Wednesday, December 30, 2015

TASERs are Not Mental Health Care. Disability is Not a Crime.

In response to the recent shooting of Quintonio Legrier and Bettie Jones, embattled mayor Rahm Emanuel has made a decision - give all cops Tasers.
Chicago's mayor and police superintendent will announce Wednesday afternoon that every police officer who responds to service calls will be equipped with a Taser and properly trained to use it by June 1, the mayor's deputy director of communications said. The announcement, to be made at 2 p.m. CT, will be part of a major overhaul in Chicago Police Department policy on how officers respond to incidents and the use of physical and lethal force, mayor's spokesman Adam Collins said.
Tasers are a fine tool for policing, when used correctly. Too often, they reinforce the cult of compliance, giving police an easy (and approved) way to inflict pain on non-compliant, but non-threatening, individuals. Overall, though, I have been convinced that law enforcement officers (LEOs) should be provided with Tasers in most contexts, so long as abusers are held accountable.

What we're seeing, though, with Emanuel's response to Legrier/Jones and Philip Coleman is a continued focus on teaching police to manage crisis better. Such training and tools may be required, but the real solutions require focusing before the crisis and investing in public health, pushing back against stigma, funding community mental care teams, and more.

Instead, we're giving cops TASERs and closing community mental health care facilities.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Year in Review: Blogging 2015 and A Few Recommended Pieces

Yesterday I wrote about my year of published writing. Here's my review of a year of blogging. 

I wrote 312 blog posts in 2015. They vary in length and topic and I have no means to search them and organized a word cloud or tag cloud. Help? 2015 also featured the great migration to Wix, aka total disaster, and the return here. The consequences are still playing out behind the scenes, as my search function has never really worked well again.

While the blog exists to house my scraps and opening thoughts when then unfold into formal essays other publications, some posts have found audiences beyond my expectations.
I like all these blog posts and am glad they did well. Here are a just two pieces, though, that you might have overlooked, both about adjunctification of higher education.
  1. I believe in academic conferences. They need to be both affordable and meaningful for the people for whom they are the most expensiveI talk about costs and hierarchies, and how to erode both.
  2. Free community college is great. But these new students need to be taught by full-time, salaried, faculty.
Thanks for reading. 



Saturday, December 26, 2015

Year of Writing in Review: 2015 Published Writing

Last December, I published a year-in-review for my "published writing" and "blogging" in review. I've decided to make it a tradition, in part just to keep track, and maybe to suggest a few pieces that didn't get the readership I feel they deserved.

I had 61 pieces published in 2015 (unless I forgot to note one). I was fortunate to publish in many new venues - Vice, New York Times, Salon, Washington Post, Pacific Standard, The Mary Sue, Yahoo! Parenting, Tor.com, and Belt. I started doing regular cultural criticism, focusing on fantasy and science fiction TV and movies and gave lots of talks. CNN, The Chronicle, Al Jazeera, and Vice were my mainstays.

Here are a few pieces that you might read:

Online community and the Fear of Down Syndrome (CNN.com, 2/18/15) - Resources are everywhere. Networks can change lives.
At about 7 a.m. one day last November, Claudia sent me a Facebook message about her best friend, Jane. (All names have been altered.) Jane was pregnant with twins, one of whom had been diagnosed with both Down syndrome and a heart defect. Jane and her spouse were stuck in that toxic panic and didn't know what to do. Claudia wrote, "They told me it's super easy to find adoptive parents because lots of people want kids with special needs. Right now, their plan is to leave the baby at the hospital, and failing that the fire station."

I was startled by the message, but not shocked. I'm the father of a boy with Down syndrome and had at least an inkling of what Jane was going through. On the other hand, although safe haven laws make leaving a child at the hospital legal, and American children with Down syndrome do often get adopted, this clearly wasn't the right way to go about it. So I told Claudia I'd be back shortly to help, got my own children safely off on the bus to school, and returned to my computer 40 minutes later.
Soon, I was talking to Amy Allison, the executive director of the Down Syndrome Guild of Greater Kansas City. Fifteen minutes later, Amy had connected me to Stephanie Thompson, the co-director of the National Down Syndrome Adoption Network. Stephanie reached out to Claudia and from there to Jane.
Making Academic Conferences Accessible (Chronicle Vitae, 7/8/15) - Conferences matter. Our disabled colleagues need access. There are scholars working to make that possible, and I interviewed them.
If you know any disabled academics, then you almost certainly know someone who has encountered obstacles at conferences. In the last month or so, I’ve communicated with dozens of academics with all types of disabilities – including wheelchair users, people with hearing or vision loss, and people with intellectual disabilities like Autism and psychiatric disabilities such as bipolar disorder. They all had many bad stories to tell about accessibility at scholarly meetings, and those stories are especially worth telling as we approach the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Some conference organizers just don’t think about disability. Others are outright prejudicial, dismissing these needs as imaginary or trivial. Fortunately, there are people trying to make a difference by demonstrating ways to make conferences accessible to all.
"The Net is the Meat:" Bruce Holsinger's Medieval Fiction (Tor.com, 4/20/15) - 2015 was the year I started publishing criticism. Game of Thrones, Star Wars, Switched at Birth, and more. But this is my favorite essay about the Middle Ages and the historical imagination. You should read Holsinger's novels.
At the end of The Invention of Fire, the second John Gower mystery by Bruce Holsinger, the aging poet ponders possible outcomes for a pair of fugitives making their way across England. He muses that his friend, Geoffrey Chaucer, would no doubt come up with some cheerful ending in which they live happily ever after, but not Gower, who likes darker tales.
Gower says, “A poet should not be some sweet-singing bird in a trap, feasting on the meat while blind to the net. The net is the meat, all those entanglements and snares and iron claws that hobble us and prevent our escape from the limits of our weak and fallen flesh.”
Holsinger’s novels are about the net.
2016: I'm focusing on my book now and a major white paper that will come out in the first quarter of next year, so I expect the rate of publication to slow. I've said that before and kept writing short pieces, so who knows. Much of that depends on the news. When stories need to be told, I'll try to tell them.

It's been a fun year, despite the grim subject of so many essays, and thanks to all for reading.

