Can people without disabilities learn to see disability as a positive quality? Researchers at Moravian College used an activity called the “mine/thine problem” to find out. Participants were told that “everyone is handicapped in some way” and were asked to identify any quality they considered to be a disability within themselves. The responses were ranked according to perceived severity and grouped into pairs. Participants were then asked if they’d prefer to switch their disability with the one it was paired with or keep their own. Ninety percent of participants said they wanted to keep their own, regardless of perceived severity. When asked why, participants expressed concern about navigating daily life with an unfamiliar condition and reported more positive attitudes about disability after claiming ownership of their own. The researchers say this reflects how people with disabilities often feel—that their disability is a part of their identity.
How can colleges and universities select and support first-generation students? Chancellor Nancy Cantor of Rutgers University and President Daniel Porterfield of Franklin and Marshall College were invited to speak on the topic at a recent panel discussion. They propose cultivating relationships with local organizations, inviting students to reach out to their own communities, and engaging the community in decision making on topics from pedagogy to campus spaces. Cantor points out that schools have too narrow a sense of what constitutes a talented student and where to find them, and says leaders in higher education must completely re-think the concept of merit.
Students with ethnically diverse friend groups may perform better in school than students who spend time with peers just like them, according to a new study from the University of California, Davis. Researchers tracked 800 sixth graders across three states and recorded the ethnic makeup of their lunch groups. When a lunch group included at least one cross-ethnic peer, all students in the group benefited academically, with GPAs that were about one-third of a letter grade higher (B+ to A-, for example) than peers who ate with homogenous lunch groups. It might be that the social skills students pick up by interacting with peers who are different from them boost their problem-solving skills and subsequently, their academic performance. Jakeem Lewis, the lead researcher, says that this means early exposure to a diverse group of peers may have lifelong benefits for all involved.