pervasive imperative to be normal.

All progress, all evolution, is driven by deviations from the norms.

All evolution and progress is driven by mutations and deviations. If we lose that, if we eradicate that, we have lost our strength as a community, as a society.

Disability industrial complex is all about what people can’t do. We spend most of our time trying to fix what they can’t do. When all we do is fix people the message we give to them is that they are broken.

We have created a system that has you submit yourself, or your child, to patient hood to access the right to learn differently. The right to learn differently should be a universal human right that’s not mediated by a diagnosis.

Source: Jonathan Mooney: “The Gift: LD/ADHD Reframed” – YouTube

Learning Outside the Lines

For centuries, the word stupid, combined with various intensifiers like bad, lazy, willful, or weak has been used to create a moral “diagnosis.” That moral diagnosis has ruined millions of lives.

Our life struggles had more to do with freeing ourselves from the institution of education than transcending our own personal weakness.

It is a loss and a crime when creativity, alternative learning skills, and an individualized education take a back seat to rote memorization, standardized testing, and the misconception that all people learn the same way.

Education is one of the most beautiful and liberating things we can pursue in our lives, but too often it is approached as a restrictive, punitive, linear, and moralistic act.

Throughout our lives, we had looked to the idea of succeeding in school to define our worth and our intelligence. In childhood, we were told we were defective goods, and to be better we had to be other than what we were.

Ultimately our diagnoses and the subsequent attempts at intervention allowed people to blame us, two powerless kids, for our failure instead of turning a critical eye toward the environment. It took us fifteen years of personal and academic struggle to stop blaming ourselves, to stop believing that we are inherently defective like “they” thought, and to come to realize how profound an effect the environment had on our inability to succeed. Only as time went on did simple interventions like the ability to get up out of our seats, the use of a spell checker, and progressive ideas like project-based learning and other modifications to the learning environment allow the pathology to slip into irrelevance and enable us to be successful. Our hard wiring is a simple cognitive difference. We all have them. But an oppressive educational environment that blames children for their failures caused us to grow up with the stigma of pathology.

Behavior becomes a social indicator of morality, marking which kids are good kids and which kids are bad, and the highest value is one of conformity, passivity, and obedience.

The underlying notion is that all kids develop at the same time in a linear, sequential manner, and if some kids cannot read early, they are not intelligent. This environment gave us an identity at a time when our personality was malleable, an identity that revolved around the teacher, the authority figure in the room. We did not question the rules and the identity handed to us. We were taught that sitting still and getting gold stars on our math homework were more important than art and ideas, and much more important than what kind of people we were and how we treated other kids.

Mooney, Jonathan; Cole, David (2014-07-01). Learning Outside The Lines: Two Ivy League Students With Learning Disabilities And Adhd Give You The Tools F. Touchstone. Kindle Edition.

Neurodiversity and Cognition Representation

Discussion at Automattic about our branding guide and D&I statement has me thinking about neurodiversity representation.

From our D&I statement:

Diversity typically includes, but is not limited to, differences in race, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, political and religious affiliation, socioeconomic background, cultural background, geographic location, physical disabilities and abilities, relationship status, veteran status, and age.

People want to see themselves represented when they read these lists of identities. Disability is often forgotten when talking diversity. Contributor covenants and corporate D&I statements are much better about including disability these days, but disability is still forgotten or diminished in many communities and movements.

While we’re getting somewhat better at acknowledging physical disability, neurodiversity is almost always forgotten. It’s not even on the radar. The biggest part of my identity–my operating system, my sizzling wires–doesn’t make these lists.

Perhaps we can acknowledge neurodiversity by adopting the “infinite variation in neurocognitive functioning” language that many neurodiversity self-advocates use. The social model applies to minds and bodies. Let’s not leave out the minds. Our varied operating systems make teams great. Acknowledging neurodiversity can be as simple as introducing the word “cognition” or “neurotype“. Neurodiversity communities often use “wiring” and “operating system” metaphors, but cognition or neurotype might be better for a diversity statement. The dictionary definitions suit:

cognition – the mental action or process of acquiring knowledge and understanding through thought, experience, and the senses.

neurotype – A type of brain, in terms of how a person interprets and responds to social cues, etc.

