Friday, November 17, 2017

Diplomats with Disabled Kids

In the endless litany of horrible things that the Trump administration is doing to disabled folks and their families, I missed this one. According to Foreign Policy, the Trump State Department is slashing funding for diplomats who have disabled children.
On Thursday, Sens. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.) sent a letter to the State Department questioning the department’s “troubling” plans to cut support for foreign service officers who have children with disabilities.
The Washington Post first reported on Oct. 29 that the State Department had quietly cut support for families with disabled children, including therapy, extended education, and one-on-one school aides. The Post also reported the State Department has suddenly barred some children from going abroad with their families.
“We ask enough of our diplomats,” the senators wrote in a letter addressed to Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan. “Our actions should demonstrate the value that they bring to the State Department and the nation — not make it harder for them to serve.”
Foreign service officers typically take their spouses and families with them as they bounce between posts around the world. The State Department has provided allowances and other forms of support to foreign service officer families with disabled children so they can receive care and education comparable to what they would receive at home.
As I read this, basically diplomats have the right to fully access the benefits of U.S. special education and U.S. medicine when stationed overseas, should their families require it. That makes sense.

Naturally, it's being cut.

You can read the Washington Post report here.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Ohio Abortion Ban

It's happening. Ohio is going to pass an anti-choice bill that criminalizes speech between a woman and her doctor. I wrote about the ban here. Kasich will surely sign it. I'm pretty livid.

This won't help people with Down syndrome. It's not intended to. It just keeps spreading stigma on the one hand, while serving as a vehicle to restrict reproductive rights on the other.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Red States and Disability

My latest in The Nation:
Mostly buried beneath early November’s onslaught of news, stories from Oklahoma, Iowa, and Maine reveal the ways that state governments, through both apparent incompetence and maliciousness, are failing disabled residents and their families. In the first two examples, disability programs are being cut as a result of self-imposed budget crises. In the third, the governor is using disability as a shield to ignore the will of the voters, while at the same time not serving disabled Mainers.
Oklahoma is the worst of the three. At the beginning of November, agencies received letters stating that the “ADvantage Waiver,” a program funding home-based care for disabled individuals and seniors, would lose funding as of December 1. About 21,000 Oklahomans will lose the care that enables them to live independently. About 10,000, according to the Department of Human Services, will be forced to move into nursing homes—except that the state doesn’t have enough beds in nursing homes. So disabled Oklahomans are caught waiting to find out what will happen: Will they be trapped in their homes without services? Will they be forced into nursing homes or Hospitals? Will they be abandoned?
The problem, of course, is money. The conservative state has stripped awayits tax base in a wave of Tea Party glee. Now it’s broke and, rather than raise taxes (a budget just failed to pass in special session), it is closing nursing homes and slashing Medicaid.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Intellectual Disability and Vietnam

This is an incredible article on, as they were called at the time, "McNamara's Morons," people with intellectual disabilities drafted into the Vietnam War.
One morning in the summer of 1967, I was among about 100 men at the Armed Forces induction center in Nashville. It was the height of the Vietnam War, and I had volunteered for the Army. A sergeant walked into the room and announced that all of us would leave soon to begin training in Fort Benning, Ga. Then he asked, “Is anyone here a college graduate?”
I raised my hand, and he motioned me to follow him. He took me down a hallway to a bench where I was introduced to a young man I’m going to call Johnny Gupton, to protect his privacy. Gupton was also assigned to Fort Benning. “I want you to take charge of this man,” the sergeant told me. “Go with him every step of the way.” He explained that Gupton could neither read nor write, and would need help in filling out paperwork when we arrived at Benning. Then he added: “Make sure he doesn’t get lost. He’s one of McNamara’s Morons.”
I had never heard the term, and I was surprised that the sergeant would openly insult Gupton. But I learned quickly that “McNamara’s Morons” was a term that many officers and sergeants used to refer to thousands of low-I.Q. men like Gupton who were taken into the military under a program devised by Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara.
There's also a documentary.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Conservative Students at Wisconsin Are Happy

Dominant Narrative: Conservative students on liberal campuses are ostracized and marginalized and it isn't fair and there should be balance.

Data: Conservative students at UW Madison are doing fine.
Politically conservative students instead were more likely to report feeling safe, respected and like they belong than students holding other political views.

Conservative students also were more likely than liberal students to say they feel comfortable approaching faculty members with their concerns, according to a report on the 2016 Campus Climate Survey released last Wednesday.


And conservative students said they felt less likely than liberal or moderate students to be expected to represent their point of view in class, but felt more positive about doing it than the others.
Good! They should feel comfortable. But the dominant narrative must go. 

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

ASU and Disability Studies

Arizona State University regents (via a committee) rejected a disability studies major (while approving a slate of technical and business majors). Majors get rejected all the time, but this one was telling, because the regent quoted clearly didn't get the humanities. Amy Silverman wrote about the decision.

Here's the reporting on the actual decision.
Searle said the degree in disability resources was a combination of arts, humanity, social science and looking at the issues that people with disabilities face.

Regent Larry Penley challenged the report ASU presented, stating that while addressing disability resources was important, he struggled with the learning outcomes presented.

“I struggle with whether those learning outcomes really articulate something students or prospective students can legitimately understand,” Penley said.
The degree was described as a combination of theory and practice to prepare students to address injustices, exclusions and misapprehensions regarding disabilities through advocacy, education, knowledge of the law and historical awareness. Those seeking the degree could pursue careers in business, policy and advocacy, social work, education, government, community and non‐governmental organizations, according to the presented learning outcomes.
“The demand in this space is quite intense in terms of interest and opportunity for students,” Searle said in defense of the program.