Distribution, I think:
  • 12 CNN 
  • 12 Al Jazeera
  • 13 Vice
  • 9 Chronicle
  • 2 NYT
  • 2 Salon
  • 2 Pacific Standard
  • 2 WaPo
  • 2 The Mary Sue
  • 1 Yahoo
  • 1 Belt
  • 1 RHRC
  • 1 Tor.com
And here's the lot: 
  1. When Traveling with Children, there Are No Special Needs (12/22/15)
  2. Reality TV Takes on Down Syndrome (Al Jazeera America, 12/21/15)
  3. Star Wars and the Fan-Fictionalization of American Pop Culture (Vice.com, 12/18/2015)
  4. Beyond the Crisis: Philip Coleman, the Chicago PD, and Mental Illness Response (CNN.com, 12/17/2015)
  5. When Police Abuse Disabled Children (Pacific Standard, 12/17/2015)
  6. Paul Ryan Blames Mass Shootings on Mental Illness (Al Jazeera America, 12/5/15)
  7. The San Bernardino Massacre (CNN.com, 12/3/15) 
  8. The New Game of Thrones Trailer is Talking to Us. (Vice.com. 12/3/15) 
  9. Three Rules of Academic Blogging (Chronicle.com, 11/12/15) 
  10. Welders and Philosophy Majors Unite! (CNN.com, 11/11/15) 
  11. Politicians are Ignoring Americans with Disabilities (Al Jazeera America, 11/10/15) 
  12. Halloween and the Social Model of Disability (Pacific Standard Magazine, 10/27/15) 
  13. Switched at Birth and ABC Family's "New Kind of Family" Hits Home (The Mary Sue, 10/26/15) 
  14. Fix "Autism Speaks." (Al Jazeera America, 10/9/15) 
  15. No, Carly Fiorina, a degree in medieval history doesn't qualify you to fight Isis (The Guardian, 10/6/15) 
  16. The Martian is Pure, Pleasurable, Competence Porn (Vice.com, 10/2/15) 
  17. Professor's Killing Highlights Our Vulnerability (CNN.com, 9/15/15) 
  18. Guess Who Might Not Be Dead - Hint: Kit Harington Still Has Long Hair (Vice.com, 9/11/15) 
  19. What Switched at Birth gets Right and Wrong about Families Like Mine (Salon.com, 9/8/15) 
  20. Down Syndrome, Prenatal Testing, and a Teenage Soap Opera? The Importance of Switched At Birth (The Mary Sue, 9/02/15) 
  21. A "Bechdel-Wallace" Test for the Disability Community (Al Jazeera America, 8/30/15) 
  22. Westworld: The Robots Are Coming! (Vice.com, 8/25/15) 
  23. Stop Politicizing Down Syndrome and Abortion (CNN.com, 8/24/15) 
  24. The Surprisingly Simple Future of Assistive Technology (Al Jazeera America, 8/17/15) 
  25. The Outrage of Handcuffing Children in Schools (CNN.com, 8/5/15) 
  26. Making Academic Conferences Accessible (Chronicle Vitae, 7/8/15) 
  27. I am a Working Dad (Father's Day 2015) (Al Jazeera America, 6/21/15) 
  28. US schools must stop excluding children with disabilities (Al Jazeera America, 6/16/15) 
  29. The Controversies and Success of Season 5 of Game of Thrones (Vice.com, 6/12/15) 
  30. What Kids Learn When Adults Aren't Inclusive (Washington Post, 6/11/15) 
  31. Where Have All the Good Bad Guys Gone? (Vice.com, 6/10/15) 
  32. Speaking Out Against Autism Speaks (NYTimes.com, 6/4/15) 
  33. Inspiration Porn Disables the Disabled (Al Jazeera America, 6/3/15) 
  34. Jon Snow: The Only Hero of Game of Thrones? (Vice.com, 6/1/15) 
  35. The World's Reserves of Game of Thrones are Running Dangerously Low(Vice.com, 5/28/15) 
  36. Low Cost College Isn't Enough (CNN.com, 5/20/15) 
  37. 'Mad Max: Fury Road' Is the Feminist Action Flick You've Been Waiting For(Vice.com, 5/13/15) 
  38. Zoo Camp for All (Belt Magazine, 5/12/15) 
  39. A Medievalist on Savage Love (Chronicle of Higher Education, 5/12/15) 
  40. Save Academic Conferences! (Chronicle.com, 5/6/2015) 
  41. DC Super Hero Girls - My Daughter Wants Heroes That Look Like Her(Salon.com, 5/1/2015) 
  42. The Corrosive Cult of Compliance in Our Schools (Al Jazeera America, 4/22/15) 
  43. Daredevil and Scenes of Ordinary Disability (Vice.com, 4/20/15) 
  44. "The Net is the Meat:" Bruce Holsinger's Medieval Fiction (Tor.com, 4/20/15) 
  45. RFK Jr. owes a lot of people an apology for his comments on autism (CNN.com, 4/16/15) 
  46. The Telescoping History of Game of Thrones (Vice.com, 4/14/15) 
  47. Sheehan vs SF: A Chance to Reduce Police Killings of People with Disabilities(Al Jazeera America, 3/22/15) 
  48. Bruce Rauner: Picking on Society's Most Vulnerable (CNN.com, 3/18/15) 
  49. "Daddy, What's Down Syndrome?" (Yahoo! Parenting, 3/17/15) 
  50. Dear Student? How about Dear Provost? (Chronicle Vitae, 3/11/15) 
  51. Why Write a Book? (Chronicle Vitae, 3/3/15) 
  52. To assess LAPD shooting, look past the moment of gunfire. (CNN.com, 3/2/15) 
  53. Information, Not Inspiration: How to work against the fear of Down syndrome (CNN.com, 2/18/15) 
  54. From Grad School to the Atlantic (Chronicle.com, 2/11/15) 
  55. Conservatives want to rewrite the history of the Crusades (The Guardian, 2/7/15) 
  56. Kristiana Coignard Did Not Have to Die (CNN.com, 2/2/15) 
  57. Airlines Break Too Many Wheelchairs - But We can Fix It (Al Jazeera America, 1/31/15) 
  58. Associate Dean of What? (Chronicle.com, 1/26/15) 
  59. Anti-Choice Legislators Try to Force Wedge Between Reproductive, Disability Rights Activists (Reproductive Health Reality Check, 1/16/15) 
  60. Who Will Teach All the Free Community College Students? (Chronicle.com, 1/15/15) 
  61. Harsh Critics in Public Spaces, Judging Only What They See (NYTimes.com, 1/12/15)

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Restraint for Safety vs Restraint for Punishment (And Freddie DeBoer)

I wrote a piece for Pacific Standard that many people seem to have read (it was their most popular story on the site for 5 days or so. I gather that must mean something) on the systematic abuse of disabled children by teachers and other staff in schools and institutions across America. In the piece, I took three reports by three separate groups - Pro Public, the Center for Public Integrity, and the Disability Law Center of Massachusetts - and discussed the common pattern: restraint and seclusion being used to punish students for basic non-compliance.

For regular readers of this blog, you'll know this is the kind of thing I coordinate under the phrase the "cult of compliance" (search the tags for many more posts).

A few days ago, the well-known writer Freddie DeBoer responded on Twitter by asking me to read a piece he wrote that criticized the Pro Publica essay as "sensationalist and damaging." He calls it "Difficult Problems After the Death of Nuance." In the essay, DeBoer describes his experience as a caregiver in an public school with a segregated section for children with emotional disabilities, experiences that included restraint. With children who are likely to harm themselves or others, he asked, what are you supposed to do?