Adding “cognition” or “neurotype” provides neurodiversity representation without pathologizing. I can see myself in those words, but I’m steeped in the language of the social model. Do you see yourself in either of these words? Are they too clinical and scary? I prefer social model language to medical model language (identity > diagnosis, agent > patient), but cognition shows up in pretty much every definition of neurodiversity and neurotype is widely used in neurodiversity communities. Neurodiversity is the social model for cognition.

Adopting either of these words into our D&I statements acknowledges neurodiversity.

Neurodiversity is the diversity of human brains and minds – the infinite variation in neurocognitive functioning within our species.

The neurodiversity paradigm is a specific perspective on neurodiversity – a perspective or approach that boils down to these fundamental principles:

1.) Neurodiversity is a natural and valuable form of human diversity.

2.) The idea that there is one “normal” or “healthy” type of brain or mind, or one “right” style of neurocognitive functioning, is a culturally constructed fiction, no more valid (and no more conducive to a healthy society or to the overall well-being of humanity) than the idea that there is one “normal” or “right” ethnicity, gender, or culture.

3.) The social dynamics that manifest in regard to neurodiversity are similar to the social dynamics that manifest in regard to other forms of human diversity (e.g., diversity of ethnicity, gender, or culture). These dynamics include the dynamics of social power inequalities, and also the dynamics by which diversity, when embraced, acts as a source of creative potential.

Source: Neurodiversity: Some Basic Terms & Definitions

The word “neurodiversity” was coined in the 1990s by an Australian sociology grad student named Judy Singer after reading a book about the social model of disability, which proposes that disability is a product of the way society is organised, rather than by limitations imposed by a person’s condition. In a world without wheelchair ramps and accessible buildings, wheelchair users have very few choices about where they can go. But in a world that accommodates wheelchair users, they have many more choices. Neurodiversity extends the social model of disability into the realm of cognitive differences like autism, dyslexia, and ADHD. How can we make the world safer and more welcoming to people with these conditions so they can lead happier, healthier, and more autonomous lives? That’s the question that the neurodiversity movement asks.

Source: Steve Silberman recommends the best books on Autism

Neurodiversity: the notion that conditions like autism, dyslexia, and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) should be regarded as naturally occurring cognitive variations with distinctive strengths that have contributed to the evolution of technology and culture rather than mere checklists of deficits and dysfunctions.

Source: NeuroTribes: The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity

Human cognitive diversity exists for a reason; our differences are the genius – and the conscience – of our species.

Source: A Thousand Rivers: What The Modern World Has Forgotten About Children And Learning

Through the lens of the neurodiversity paradigm, the pathology paradigm’s medicalized framing of autism and various other constellations of neurological, cognitive, and behavioral characteristics as “disorders” or “conditions” can be seen for what it is: a social construction rooted in cultural norms and social power inequalities, rather than a “scientifically objective” description of reality.

Source: Autism and the Pathology Paradigm

A neurotype is the name given to one individual form of wiring. The so-called “normal” neurotype is referred to as Neurotypical (abbreviated NT) and is what we once thought of as being the most common, or “typical” form of wiring, hence the name. It is frequently considered, by society at large and particularly by medical professionals, to be the most desirable and possibly the only healthy type of brain functioning. The Neurodiversity movement seeks to change that assumption. Advocates propose that there are many different neurotypes, perhaps so many that the so-called NTs are actually in the minority. Furthermore, they believe that each neurotype is its own kind of healthy brain, with both pros and cons of ability, function, etc. Society is designed for NTs and therefore the good side of many neurotypes is not seen because those who are not NT are not able to succeed as easily in society. The movement seeks to make society change, to teach people how to understand and support those who are neurodivergent and create a society which does not discriminate against them.

Source: The Neurodiversity Movement/Section 1: The Basics – Wikiversity