Dr. Margaret Price, a professor of English at Spelman College, put her ideas into practice during her Distinguished Visitors talk, “Ways to Move: Disability and the Kairotic Space of the Classroom,” which was held in Sharpless Auditorium on Feb. 9. During her talk, she took special pains to accommodate as many learning styles as possible. For example, she provided a few members of the audience with a general transcript of the talk (for those who learn better by reading rather than listening), and a sign language interpreter signed alongside her for the hearing impaired. Witnessing these pedagogical strategies in action made for an exciting and invigorating talk.
For Price, the main obstacle for widespread success in today’s classroom is academia’s focus on the individual’s problem rather than the issues plaguing the overall pedagogical structure. She noted in her talk–which was based on her recent book, Mad at School: Rhetorics of Mental Disability and Academic Life–that frequently when a student has some type of mental disability, he or she has to go through a long, bureaucratic process to request an accommodation (for more time on tests, etc.). However, Price finds this strategy inherently ineffective because it stigmatizes the individual’s disability rather than allowing for multiple perspectives.
Price’s solution revolves around the recognition of what she calls “kairotic spaces” which are informal and usually social spaces where individuals exchange power and knowledge–a classroom or a work interview, for instance. Individuals with psychosocial disabilities (autism, ADD, etc.) often struggle in these situations. Many college courses, rely on class participation, which can put some students in a disadvantaged situation. Similarly, many students may struggle expressing their ideas in a traditional academic essay. Price’s thesis asserts that schools could greatly benefit from allowing students to express themselves in multiple ways.