Quite a week

On Monday night Renate and I listened to Jonathan Mooney, at the College of Mount St. Joseph, as he analyzed and often skewered institutions–especially schools–for their adherence to the “tyranny of normalcy.”  On Wednesday we went to Cincinnati’s Mercantile Library to hear Anne Burleigh deliver the “Founders’ Day” lecture on “Wendell Berry and Membership.”  Mooney drew a picture, from his own experience, of a student with disabilities being searched out by schools and then singled out, day after day, year after year, with the clear intention of spinning that student right out of “normal” society.  He concluded with an appeal that we recognize “disability” as part of the human fabric, part of the diverse community. 

Wendell Berry doesn’t write much about “disability,” but he does hope for (as he brings to life in narrative and dialogue) a community where everybody belongs… a locality where the members of that local community are bound together by mutual knowledge, interests, and faithfulness to each other and to the land.  Anne Burleigh said that what Berry portrays is a “little commonwealth,” a good place where everyone’s vitality is of concern to every member.  And, if every member is included, then “normalcy” no longer matters.  If all (diverse) members are important to each other… well, I suppose that Jonathan Mooney and Wendell Berry are speaking and writing toward similar hopes.

It’s been quite a week.

Jack Pealer

Link to Erin McKenzie Virtual Welcoming Space Blog

You can also find more information about the Jonathan Mooney event as well as see participants’ reflections gathered when John McKnight visited Otterbein College in October, 2007 on the Erin McKenzie Virtual Welcoming Space Blog . In their work, both draw attention to discovering the capacity of each person to build community rather than labeling or obsessing on perceived deficits and needs.

You Won’t Want to Miss This : Jonathan Mooney is Coming to Ohio – April 13 and 14, 2008

mooney.jpgJonathan Mooney – The Short Bus, A Journey Beyond Normal

During the summer of 2002, Jonathan Mooney bought an old short school bus – the kind that transports students in many school districts to special education classes—and converted it into an RV. For four months, he drove 35,000 miles through 45 states to explore disability culture in America. What surprised him was that this journey led him straight to the myth of normalcy. Jonathan, like many labeled abnormal, spent his life chasing that myth before his trip. But he learned that people with disabilities make up a nation-wide movement that actively resists the constraint of normalcy for all of us. In Jonathan’s presentation he brings to life some of the individuals with disabilities who he encountered on his trip and profiled for his book. Jonathan shows how schools, institutions, and public policy enforce normalcy and encourages his audience to examine and challenge common notions of disability. Continue reading

Reports Don’t Capture What You Do

I am helping to write an activities report on the Journey of Ohio TASH toward our vision this past year. It is difficult sometimes to put things into words, especially when you are being required to for a written report. I do believe it is important to try and capture and reflect on those “Ah! Ha!” moments, conversations, and people that renew our committment and energy. Will this report be used as a reminder of our mission? Or will it be filed away or used as some kind of measurement as to our value? I hope it is the former.