This is an entirely reasonable question. There are many situations in which restraint is a reasonable and appropriate response to specific behaviors. For example - if a child is about to run into the street, you should hold them. If a child, as DeBoer describes, is trying to throw a chair at your head or another student's head, you should stop them. These things happen.

But what the experts (for example Positive Behavior Interventions & Supports or Trauma Informed Practices) tell us is that such behavior have an instigating point, a cause, and that the correct response to such behaviors is to investigate those causes and try to work at the root issues, rather than try and solve the problem by treating the symptoms, the acting out in some way, with force. There is no amount of force that can make someone less disabled. All you end up doing is intensifying trauma.

Many IEPs (Individualized Education Plans) and similar documents contain provisions about the use of restraint. They are ideally crafted in collaboration with parents, other caregivers, as especially as possible the disabled person themselves. Restraint and seclusion may be necessary, but only as a holding action while you work on root issues.

In the cases I discuss, however, restraint and seclusion are being used to punish and to force compliance. Again and again, we see staff and teachers - who are surely under great pressure themselves, and drastically under-resourced - resort to fear, pain, and isolation to teach disabled students that if they act as themselves, in non-typical ways, they will suffer for it. People strapped to beds for throwing food, thrown into a closet with the lights off for not following orders, given electric shocks. That's the abuse. That's the practice we need to stop. That's the cult of compliance.

So overall, my response to DeBoer's entirely reasonable question is this: Restraint may be part of a safety plan, but it's not a teaching tool. It doesn't really change behaviors. Moreover, there are usually positive ways to change behaviors, but they take time, resources, and creativity. I think the restraint as safety vs restraint as punishment is a useful dialectic along which to assess a given situation.

Now a brief aside: I'm a little nervous about responding to Freddie DeBoer because my introduction to him was really through his back and forth with Angus Johnston (@studentactivism), who once wrote: "It’s become clear that Freddie is the kind of person who says “Give me an answer!” when he means “Admit that there are no answers!”

He has asked me for an answer, and I've given him one above, and my brief interaction on Twitter suggests he's open to the dialectic I propose. Again, I think he asks a useful question, and I'm pleased he sought me out.

The problem with his essay is this "death of nuance" framing. DeBoer believes that reactions to this type of outrage journalism, "Demonstrate the ways in which the world of sharing and likes and shallow understanding destroys nuance and creates a bogus conception of a black-and-white world."

He is furthermore:
Reminded of a few sad realities: that American liberalism culture is now synonymous with a juvenile Manicheanism that imagines some perfect world we could achieve if people just weren’t so selfish and evil; that getting showily, publicly angry about problems is more popular than actually attempting to solve them; that there is no issue of such emotional and moral complexity that many people can’t reduce it to a black-and-white caricature; and that we have created a media which has made its financial best interest inextricable from destroying depth, nuance, and complexity. I genuinely don’t know if people believe in difficult choices and intractable problems anymore.
I hope DeBoer doesn't really believe this. I suspect it's rhetorical rather than, as he says, "genuine." It's a way for him to continue his long-running diatribes against PC culture and kids these days, which is fine. I'm not going to get into it, except for these two points:

First, it's ahistorical. Getting outraged about outrageous things is normal. The press has always published outraged journalism intended to evoke sympathy, rage, donations, voting, direct action, and, most of all, more sales of media products. Before there were media products to sell, the sharing of outrage traveled through different kinds of information culture, but travel they did. Speed, scale, and means have changed. Local outrages can become national or international in ways never before likely (consider police abuses). Outrage can feed on itself in new ways too, because we can communicate our upset more effectively and quickly. But getting outraged about outrageous things is an appropriate and rational response.

Second, DeBoer here draws his meta conclusion about the "death of nuance" based on lack of knowledge of both disability and disability-related pedagogy. His lived experiences matter, but he confesses that these were confusing times for him in his life. When he writes, "Mental illness is powerful and terrible and that’s the world we live in," he places himself in a casually ableist epistemology that informs everything else he writes (I fear he rejects the concept of ableism, but that's a bigger conversation).

What's powerful and terrible is when people with psychiatric disabilities are denied the resources they need, and when stigma and fear make it harder for people with such conditions to come out as disabled, to ask for help, and so self-treat and self-medicate.

What's powerful and terrible are the intersections of mental-illness-stigma with racism and poverty. Marginalizing forces multiply dangerously. It's not a coincidence that the people in these institutions of the sort DeBoer describes tend to be poor and non-white. The nuanced liberal response to such conditions is not to decry outrage, but to identify root cultural, social, economic, and political causes and get to work.

With that said, I'm going to get back to work.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

ISIL and the Murder of Disabled Children

This Facebook post from Mosul Eye, a source that I'm told has some track record of reliability, shows a video of disabled children (just hanging out, really), then claims the following:
Through monitoring and following the death incidents of children with Down's Syndrome and congenital deformities, we were able to learn that the Shar'i Board of ISIL issued an "Oral Fatwa" to its members authorizing them to "kill newborn babies with Down's Syndrome and congenital deformities and disabled children". The Fatwa was issued by one of ISIL's Shar'i judges, a Saudi judge named " Abu Said Aljazrawi".
The information indicate that most of the children born with Down's Syndrome are those of foreign fighters who married Iraqi, Syrian and Asian women. We recorded more than 38 confirmed cases of killing babies with congenital deformities and Down's Syndrome, aged between one week to three months. They were killed by either lethel injection or suffocation. Some of those killings took place in Syria and Mosul.
This displaced child from Mosul, ISIL issues a Fatwa to kill him.
As if it is not enough for ISIL to kill men, women and the elderly, and now, they kill children
Coverage in the West has linked this to Aktion T4 (Breitbart, here, is typical), the systematic Nazi murder of disabled people at the beginning of the Holocaust. Sarah Palin has weighed in, too, with her usual pure-ID politics: "Over my dead body," she says. Lots of coverage followed.

I think it's a mistake to compare ISIL to the Nazis. The murder of 38 disabled children is terrible. The murder of 200 Syrian children, as alleged in this video, is also monstrous (this story also compares ISIL to the Nazis). In the West, though, we like to compare everyone we hate to Nazis, but 20th-century western fascism is just one kind of evil, among many, and when we misunderstand our enemy it makes it harder to defeat them.

From the disability perspective, moreover, my community tends to parse everything through the western tradition of eugenics. Eugenics is both a historical and contemporary problem that emerged directly out of the western scientific tradition. I see it as a byproduct of the Enlightenment, although that's a post for another day (or, rather, just a long list of citations of pieces by smarter folks than I). It is possible that ISIL, with its European connections, is drawing from that eugenic tradition. But I don't think so.

This is not, unlike the video of the Syrian massacre, or the specific slaughter of wheelchair users in the Bataclan theater in paris, an explicit act of terror. There's no video of murdering disabled infants. This is not about exterminating the outsider or spreading fear + hate in the world. Rather, it's enabling ISIL fighters to murder their own disabled children, eliminating the perceived "unfit" from society.

