Rev. Jeremiah Wright, former pastor of Trinity United
Methodist Church Church of Christ in Chicago, doesn’t just have a lot to say about politics--he also has some thoughts on special education as well, which he shared during his April 27 speech before the NAACP in Detroit:
Turn to your neighbor and say different does not mean deficient. It simply means different. In fact, Dr. Janice Hale was the first writer whom I read who used that phrase. Different does not mean deficient. Different is not synonymous with deficient....Dr. Hale showed us that in comparing African-American children and European-American children in the field of education, we were comparing apples and rocks. And in so doing, we kept coming up with meaningless labels like EMH, educable mentally handicapped, TMH, trainable mentally handicapped, ADD, attention deficit disorder. And we were coming up with more meaningless solutions like reading, writing and Ritalin. Dr. Hale's research led her to stop comparing African-American children with European-American children and she started comparing the pedagogical methodologies of African-American children to African children and European-American children to European children. And bingo, she discovered that the two different worlds have two different ways of learning.... Some of you are old enough, I see your hair color, to remember when the NAACP won that tremendous desegregation case back in 1954 and when the schools were desegregated. They were never integrated. When they were desegregated in Philadelphia, several of the white teachers in my school freaked out. Why? Because black kids wouldn't stay in their place. Over there behind the desk, black kids climbed up all on them. Because they learn from a subject, not from an object. Tell me a story. They have a different way of learning. Those same children who have difficulty reading from an object and who are labeled EMH, TMH, and ADD. Those children can say every word from every song on every hip-hop radio station half of whose words the average adult here tonight cannot understand. Why? Because they come from a right-brained creative oral culture like the griots in Africa who can go for two or three days as oral repositories of a people's history....
Thanks to Joanne Jacobs for the tip.
A version of this news article first appeared in the On Special Education blog.