News Highlights: Week of June 19

Stories About Disability Don’t Have to Be Sad, by Melissa Shang from The New York Times Opinion Section

“Not having books that show disability in a lighthearted way makes it harder for everyone else to see disability as a normal part of life” writes Melissa Shang, author of a new book inspired by her own experience as a vibrant and creative middle schooler with a form of muscular dystrophy. As Melissa tried to get published, she faced a common myth about people with disabilities– that their stories are sad. Agents said her story just wasn’t believable, or readers weren’t ready for a happy-go-lucky disabled character. So Melissa self-published. She hopes the book, “Mia Lee Is Wheeling Through Middle School,” will help debunk the myth and inspire other young people with disabilities.

A College Built for Canadian Settlers Envisions an Indigenous Future, by Catherine Porter of The New York Times

Canadian universities are making efforts to “indigenize” their campuses– from enrolling more Aboriginal students and faculty to incorporating Aboriginal concepts into their curriculums. The initiatives have proven challenging. Take, for instance, that one of the foundations of university education in the western tradition is reading: a linear method of gaining knowledge. Aboriginal learning is in part based on dancing and oral storytelling. The undertaking also requires institutions to face their problematic colonial pasts. But as the president of one university put it, “If you can’t talk about these things at university…where can you do it?”

Where the Journey to College Is No Fairy Tale, by Eric Hoover of The Chronicle for Higher Education

We usually think May is the end of the college admissions cycle because that’s when students receive their acceptance letters. But many students won’t know what school to choose until weeks later, when financial aid information arrives. For example, one student was accepted to a number of schools, none of which her parents can afford.  For these students, college acceptances “can feel hollow, even cruel.” Their guidance counselor ruminates on her students’ situation– “They’re locked into whatever is going to be affordable.” They don’t have the luxury of attending their “soulmate school.”

A Virtual Trick to Remove Racial Bias, by Stephen L. Macknik of Scientific American

Can virtual reality help reduce racial bias? Researchers had white participants use headsets to interact with each other as either white or Black avatar bodies in a virtual scenario. When both avatars had the same race, participants unconsciously mimicked each other’s body language; more so than when their avatars had different races. So even when both participants had Black avatars, they showed this unconscious mimicry. The study highlights that we can unconsciously, and sometimes unreasonably, feel closer to members of our in-group than our out-group. It’s a promising start to a new era of implicit bias research.

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