That, sadly, is an ancient tradition. The infanticide of disabled children is fairly routine throughout history and continues around the world today. I just read that 98% of all abandoned children in China have disabilities, for example, but I'm not picking on China. Ableisms, often murderous ones, infuse all cultures in their own way.

None of this excuses ISIL's fighters who are murdering their children. I'm not even sure if the distinctions matter. But traditions of infanticide do vary, and I'm already seeing pro-forced birth Americans using this fact to support anti-abortion laws in the US while also promoting ground war in Syria.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Two Ethical Futures for The Mighty

The Mighty is a well-funded website that publishes personal essays about disability. Narratives tend to be parent-driven or illness-driven, but they throw a huge amount of content out at the internet without much editorial oversight. The editors search through the vibrant disability-related blogosphere and ask to republish essays for free as well as publishing essays written directly for their site. As far as I know, they pay no one but the editors, but have substantial venture capital backing and of course are trying to build ad revenue.

There are lots of good pieces on the site, many of them published by authors whose work I adore. Most of it, though, falls into either the positive or negative categories of inspiration porn: feel-good or cathartic tragedy.

On 12/20 they published, "Meltdown Bingo" (cached link), a disability-shaming piece. People reacted negatively, and the editors took it down and issued this apology.
Our goal on The Mighty is to give people a platform to share their stories. It’s a simple objective that’s proven challenging for everyone on our staff because we host thousands of perspectives and opinions, from both disabled and able-bodied writers. We don’t expect everyone to agree on every post. In fact, we like when our contributors’ stories start important, respectful conversations. What we don’t want is to cause harm. Here is where I missed the mark when deciding to publish this submission.
That’s on me. I personally apologize to anyone we hurt with this post. It was not our intention, but we need to take responsibility for our actions. Our community called us on this post almost immediately. Thank you.

This isn’t the first time The Mighty has been rightfully accused of ableism.
And to deny that we’ve been ableist would be, well, ableist.
I don't actually think "give people a platform to share their stories." It's to make money while feeling good about themselves.

In their apology, the editor asked three questions:
  • What improvements do you want to see made on The Mighty?
  • Which websites and writers are covering this space the right way?
  • What are we doing right? If we know this, we can do more of it.
If you follow the hashtag #CrippingTheMighty (started by Alice Wong), you'll see lots and lots of answers to all three questions, but especially the second one. Here's my response.

WOULDN'T THIS HAVE BEEN A GOOD QUESTION TO ASK BEFORE LAUNCHING YOUR WEBSITE COVERING DISABILITY ISSUES?

If you read the "why we created The Mighty" page, the editors discuss their process:
Over the last several months, I’ve bought a lot of drinks and dinners for friends and colleagues. I wanted to pick their brains. These are talented people I respect and trust who do amazing work for the likes of ABC News, NBC News, The New York Times, The Huffington Post, Yahoo, Forbes, Esquire, MTV, Disney, Google and more.
We kicked around ideas that all came back to a central question: Could we build a media company that actually helps people?
Those are an impressive list of media companies, but notice how none of those include anyone with disabilities, any disability rights organizations, or anyone from the community they are allegedly serving.

Now I know something about being relatively neurotypical and able-bodied and writing about disability. The process starts, and ends, with accountability. My mentors are Rebecca Cokley, Lawrence Carter-Long, Ari Ne'eman, Alice Wong, and so many hundreds more. I reach out to them, I talk to them. I elevate their voices in my pieces for mainstream media. I mess up. They call me on it. I try to do better. I hold myself accountable to the community I serve as a journalist.

I've never had the sense that such accountability was part of The Mighty's plan. In fact, such accountability would get in the way of publishing inspirational/tragic pieces that drive traffic. The Mighty is happy to publish good pieces about identity and lived experience, but those aren't the money makers.

I see two ethical futures for The Mighty.

One: Support the community. If the editors really want to serve the disability community, they have to center disabled voices, use their platform to signal boost in both directions, and be accountable for what they do. If you read their social media feeds, 100% of their promotions are internal - no sharing of other people's work, no using their platform to say - hey, go check out this great blog post from Non-Famous Writer, etc. It's all internal promotion.

You asked who the good writers are, you got comments on Twitter. Now go talk to those writers and get to work learning from them.

Two: Be professional. Hire disabled editors. Pay your writers a fair wage. Take editorial responsibility for every word on your site, just like a real publication. Do whatever you want, but be transparent about your professionalism and stop exploiting disabled and non-disabled bloggers alike.

Because what you're doing now is causing damage to the community you allegedly are here to support, and you can't paper those wounds over with apologies.








Monday, December 21, 2015

Book(s) Review - Higher Education Doomsaying

I have a book review out with postemedieval on a collection of recent books about the state and future of higher education.

"Where are we going? Why are we in this handbasket?" is open access.

You never want a serious crisis to go to waste.– Rahm Emmanuel, Mayor of ChicagoEvery week, another cry of crisis reverberates through the virtual and tangible spaces in which academics congregate. The pundits and publishers who cater to higher education know that crisis narratives find readers, not to mention re-tweeters, re-posters, online sharers and bloggers who will confirm or deny (often deploying their own rhetoric of crisis) a given analysis. In most cases, crisis narratives are claustrophobic. They shine a spotlight on the constraints and urgencies of the present situation in order to push their audience toward one particular course of action.
This review essay takes up and examines some recent cries of crisis (as well as refusals of the term), but it also attends to different imagery for describing the contemporary status of colleges and universities – that of entanglement. Entanglements, knots, mutual entailments, ongoing involvements, co-implications, networks, jumbles, meshes, messes and complex structures can challenge the monologic solutions so often offered in response to crisis. Entanglements can be constraining, but interweaving is just as likely to provide strength and resiliency. One way to understand the purpose of this volume is as an exploration of the entanglements among the arts and liberal arts. Entanglements of various sorts dominate the recent literature on the nature and future of higher education, but in this arena there’s no consensus about what the optimal bundle of entwined ideas, fields, peoples and places might be. For some, we need to build thicker bonds among the various components, making it harder to tear us apart. Others, though, want to slice through the whole mess, scattering the university into its components, claiming that through destruction we’ll all be made whole.

I address:
  • Robert B. Archibald and David H. Feldman - Why Does College Cost So Much? Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2011, xii+289pp., $36.95. ISBN: 978-0199744503
  • Kevin Carey - The End of College: Creating the Future of Learning and the University of Everywhere. New York, Penguin, 2015, 288pp., $27.95. ISBN: 978-1594632051
  • Daniel F. Chambliss and Christopher G. Takacs - How College Works. Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press, 2014, 224pp., $29.95. ISBN: 978-0674049024
  • Michael M. Crow and William B. Dabars - Designing the New American University. Baltimore, MD, Johns Hopkins University Press, 2015, xiii+344pp., $34.95. ISBN: 978-1421417233
  • Michael Kennedy - Globalizing Knowledge: Intellectuals, Universities, and Publics in Transformation. Stanford, CA, Stanford University Press, 2014, xviii+406pp., $34.95. ISBN: 978-0804793438
I suspect folks in higher education will find the variety of crisis narratives and solutions interesting.





