Review: Both Sides of the Table: Autoethnographies of Educators Learning and Teaching With/In [Dis]ability by Phil Smith.

Author:Lukin, Josh
Position:Book review
 
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Both Sides of the Table: Autoethnographies of Educators Learning and Teaching With/In [Dis]ability by Phil Smith (Peter Lang Publishing, Inc., 2014)

In Phil Smith's anthology Both Sides of the Table: Autoethnographies of Educators Learning and Teaching With/In [Dis]ability, twelve education scholars recount the experience of disability in their lives and those of their families. Smith's goal is to challenge conventional approaches to education and disability by presenting a wide range of autoethnographies, creative memoirs that seek to locate the self within and against its surrounding culture. The narratives challenge the expert wisdom of educational, legal, and medical bureaucracies; they offer, or encourage us to imagine, alternatives to conventional relationships between doctor and patient, teacher and student, or service provider and client. Their settings range far beyond the classroom to encompass many realms in which the scholars have dealt with disability in their lives and those of their families and students--the book's scenes span hospitals, jail, kitchens, swimming pools, departments of social services, literal and figurative closets, and the streets of 1980s Portland.

Despite the anthology's focus on the field of education and the personal narrative, Smith's contributors cover an immense range of perspectives. U.S. graduate student Dene Granger writes of her struggles with ableism, class oppression, and the pressures of diagnoses and disability disclosure, offering a powerful critique of "the myth of meritocracy." New Zealand scholar Bernadette Macartney paints a disconcerting picture of the contrast between her daughter's creative and ebullient personality as perceived by her family and the endless disappointments the child experiences in an educational system supposedly designed to accommodate her. City University of New York professor David J. Connor writes conscientiously and movingly about the role disability plays in his large British family, dramatizing the tension between working-class and professional values and modeling how he prompts his students to reflect on who has shaped their understanding of disability. All the contributions argue, implicitly or directly, that disability justice requires respect for personal experience, dialogue among the disabled and those affected by their loved ones' disability, and a radical re-envisioning of the relationship between professionals and laypersons.

Both Sides of the Table...

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