« Trade, Growth and ... Brazil | Main | What's a Billion? »


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

In part, maybe the issue is not accessibility but rather the way education is delivered and it's real goals. I heard an ex-Google exec (who had been a CS prof pre-Google, and who had moved on to some kind of education related thing when he became fantastically wealthy post IPO) make an apt analogy. To paraphrase: if we taught kids to ride bicycles the way a course is taught in university, we'd start the child with a few lectures on the importance of bike riding, followed by a few on the history of bike riding, then move on to why the profs research is vital to the art and science of bike riding. Finally there would be some lectures on bike riding, followed by an exam, and if the vast majority of students would practice riding all night before the exam, then never ride a bike again. Of course, we don't teach bike riding that way, which raises the question: maybe the point of university isn't primarily education, but rather sorting students into bins of various grades (like Canada Grade A meat).

Accomodations should be about enabling someone who can do the work do it, if the obstacles are not related to the job. Someone who need a wheelchair should have a ramp built to reach his office but somone who can't do the job on its own once he his in a proper environment should not do this work.. An internist could work without hands, not a surgeon.
Denizens of this blog know that I am an autist and that I sometimes teach to autists. Giving anxiety treatment to a young autist so that his otherwise functionning abilities can be put to good use is ok. Pretending that a profound Kanner can have a meaningful university degree is not useful to that person.
There is profound differnce between unlocking a potential and pretending the potential is there.

Rachel, one thing that's interesting to me is that none of your mathematicians - not Dr J, Dr W or Dr L - seem to have any love for the current system of accommodation of disability. Dr J and Dr L's complaints are the common ones - muttering about standards and the amount of work that accommodation involves for profs. But Dr W also isn't happy with the status quo either, because she would like to see e.g. special software for everyone.

This also very much like this point: "But at the university the success or failure of accommodations is not always clear."

I think that's partly because, to define success or failure, we'd have to agree on the ultimate goals of university education - and that's not always easy to do.

I don't know why, but this put in mind of this video of TED talk about some monkeys. (youtube.com). It sounds like the grumblers just want a grape.

I think part of the problem is that one single grade is supposed to communicate many different things:

1. Understanding of the material
2. Ability to apply the material (perhaps quickly and under stressful conditions)
3. Level of perseverance, diligence, and enthusiasm

These three different attributes are positively but not perfectly correlated and idiosyncratic variations are more pronounced for students with disabilities. Moreover, the grade not only tries to capture some composite of the above, it also serves as some sort of relative ranking in a cross-sectional and time-series sense.

One issue that I have with how accommodations for learning disabilities appear to work in practice, at least at my institution, is that they are availed disproportionately by students from privileged backgrounds. Minorities, first generation college students, and international students almost never ask for accommodations. This may be because students with disabilities from those backgrounds don't make it past the admissions hurdle but it seems problematic to me nevertheless. Frances, are there any empirical studies on this issue?

I used to ask for accommodations; as a Type I Diabetic is was the way I got to have a blood testing kit and some food with me in the testing room, which were otherwise banned. I can't do a test for three hours without them.

This was the administrative way you dealt with the university. But then as a purely physical problem, I wasn't seen as a "problem" to deal with and got my requests.

Determinant: you were exactly what I alluded to. The restrictions you suffer are not related to your ability to perform, given these adjustments.

I have no problem with the idea behind giving students accommodations. After all, if for some bizarre reason, Stephen Hawking decided he wanted to give up physics and study economics it would not make sense to refuse him special accommodations.
However, I really have to wonder about the screening involved. I have been at some universities where I got multiple students in each class writing at the center for disabilities with extra time. Other places (such as where I am now), I get one or two in an entire academic year. I have no way of knowing whether this means that some places are too strict or if it means that others are too lenient. However, being a cynic, I do wonder if part of the difference is that in some places the Centre for Disabilities might not be trying to justify their budget by showing there is a need for their services by granting requests.

Stephen Hawking , given accomodation, can perform ( and probably would be a far better economist than most...). The problem is when we try to accomodate people who won't perform.

A useful post. I want to point out that the professors seem to believe that the grades they give matter outside the university, something belied by experience. The credential seems to be all that matters to the rest of the world. Consequently, a professor who does not give high grades easily is not depriving anyone of a livelihood. I know, you can all sleep at night now.

Anyway, there are only two grades that matter: 1) 100 A++ which will gain you entrance to the next better school or job 2) 60 C-- who will get you access to next stage of your mediocre life.
80 B means you worked too hard in a subject you don't master...

The concept that University should simulate unecessary stresfull work environments and only give good grades to those who can perform under those conditions is horrible. If employers want to test stress resistance, they can do that on their own, that is not what a University grade should be about.

The comments to this entry are closed.

Search this site

  • Google

Blog powered by Typepad