Sunday, December 20, 2015

Sunday Roundup: Disability and Abuse .. plus Star Wars


Three published pieces this week. Two on disability and violence, and one on Star Wars.
The CNN piece didn't get as much readership as the other two, so ... you could share it? I think it's important. I wrote:
The victim was Philip Coleman, who died in custody (reportedly of an adverse reaction to medication) not long after being repeatedly being stunned with a Taser and dragged from his cell. The autopsy found evidence of considerable physical trauma, with more than 50 bruises and abrasions all over his body.
The people responsible for this violence must be held accountable. At the same time, we need to examine the system that put Coleman in the hands of the police in the first place. We must stop focusing all our attention on handling mental health crises and instead devote more resources to keeping people out of crisis altogether.
Too much time and money is being focused on crisis response. Crisis avoidance would be better. And we know how to do it.

Lots of blog posts since the last roundup. What do you like?
Thanks for reading!

Friday, December 18, 2015

Universal Design for T-Shirts

My son, like many children with disabilities, has some acute sensory issues. T-shirt tags bother him incessantly, and the advent of the printed label is wonderful. We try not to buy shirts that have tags, and when we do ...
(Image Description: three tags cut off a shirt)

This is trivial, but it's also annoying and not needed. No one likes tags! No one things a shirt is better because it has multiple tags. Printing labels on the fabric works.

Universal design always makes things better both for the people with specific needs (i.e. my son, for whom shirts with tags are terrible) and, in less acute ways, for everyone else.

Universal design, hooray!

(Image: Two kids, hands up, wearing Minion Christmas Pjs).

Actually, I hate pajama day. But that's another story.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Crusader Costumes in Europe

An Islamophobic hate-rally was held in Prague  last weekend, featuring Neo-Nazi songs, chants of "Burn down all the mosques," and, interestingly to me, people in Crusader costumes. Here's some images:
So this is a rise of crusader imagery being used by racists and hatemongers in response to Islamic fundamentalist appropriation of pan-Arab anti-colonial appropriation of the western European colonial appropriation of the late medieval memory of the Crusades. Or something.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Don't touch disabled people without their consent.

Back in June, Morgan Wheeler saw a wheelchair user and asked if she could help. He said no. She started pushing him anyway. He asked her to stop. She kept pushing him. He asked her to stop again. She kept pushing him around.

1. This is likely illegal. Battery? Kidnapping? Assault?
2. Morgan decided to take to her facebook page to advertise what a great person she is. It went viral (over 500000 shares).

This is the worst kind of inspiration porn, turning a violation into a positive act.
I asked him if I could assist him with his shopping today, and he, quite grumpily, said that he was doing just fine and was not getting much anyways. Me, being as stubborn as I am, insisted and proceeded to push him and tell him a little about myself.
HE SAID NO. NO MEANS NO.

He interrupted me and said that he only needed help to the door, to which I picked up where I had left off before he interrupted me.
She said - "HE. INTERRUPTED. ME." While she violated his autonomy.
I told him about Fayetteville, and my horses, and my nephews (I had parked a good ways away from the doors). And when I reached the doors, I continued to push him and talk. We reached the produce area and I asked him to tell me about himself. He reluctantly looked at me and began telling me that he lived in Sod- Lincoln County, and that he just recently lost his wife. I asked him if he was a veteran, to which he replied that he was- but with pain on his face, so I changed the subject and asked if he had made a shopping list.
It goes on and on. The original Facebook post is here, if you can stand it.

This woman violated a disabled veteran. And she's being praised for it. She's being covered in the media as a hero for our time.

I don't blame Morgan, or at least not only Morgan, she's following the norms she's been taught.

The media is perpetuating a culture in which disabled people are dehumanized, touched without their consent, and their violators praised as heroes.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Chicago Police and Disability Rights

Long read on mental health and policing in Chicago, with an emphasis on CIT team training.

I should have a piece out relatively soon on the need to stop focusing on crisis, and instead look "upstream" of crisis events, to prevent them from happening in the first place.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Jessica Wright's "Missing Generation of Autistics"

As I (and many people smarter than me) frequently say - there is no autism epidemic. Rates are increasing largely, perhaps solely, due to changing how we diagnose autism.

Now Jessica Wright, for Spectrum (and republished by The Atlantic), has written an enormously important piece on the "missing generation" of autistic individuals.
Last year, Scott Hartman moved into his own apartment for the first time. He quickly learned to balance his budget, squirreling away money to buy a Blu-ray player or Xbox games. He started taking long walks to his favorite fast food joints: Hardee’s, Papa John’s, Chick-fil-A, Taco Bell. To get to the science museum or the library, his other favorite destinations, he is learning the intricacies of public transportation.
Scott can enjoy these simple pleasures because two years ago he was finally diagnosed with autism. He was 55.
For decades, Scott had struggled to find his place in the world. Misdiagnosed with schizoaffective disorder and manic depression (now called bipolar disorder), he spent much of his life in and out of group homes and psychiatric institutions, often heavily medicated: At one point, he was taking 18 pills a day.
Wright talks to a number of researchers who have been working to locate people like Hartman. Many were diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder or bipolar disorder and given medication designed to treat such conditions. Because they had neither, the medicine didn't help.

The article is tragic. So many lives spent in isolation, medicated or otherwise, due to our lack of understanding about autism, our lack of tolerance for neurodiversity. It's also a vital piece of evidence to push back at the epidemic language.

There is no autism epidemic. We're just getting better at understanding it.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Placard for Deaf Drivers Reveals Problems with Policing

Cincinnati has a new red and white placard that deaf and hard-of-hearing drivers can place in their car to inform police officers of their disability. Here's an image from a local news tweet.
The placard says, in part:

I am a Deaf/HH Driver
Failure to cooperate with your verbal commands
means I AM NOT hearing you
I do not read lips
Using a flashlight at night will prevent me from
seeing any gestures
Qualified interpreters must be provided ...

From the article:
Officer Richard Longworth is with Cincinnati Police Department's Community Relations Unit and helped design the placards.
"It's bright red. It's split between red and white. We wanted highly contrasting colors that the officer would be able to notice if he shined his light up on to a car," said Officer Longworth.
Drivers display the placard where the officer can easily see it. It explains that the driver has special needs and it also has tips for the driver on how to handle the traffic stop. The placards are necessary because police need to know why a person is not responding to verbal commands.
Longworth explained, "It's going to be seen as some form of passive resistance." "He's going to be giving verbal commands and if they're not responsive to those commands, it's going to raise his stress level even higher."
All of this is true. Too many police take non-compliance on its own, absent other indicators of danger, as a threat requiring escalation. Deaf individuals are at risk.