Penley said he could not vote for a degree he did not fully understand.
The actual learning outcomes are pretty typical. One could make similar outcomes for similar degrees.
This regent, a former business school dean, needs to take some humanities courses.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

It's the Guns

Trump’s comments on mental health are typical of Republican response to violence. He characterized the killer as a “very deranged individual” who has a “mental health problem at the highest level.” This was also his and Representative Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) response after the Las Vegas shooting. Republicans (and some Democrats) have been making comments like this for decades. On Monday in Japan, though, Trump added, “We have a lot of mental health problems in our country—as do other countries—but this isn’t a guns situation.”
That middle clause, “as do other countries,” is quite the tell. Trump regularly runs his mouth freely, revealing the subtext that lies beneath the usual GOP talking points. Trump isn’t wrong. Many countries have not adequately met the mental-health needs of its population. But linking acts of violence to people with mental health is gross stigmatization that belies the data. People with mental illness are vastly more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators of it.
Still, let’s take Trump at his word here and agree that around the world other countries also have people with unmet mental-health needs. And yet among 171 nations of the world, the United States is the clear leader in mass shootings. It’s the guns. Of course it’s the guns.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Jack Greene and Arkansas Death Row

Arkansas is set to execute Jack Greene this Thursday. He is mentally ill, with intense delusions and a long history of self-harm and violent ideation.  He committed murder, but there's reasonable debate about the extent to which he understands reality.

The prison director decided he wasn't sufficiently mentally ill to be spared due to disability. The prison director has no disability, mental health, or medical expertise. Appeals are pending for an independent evaluation and I will be following the case this week.

1) The case seems to violate recently (and less recent) Supreme Court decisions. This isn't a shock, as states seem to ignore such decisions at will and SCOTUS seems to let them.

2) Arkansas executed multiple disabled men this spring.

3) In May, I wrote a piece arguing that basically everyone on death row was disabled. It's a tool used only to kill disabled criminals.


Friday, November 3, 2017

Mandatory First-Year Classes and Orientations: Flags and Guns vs Kindness

In my latest Pacific Standard essay, I talk about the ways that some right-wing schools enforce indoctrination and homogeneity, even as our free speech on campus discourse focuses on left-wing schools.
In response to National Football League players protesting state violence against African Americans, the College of the Ozarks, a small, Christian liberal arts institution in Missouri, is ordering its students to pick up a gun. The 93 percent white school now makes all first-year students take a Patriotic Education Fitness class. According to the Miami Herald, the course includes, "lessons on American politics, the military, and flag norms." Through their studies, "students will learn rifle marksmanship, map reading, land navigation, and rope knotting. Students also must be able to run a mile and will engage in other physical education activities." It's unclear how such activities will foster the college's mission of making students more "Christ-like."
This course is pure indoctrination. In fact, schools such as the College of the Ozarks explicitly demand homogeneity and fealty to religious and nationalistic ideologies. They punish divergence, and they aren't alone. There's a whole class of schools, some wealthy and influential, that demand obedience and conformity. And we are in a national moment when far too many influential voices are characterizing liberal arts institutions as hotbeds of politically correct intolerance. It's true that many schools do push students to think about diversity, but the "Patriotic Education Fitness Class" ought to give us a little perspective.
I, of course, had mandatory orientations at Wesleyan as an undergrad. I write:
As an undergraduate, I went to Wesleyan University. It was lampooned in the 1990s, when I attended, as PCU. There was no single core class that everyone took, per se, but I've never forgotten the early mandatory orientations. We were pushed to talk about diversity. Within a few days, new friends came out to me as queer. I learned about what we now call affirmative consent. We had long discussions about culture and power. In many ways, my ongoing work of self-improvement that still pushes me today began during those opening weeks. I'm told that these efforts continue. Last August, Vanessa Grigoriadis, a fellow Wesleyan alum from the '90s, returned to campus to find out what students are saying now; she subsequently wrote a reassuring report in the New York Times about the way today's "'P.C.' students" have an "overwhelming urge to be kind to each other." It doesn't mean they always get it right, but the driving force is to pay attention to vulnerabilities and then do no harm. If this is the scourge of political correctness on campus, sign me up.
PLEASE READ THE WHOLE THING!




















Thursday, November 2, 2017

Study Humanities: Save the World (At St. Olaf)

I'm looking forward to going back to Northfield today. I spent a year and a half there while writing my dissertation, a difficult and glorious time in my life. I struggled. I thrived. I wrote. I taught. I had brilliant encounters with students. I had challenging ones where I just didn't know what to do.

Life is no less fraught now than then and I'm no more sure of myself, but at least I have a body of work to remind me what I think I think.

Image description: A picture of the world with the title STUDY HUMANITIES: Save the World over the globe. To the left is this text. "Over the past five years, David Perry has transformed from a mild mannered medieval history professor to a widely-published critic of police violence, anti-disability discrimination, racist appropriation of history, gun violence, and the literal future of the human race. His secret? A liberal arts and sciences education. In this lecture, Perry will use his own experiences to illustrate the power of the humanities to help us confront the most pressing issues of the day." In the upper left, it says the place and time (CAD 305, Nov 2, 5:00)

So yes, St. Olaf, we have a lot to talk about.