Citizenship in School: Reconceptualizing Down Syndrome
By: Christopher Kliewer
Once I got a few pages into this reading, I really enjoyed it. It has only been since this semester that I have given much thought to special education. Being in an inclusive classroom for service learning has even made me consider wanting to teach special education. I think the issues that Kliewer talks about are very important. Not all people with Down syndrome are the same, just like how not all people without disabilities are the same. Some students would very well benefit from being in a general education classroom rather than being secluded in a special education classroom. They would learn so much more and be at their greatest potential.
I thought all of the examples/stories that Kliewer used really showed how individuals with disabilities can succeed without being thought of as less than others. Specifically, the story of Christine switching to general education classes at a public high school was very inspiring. When she first started at the school, she brought with her so many negative labels about what she couldn’t do. By the time even just one year was over, she had improved in every category. If students with disabilities were given the chances and opportunities to succeed, then they would. In my service learning classroom there are 7 students with IEPs. I have been in the classroom now for over seven weeks, and in that short period of time I have seen so much growth in all of those students. One girl is on her way to taking steps without her walker, and another is counting to 12 when his IEP goal is only to count to 8 by June. Seeing these students succeed really emphasizes for me why I want to be a teacher.
The main focus of this chapter was citizenship in schools. I thought Kliewer definitely brought his point across using the various stories. No one deserves to be excluded from something, especially from an education. Kliewer said, “The movement to merge the education of children with and without disabilities is based on the belief that to enter the dialogue of citizenship does not require spoken, or indeed outspoken, language. Rather, communication is built on one’s ability to listen deeply to others” (Page 73). I think this quote is a good representation of Kliewer’s argument.
This piece definitely relates to August’s idea of safe spaces. Students with disabilities need to feel like they are accepted and that they belong. One of the students that Kliewer talked about, John, moved from one city in California to another where he was more accepted. John’s sibling said, “It’s safe – what he calls a ‘safe space’. Like a lot of people in Mendocino, he’s accepted for what he is, not what he isn’t. And he can concentrate on what he can do, instead of being shown or being told what he can’t do” (Page 86). John was able to succeed in a place where he felt he belonged, in a place where he was safe.
Point to Share:
I think it’s important for people to focus on strengths rather than the things someone can’t do. Just because someone has been labeled with a disability, doesn’t mean they can’t do anything. I liked a quote from the girl Christine that Kliewer talks about, “I have Down syndrome, but I am not handicapped” (page 93).