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“A Disability History of the United States” by Kim Nielsen Essay (Book Review)


The Most Appealing Ideas Expressed by the Author

In the book entitled “A Disability History of the United States (ReVisioning American History)”, Kim Nielsen presents a detailed overview of the attitudes and perceptions of disability that were dominant in different periods of the United States history. In particular, the author begins with focusing on the ideas about disability that used to be in place in the Indigenous North America and then moves on to the colonial and progressive eras.

Reading this book, it is possible to notice that such practices as understanding of disability as a part of society, as well as its acceptance, existed in some Indigenous cultures but were ignored completely by colonists who came to settle in the territory of North America. It was also interesting, and, at the same time, disheartening, to read about an extremely lengthy period of ignorance towards disability that often was combined with utter cruelty and violence.

Having lived through centuries of abuse, disability in the United States finally began to receive some forms of understanding and acceptance only in the 20th century when activists and protestors started to organize campaigns all around the country demanding fair treatment and civil rights. These demands, however, still were met with negativity and frequently rejected.

One of the most interesting ideas expressed by the author is the isolated existence of the concept of disability and its evolution throughout history that was unraveling alongside the presence of disability in the society. The author notes that attitudes towards and perceptions of disability and people affected by it are tightly connected to the dominant interpretations of the concept of disability.

The Implications of the Ideas in the Book for Me as an Educator

Reading the book by Nielsen from the perspective of an educator, it was impossible to miss the major idea of the author – the tight connection between the official and popular interpretation of disability as a concept and the effect it produces on the masses forming their attitudes towards people with disabilities. Specifically, educators tend to work with representatives of diverse communities each of which may hold different perceptions and ideas.

As a result, inclusive classrooms and schools may face problems of rejection and alienation of students with disabilities, as well as bullying, mocking, and other forms of unfair and hostile behaviors. Consequently, it is the duty of educators to address this problem, popularize ethically appropriate ideas and attitudes, teach young children to perceive disability in the ways acceptable in the contemporary American society and prevent the promotion of old-fashioned and discriminatory values that used to be dominant centuries ago.

Another implication of the author’s ideas is the need for educators to reevaluate their own values and perceptions of disability, and detect potential biases through feedback and self-reflection. This is a particularly important practice for contemporary educators whose workplaces embrace inclusion of students with disabilities. Moreover, the practice of inclusion in educational establishments calls for educators’ need for training as to the specificity of working with children who have special needs. No inclusion training can begin without the educators’ deep understanding of the concept of disability in all of its aspects, as well as the consequences that may and will arise in cases when educators working in inclusive schools and classrooms have biases and misconceptions about their students with special needs.

Ideas That I Challenge

In order to present a detailed and thorough overview of the issues of disability that exist in the contemporary American society, Nielsen introduces the entire problem and concept of disability though the historical perspective. In that way, the author attempts to educate readers about the problems under discussion and improve their understanding of what disability is as a social concept and what effects people with disabilities my face due to a misrepresentation of their issues and situations. As a result, the author succeeded at telling the background of the issue and informing readers about its seriousness and the importance of appropriate treatment, ethical attitudes, and public awareness of disability as a social phenomenon.

At the same time, I would like to challenge the approach taken by Nielsen. In particular, the author explored, studied, and reviewed history of disability specifically for the purpose of presenting it to the contemporary readers and showing contrasts and similarities between attitudes towards people with disabilities in the past and today. However, the actual coverage of the state of affairs concerning the rights of people with disabilities in the modern USA is very light. Focusing on the past, the author managed to make a very strong point concerning the importance of the issue and social knowledge and literacy in its regard.

However, the problems and challenges faced by people living with various disabilities, as well as their caregivers, were an insufficient part of the discussion even though this is the most vital point of the entire book. In that way, I believe that it would make sense to emphasize the fact that the issue of negative attitudes towards disability and people it affects is still rather common.

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IvyPanda. (2020, November 3). "A Disability History of the United States" by Kim Nielsen. Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/essays/a-disability-history-of-the-united-states-by-kim-nielsen/

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""A Disability History of the United States" by Kim Nielsen." IvyPanda, 3 Nov. 2020, ivypanda.com/essays/a-disability-history-of-the-united-states-by-kim-nielsen/.

1. IvyPanda. ""A Disability History of the United States" by Kim Nielsen." November 3, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/a-disability-history-of-the-united-states-by-kim-nielsen/.


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IvyPanda. ""A Disability History of the United States" by Kim Nielsen." November 3, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/a-disability-history-of-the-united-states-by-kim-nielsen/.

References

IvyPanda. 2020. ""A Disability History of the United States" by Kim Nielsen." November 3, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/a-disability-history-of-the-united-states-by-kim-nielsen/.

References

IvyPanda. (2020) '"A Disability History of the United States" by Kim Nielsen'. 3 November.

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