No one, though, should be required to wear a special badge, piece of clothing, or put up a sign in order to be guaranteed their basic rights. I am concerned that such placards teach police to look for the placard and, if visible, give people their rights. If not visible, well, then it's back to violence as a reward for non-compliance.

We've seen this before. In the wake of the Ethan Saylor killing, some people proposed teaching our kids hand signals, indicating - I am disabled! In Colorado, autism advocates proposed a yellow shirt saying, "I have autism. If I am alone please call 911."

This shirt, like the placard, like the hand signal, all convey the same message to police: Don't treat me as badly as you normally treat other non-threatening but non-compliant individuals. 

This is the medical model, in which we attack inequalities diagnosis by diagnosis, rather than working on the underlying problem.

As regular readers know, I call the underlying problem the cult of compliance. You can follow the tag below to see other examples.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Minneapolis Hires Superintendent Who Oversaw Systematic Abuse of Disabled Children

Explosive new report of abuse from the Massachusetts Disability Law Center. UPDATE: You can see the whole report here.

1. The Cult of Compliance (from Boston Globe):
The investigation uncovered a school culture in which aggressive discipline of students had become ingrained, Eichner said. Many students suffered injuries, including scratches and bruises, and one student was given a hospital exam for a bump on the head...
One 67-pound student was restrained 50 times, including about a dozen times when the pupil was held prone on the floor, according to Eichner and the report. The child complained to a parent of being unable to breathe, and that some of the restraints had been painful, the center said.
“Prone restraints can lead to serious injuries or even death,” Eichner said. Some restraints lasted for longer than 20 minutes, the investigation found.
Children were thrown to the floor for not moving, pulled out of chairs for refusing to get up, tackled to the ground, and restrained for refusing to change into a uniform, investigators were told.
2. Accountability

It's unclear to me what's happened to the people who did these terrible things. The Superintendent has been fired. More on him in a second.

Update: The people at the DLC tell me that the principal was fired and some staff were reassigned. That's about it.

3. Intersectionality - Race and Disability
Eichner, of the Disability Law Center, said a combination of factors appears to have led to the abuse.
“Holyoke is an underserved district, obviously,” he said. “We think there wasn’t enough resources and not enough training, and this population is predominantly students of color. You combine that with students with emotional issues, and without adequate resources and training it becomes a power fight between the teachers and students.”
4. Welcome to Minneapolis!
The allegations surfaced during the tenure of former Holyoke superintendent Sergio Paez, who lost his job after Massachusetts education officials voted in April to place the district under state control.
On Monday, the Minneapolis school board voted to appoint Paez as that city’s next school superintendent. Members of the board did not respond to requests from the Globe to comment on whether the allegations would affect his hiring.
You can contact the Minneapolis School Board here.

UPDATE: Sergio Paez has denied all allegations. The School Board is investigating. Get involved!

More details from the full report (updated 3:30 CST 12/10)

5. A child locked in a closet!!
The most egregious seclusion reported was that on at least three occasions, a teacher put children in a locked closet and turned out the lights.When we interviewed the teacher in question about these incidents, she denied it, stating that another student had locked the door. However, her version is not supported by the record. When discussing this practice with the administration, we were told that the teacher is still employed at the school, but her job responsibilities have changed and she no longer has any direct contact with students.
Note - the teacher wasn't fired.

6. School to Prison Pipeline starts here
One teacher stated that "[a] lack of training and tools to address behaviors is hurting students." In Ms. Hirsch's letter she describes this negative culture and provides an example of public shaming of a student when a teacher asked the whole class to write down another students "bad behavior." We also heard that the school will routinely call the police to resolve issues when children are in crisis and in need of mental health supports. One teacher stated that he wanted to call the local mental health crisis
team but the administration called the police instead. This pattern perpetuates the cycle of children transitioning from a schoolhouse to jailhouse instead of receiving appropriate disability related services.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

ISIS and the Crusades

Thomas Madden, one of my mentors, has a new piece in the Washington Post on ISIS and the Crusades.

In it, he rehearses the ways in which the memory of the Crusades was carried by Western European people into the colonial era and thus brought the European ideas about the Crusades into the Islamic world. Modern Islamic groups picked up on this western conception of the Crusades and adapted it into a useful past for their own contemporary agendas.

So far, so good. It's not that the Islamic world "forgot" the Crusades, but that in the grand sweep of North African and West Asian history, they weren't the cause of centuries of intense nostalgic remembrance (it's the losers who hold grudges. Winners throw a parade but move on to other things). The Islamic "memory" of the Crusades was as an incursion, a short-lived failure, and a spark that helped leaders like Saladin and, more to the point, Baybars and the Mamluks, to rise. 16th Europeans were extremely involved in the Crusade-memory project. 16th-century Western Asian Muslims had other things on their minds (largely). It's fascinating to me that modern Islamic states, groups, and cultures, especially under the pan-Arabism of Nasser in the 20th century, adopted the European Colonialist fantasy of the Crusades, then adapted it to their own anti-colonial purposes.

But I do have some concerns with Madden's piece. He writes:
The Crusades were military campaigns, but they could not have happened were they not also devotional exercises. Centuries before the first Crusader took his vow, Muslim armies had waged vigorous jihads against the Christian world.
These two sentences are, for me, a non-sequitur. They are both more or less true (it's arguable whether "vigorous jihad against the Christian world" is an accurate way to describe 7th century conquests, but I'll let someone else write about that). They just have little to with each other except in the imaginations of the western European 11th-century Christians who constructed a relationship with sacred territory in Western Asia, then claimed they had the right to "take it back." Much of that imaginary relationship emerged in the 12th century, after the First Crusade, but there's plenty of evidence that these ideas pre-date 1095.

These sentences fall into the debate of: 1) "The Crusades were truly a defensive war" in which the Crusades defended "Christian territory" vs "Islam." vs 2) "The crusaders imagined it was a defensive war in which they constructed a "Christendom" and "Islam" in perpetual conflict.

I'm a proponent of the latter (2) construct - That the Crusaders indeed typically had genuine belief in these connections, but that these connections were largely imaginary. There's no reasonable claim that Western Latin/French-speaking European Catholics in the 11th century could make for "real" ownership over land in Western Asia that Arab forces conquered from the Byzantine empire ~500 years previously. History is, however, full of people asserting such connections.

I also believe there's nothing in world history more dangerous than people who invent ideologies to justify violence. Madden writes:
Crusaders honestly saw themselves as undertaking acts of charity and love for their Christian brothers and sisters in the East.
Again, I think this is true for many Crusaders. The evidence is strong.

And it's terrifying.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Post-Book Academia: Leaving Academia.edu

Guy Geltner, a medievalist, has written an important piece on why he is leaving Academia.edu, a site that encourages academics to upload their work (skirting copyright laws by calling them "drafts" in some cases), and deploying various algorithms to connect people, encourage discussion, and so forth.

