Furman and Gruenewald

I enjoyed this article as a firm advocate of expanding the landscape of social justice.  My work in Disability Studies is centered on human diversity rather than ecological diversity, but there were many familiar themes throughout the article.  In the book The Short Bus by Jonathan Mooney, a mother of a child with Down syndrome contemplates a future in which the syndrome is preventable (through screening of pregnant women).  She says “we don’t know what the loss will be but if I believe my presence is tied to the presence of diverse individuals and those people are gone, I think we’ve become less human” (2007, p. 193).  She compares human diversity to the diversity of the rain forest and emphasizes that we do not know what the consequences might be of wiping out that diversity.  Unfortunately, the dominant paradigm disvalues people with disabilities, considering them to be deficient rather than merely different.

Like Furman and Gruenewald, I believe that assumptions about progress in our culture are problematic and threaten diversity.  Our constructed ideas about what is “normal” cause some people to be labeled as outsiders.  Treating disability as disease means that “progress” is the eradication human diversity.  In fact, it is often the cultural attitudes and legal structures of society that disable people, rather than any physical or mental impairment.  Furman and Gruenewald suggest that a beneficial way to teach about diversity is through direct contact with communities, and I agree.  Educators must question “their deepest cultural and educational assumptions” about human diversity as well as ecological diversity (Furman & Gruenewald, 2004, p.62).  Students must come to know and appreciate the contributions of people labeled with disability.  I think that many of the ideas put forth by Furman and Gruenewald could be applied to human diversity as well as ecological diversity.

Mooney, J. (2007). The Short Bus. New York: St. Martin’s Press.