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In Search of Better Angels
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In Search of Better Angels
Stories of Disability in the Human Family


May 2003 | 160 pages | Corwin

"We must first understand others before we can care about them and we must care about them before we can love them. In this book, J. David Smith takes us on a fascinating journey from understanding to caring to love."
Leonard O. Pellicer, Dean
University of La Verne, La Verne, CA

Do children and adults with disabilities enrich our lives? Far more than most people imagine.

In Search of Better Angels is a testament to the value of individuals with disabilities and the value that society could derive from being more welcoming to and inclusive of them. The reward is the powerful humanizing influence that they can have on others—even some of the most hardened people among us.

Colorful, real-life examples illustrate how a disability can be a valuable human attribute, a powerful source of compassion from which everyone can benefit.

What are the challenges that face us as we strive for a more inclusive society? What are the values that should guide us in our efforts? Smith approaches these questions by examining his own experience and other unique perspectives:

  • Meet the children and adults with disabilities who have touched his own life
  • Consider what science—and pseudoscience—has said about disability
  • View disability through the lens of history and literature

The result is a compelling case for understanding and celebrating human diversity. Smith asks us to summon the "better angels" of our character and affirm our commitment to a society based on equality and democracy.


 
Preface
Acknowledgments

 
 
Introduction: Power and Epiphany - Reflections on the Personal and Cultural Value of Disabilities
 
Part I: My Own Journey
 
1. Disability and Revelation: Lessons Learned and Flying Squirrels
 
2. Learning to Love, Loving to Learn: Mike and the Clown Faces
 
3. Inclusion, Exclusion, and Other Matters of the Heart: The Story of Nan
 
4. Disabling Prejudice: Aunt Celie and the Marble Cake
 
5. Lessons in Patois: Learning to Be a Jamaican
 
6. A Father's Proud Moment: The Day My Daughter Became a Gifted Samaritan
 
7. Recapturing the Spirit of Caring: Uncle, Brownie, and Sausage Biscuits
 
Part I: Questions to Ponder
 
Part II: Disability, Science, and Pseudoscience
 
8. Eugenics, Old and New: Mensa and the Human Genome Project
The Tragedy of Involuntary Sterilization Eugenics

 
Eugenics: A Continuing Legacy

 
The Human Genome Project and Mental Retardation

 
Mental Retardation, "Felt Necessities," and Ethics

 
 
9. Euguenics Revisited: Buck Versus Bell and The Bell Curve
 
10. Old Texts, Disabilities, and the Persistent Argument: For Whom the Bell Curves
 
11. Different Voices of Advocacy: Helen Keller and Burton Blatt
Helen Keller: A Magnificent Exception

 
Helen Keller and the Parameters of Advocacy

 
Burton Blatt's Advocacy: The Golden Rule and Beyond

 
Legacies and Challenges

 
 
12. A Place or No Place for Disabilities: Disney's Tarzan, Edgar Rice Burroughs' Eugenics, and Visions of Utopian Perfection
Tarzan and the Triumph of Heredity

 
Burroughs on Genetic Predetermination

 
Burroughs on Breeding for Utopia

 
Utopia and Disabilities

 
 
13. The Polio Vaccine Research and Children With Disabilities: Sacrifices for the Miracle
Personal Reflections on Polio

 
The Salk Vaccine and "Institutionalized" Research

 
Feeding Live Polio Virus to Children With Disabilites

 
Research and Disabilities: Other Cases

 
Claiming a Place of Value for People With Disabilities: The Continuing Struggle

 
 
Part II: Questions to Ponder
 
Part III: Disability in Historical and Literary Perspectives
 
14. Disability and the Need for Romantic Science: Darwin's Last Child
 
15. Words of Understanding, Concepts of Inclusiveness: The Wisdom of Margaret Mead
 
16. The Question of Differential Advocacy: Laura Bridgman
Constructing the Disability of Mental Retardation

 
Disability and Invisibility

 
Laura Bridgman: The First Miracle

 
 
17. Disabilities and the Challenges of Equality: Looking Backward, Looking Forward
Looking Backward

 
Looking Forward

 
 
18. Diversity and Disability: Individuality and Mental Retardation
A Memory From Ignacy Goldberg

 
Jack London's "Told in the Drooling Ward"

 
The Typology of Mental Retardation

 
Mental Retardation: Redefining or Disaggregating?

 
 
Part III: Questions to Ponder
 
Epilogue: Finding a Voice - The Story of Bill
 
Index

"We must first understand others before we can care about them and we must care about them before we can love them. In this book, J. David Smith takes us on a fascinating journey from understanding to caring to love."

 

Long version:

"This is not just a book about special education or people with disabilities, this is a book about humanity and what it means to be human!

J. David Smith carries on in the best tradition of the great Southern storytellers. He will make you laugh, he will make you cry, but most importantly, he will make you think!

There are insights in this wonderful book that, if taken to heart, can make us all "better angels!"

We must first understand others before we can care about them and we must care about them before we can love them. In this book, J. David Smith takes us on a fascinating journey from understanding to caring to love."

Leonard O. Pellicer, Dean
University of La Verne

Sample Materials & Chapters

Preface

Chapter 1: Disability and Revelation


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