I joined and put two papers online. One - "The Material Culture of Medieval Venetian Identity," contains  a big meta-thesis about how pre-modern Venetians shaped their culture, plus the use of "vectors" as a controlling metaphor to discuss it. I think it's a pretty nifty article and a significant idea. I'd like people to read it, so I uploaded it. It's been viewed 577 times, which is pretty good. I don't think the article gets nearly as much attention if it just sat in Mediterranean Identities, even though it's the first chapter and even though the collection is terrific! In fact, it's precisely the type of collection I expect to see destroyed by Informa, now that they've bought Ashgate.

Of course, Academia.edu isn't doing this for free. They want to make money, and as they get bigger and bigger, both their costs and their expectations for revenue intensify. From Geltner's piece:
The venture capitalists behind Academia.edu, like those backing ResearchGate, did not invest in a charity. (Mendeley is now owned by the publicly traded Elsevier and SSRN is produced by a privately held corporation; incidentally, its advisory board appears to be all male). As such, they are steering it towards an Initial Public Offering or IPO, as I was told in no uncertain terms by Price. Their working and very plausible assumption is that an enterprise needs to be profitable or show much promise of profit, for its IPO to be an attractive option, and they are presumably pressuring Price and his team to prepare the ground for it before a new round of fundraising. I speculate that under these circumstances, new publishing-related services offered by the site will likely begin to cost money, especially in the form of Article Processing Charges or APCs.
Geltner then discusses APCs for a few important paragraphs, at least if the issue is new to you, including the key lines:
For-profit conglomerates like Elsevier, Taylor & Francis, Wiley, Sage, and others are seeking to protect their income streams under growing pressure to make publicly funded research, of which they often hold the copyright, freely accessible at least to those who funded it. To these publishers, Open Access (OA) is not an ideology but a business model meant to keep profits as high as possible.
I've long been troubled by the way that "open-access" shifts costs on to individual academics. It might work to charge APCs to groups of researchers who can write APCs into their grant costs, but they are equally likely to close off open-access journals to small-school scholars or even big-school American scholars where such team-based and grant-based projects are rare. It's important (as Geltner notes) that the new Open Library of the Humanities is NOT relying on APCs, although Public Library of Science (PLoS) does. Maybe science, with its grant mechanisms, can soak the costs? I'm certainly no expert on science-publishing. Meanwhile, my business school colleagues talk about "pay-to-publish" and have APC costs built into their annual budgets (for non-open access publications, usually, hence getting revenue from two directions).

Geltner finishes with an attack on contemporary academic information culture [EDIT: Note - I am not endorsing the "laziness" angle here. I think that's totally NOT what's going on with academic SEARCH. But that's a subject for another essay].
Scholarly activism would be a welcome change to the laziness that has characterized our modus operandi on this front. It may be unpleasant news, but Academia.edu’s success is based on our woeful tendency to search for information (including scholarly articles) on Google, and almost nowhere else; a tragic irony given that our role in society is to find an independent voice, not blindly sail down the stream. With every intervention or publicly funded article we give to those who will eventually trade it (or leverage it to turn a profit), we are contributing to the subordination of science to the whims of financial or political elites. The recent sale of Ashgate Publishing to Informa, the parent company of Taylor & Francis, is only the most recent case in point. (I do accept that university presses can be an exception to this rule, at least in the sense that they are meant to support their institutions, and by extension underwrite independent research). It is time to stop being na├»ve, and do something for the freedom of scholarship. Open access to scholarship should be a human right, not a business model.
Do something.

But what?

I don't have any answers. Post-book academia is hard.





Monday, December 7, 2015

Universal Design for Writing About Humans

The National Center for Disability Journalism at Arizona State University has released a new style guide for writing about disability. Here's the press release. There's also a "words not to use" document.

As a disability-rights journalist, I like the NCDJ a lot. They do great work and this is an important guide. These tools are absolutely necessary. People want to know "the correct term."

Of course, correct terms aren't always possible. There continues to be a vibrant debate within the disability community on person-first vs identity-first language, for example. While I don't think it's possible, or desireable, to get past these lists - it's great for journalists and editors doing quick checks on appropriates style - the release has made me wish for a universal design for writing about other humans.

My principles:

Ask.
Listen.
Respect.
Don't assume I know the answers.
Check preferred pronouns.
Hold myself accountable.
Take criticism graciously.
Always try to do better.

If I were a clever chap, that would be an acrostic. Instead, it's just a set of aspirational goals for how to write about other humans.

What did I miss?

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Sunday Roundup: #SanBernardino and Disability

Tough week. I was working mid-week on finishing a major project (almost done!) about disability and violence, when suddenly my twitter feed filled with news about a shooting at a disability services center. I lost my ability to concentrate, then I sat down and started drafting essays (in response to editors contacting me), afraid I was going to have to write a story about the murder of disabled adults, children, their families, their providers.

Although the violence wasn't aimed, it turned out, at disability services providers, it affected our community directly none the less.
I wrote three other posts:
And a little quick piece for Vice on Game of Thrones' new traile

Friday, December 4, 2015

Disabled and Homeless - Chicago's Public Housing Scandal(s)

Donaldson has a disability, uses a wheelchair and is living on limited income. “You have to decide between living day-to-day and rent,” she told me. Finding an accessible home that she can afford is a challenge, and the struggle is compounded by landlords who turn her away because she is in a wheelchair. “When you look for housing you face discrimination because you’re a person with a disability,” Donaldson said, exasperated.
From The New Republic - on Rahm's next scandal.
The Chicago Housing Authority, charged with managing more than 21,000 of units of public housing, could provide Donaldson with a place to live that is both safe and affordable, a place where her daughter could have her own room and where the facilities would be wheelchair-accessible. Public housing in Chicago suffers from stereotypes born of high-profile 90s-era social ills in projects like Cabrini-Green and the Robert Taylor homes, and many Chicagoans would rather turn their gaze away from the institution and those who rely on it. They shouldn’t. As the city looks elsewhere, the Chicago Housing Authority has been quietly and steadily perpetrating some of the most disturbing institutional mismanagement in a city where jaw-dropping corruption is a spectator sport.
Read this.

Daniel Kaufman, 42. #SanBernardino

Each of the victims of the San Bernardino shootings deserves to be remembered. Here's one, from a piece in the NYT on the victims:
One of the only victims who did not work with Mr. Farook was Daniel Kaufman, 42, who ran the coffee shop at Inland Regional where he trained developmentally disabled people. Friends remembered him as a man of boundless enthusiasm and joy.
For more than a decade, he took part in an annual springtime Renaissance fair in Southern California, they said, lofting banners through the air and spinning around at the rear of processions that escorted the fair’s nobility through the grounds. He had a sixth sense for when a friend needed an extra hug.
“He was so full of life it was ridiculous,” said Stachia Chadwick, who knew Mr. Kaufman for over 10 years through the fair.
Pictures of 11 victims of the violence. Smiling individuals of diverse ages, genders, and races.
From the New York Times
As I wrote for CNN.
As the father of a child with Down syndrome, though not a Californian, I know these types of buildings well. I've spent so much of the last decade in and out of such offices, signing up for services, getting treatments and learning about the world of disability. While every mass shooting is horrific, the carnage can often feel remote, especially as Americans become inured to the regularity of the violence. There have, after all, been more mass shootings in 2015 than days in the year.
And yet, this time it was far too easy for me to imagine the terror of people with and without disabilities as the guns fired, the fire alarm sounded, and the sirens rang out. We'll certainly start hearing stories about children and adults with disabilities as we begin to sort through the aftermath. I spoke with one parent in the area, Shannon Jenkins, who told me that her daughter, "receives services at Inland Regional Center. At any given time, there are hundreds there between employees, kids and adults with special needs, and their parents/(caregivers)." On a crowded Wednesday afternoon, we're lucky the body count wasn't worse.
It doesn't feel lucky, though, that only 14 died, to know it could have been worse if their bombs had gone off.

Update: On Daniel Kaufman's boyfriend, who wasn't informed.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Gun Violence and #DisabilityTwitter

I'll have a piece later today from CNN on the shooting in San Bernardino, CA. I've written about gun violence for them before.
I'm sitting in a small square room, cluttered with books and papers, at the end of a short dead-end corridor. I'm a history professor at a small university, sitting in my office alone, hearing the news that 800 miles away, a Delta State University history professor has been shot and killed in his office. It's all too easy to picture being trapped behind my own desk, unable to escape, to dodge, to do anything but plead.
Empathy is a powerful tool, and that will be very much the theme of my piece this morning.

In the meantime, though, I want to reflect a bit on watching the San Bernardino story unfold. I was sitting in my office working on a white paper on media coverage of police violence and disability (coming soon, with my favorite co-writer), when the news broke of the killing. Soon, we found out that the killing took place at a disability services center, and my personal network of disability rights activists, disabled individuals, parents, caregivers, service providers, and so much more encapsulated by #DisabilityTwitter fell apart emotionally.

We shared pictures, tweets, details, experiences with centers like that, debated whether disabled individuals would or wouldn't be present at the office, and explored the Inland Resource Center's social media feeds. We braced for the worst. We were relieved, if guiltily, when it became clear that the worst wasn't in fact the case.
You see, we're ready for someone to target disabled people with violence. We're expecting it. We're expecting it because it's constantly happening, even though most people are unaware. We see, every day, the ways in which disabled people are marginalized, dehumanized, and excluded. We see the violence everywhere - domestic, sexual, carceral, law enforcement, legal, representational, and more. And we know that although disabled people are vastly more likely to be victims of violence than non-disabled people, that the media and politicians are far too likely to treat disability as a threat, to treat mental illness as the cause of gun violence (rather than, say, easy access to firearms), and to stigmatize rather than assist.

I saw that on the news. The local ABC affiliate was asking relatives of survivors about their family members, then pushing them to speculate about "mental patients" who might be responsible. We now know, of course, that wasn't the case, and the target was county workers, killed by one of their own, but the stigma was deployed and ready to go.

I'm glad the target wasn't disabled children or service providers, even though that fact makes this act of violence no less tragic. But the violence against people with disabilities is ongoing. We're all too ready to be triggered. It's a learned reaction.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Post-Book Academia: Save Ashgate

The Chronicle for Higher Education covered the "Save Ashgate" petition and movement, now with over 7000 signatures (which is a huge number for an academic publishing issue).
The company has not yet responded to the petitioners, according to Kathleen E. Kennedy, an associate professor of English at Pennsylvania State University-Brandywine. That silence speaks volumes, she says. "We hear that the neoliberal corporation will roll on profitably with us or without us," she wrote in an online essay. "We are not part of their equation."
Go read Kennedy's essay for more.
What can we do, we who are silenced? We can organize. Unlike the campaign to restore University of Missouri’s press, a petition wasn’t enough to attract the attention of Taylor & Francis or Informa. But we can reach out to those university presses who continue to battle ever increasing austerity. We can encourage the brilliant presses at Ohio State, Minnesota, Penn State, and Yale, among others, to hire our beloved editors, and offer them space to nurture their series and their networks. We who are Ashgate (and that is clearly a lot of us) may flourish elsewhere, but only if we work hard to leverage our networks to make these rehomings possible. Our networks are what make a press valuable to us, and those we carry with us.
I've been thinking a lot about the ways in which academic can change in response to the shrinking options for book publishing. Books won't go away. Elites will still publish in elite presses which are tied into elite institutions. But the lower tier universities will need to begin to think about redefining what "the book" means to their tenure and promotion structures. Open Access is fine, but the costs to the researcher is often intense. In Europe, large grant groups can build those into their grants. That doesn't work for the American model.

Another model, of course, is to replace tenured teacher-scholars with adjuncts and lecturers. They don't "need" to write books anyway. This is, I fear, how neoliberal America will continue to go. Our students will suffer, as we are better teachers when we participate in our disciplines as scholars.

So ... much to watch here. I'll be writing on these issues under my general heading, "Post-book academia."

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Laquan McDonald - "Acting Erratic" while black (#CultOfCompliance)

I've been out of town so haven't been commenting directly on the Laquan McDonald killing. Two major points.

First, I believe that the elected officials of Chicago tried to cover this up and delay justice for political gain.
The Cook County prosecutor, Anita Alvarez, must have had probable cause to indict Officer Van Dyke for the Oct. 20, 2014, shooting death of Mr. McDonald the moment she viewed the police dash-cam video, after her office received it two weeks later. That video, in her own words, was “everything that it has been described to be by the news accounts. It is graphic. It is violent. It is chilling.”
But the timing, in late 2014, was not good.
Then up for re-election, the mayor of Chicago, Rahm Emanuel, was looking ahead to a contested election on Feb. 24, 2015, which would ultimately result in a runoff election on April 7. In Ferguson, Mo., a grand jury was hearing testimony on the police shooting of Michael Brown. The video of Eric Garner being choked to death during an arrest in New York had gone viral. The Black Lives Matter movement was gaining momentum across the country.
The video of a police shooting like this in Chicago could have buried Mr. Emanuel’s chances for re-election. And it would likely have ended the career of the police superintendent, Garry F. McCarthy.
Second, as regular readers know, I frequently write about the ways that being disabled acts as a risk multiplier when it comes to interactions with police. It's one of many risk factors - including race, class, gender, and more - that multiply as oppressive forces intersect.

McDonald was not, to my knowledge, disabled. He was, though, acting in an unpredictable way. Here's the text we see again and again from the police report:
According to the police, the young man was walking down a street on the Southwest side of Chicago, carrying a 4-inch knife and behaving erratically. The officer reportedly told McDonald to drop the knife, but the teen did not comply. Van Dyke purportedly shot McDonald for fear of his life, claiming the teen lunged at him.
We've seen this before. Failure to comply resulting a quick escalation to use of lethal force, particularly when confronting black men. It's the same pattern.