Tuesday, June 29, 2010


For those of you who don't know I am currently in school working on my Master's Degree in Special Education.  One of the classes I have this summer is a special education intro class that all students in the education program have to take regardless of whether they are going into special education or not.  So, the majority of the class are not special education majors but rather early or secondary education.  A lot of what this class is about is making sure those teachers who are not in special education understand children with special needs a little bit better.  Our teacher has done a great job at explaining the importance of focusing on what the student can do instead of what they can't and showing us how not to judge without getting more information.

There was an exercise he used in class that I thought was really good to use not for just special education but for life.  It's an exercise that teaches not to judge based on just what someone tells you or make assumptions based on that.  So what I want you to do is read the following paragraph and when you are done think about where you think these people live and think of five or so adjectives that you think describe these people.

Body Ritual of the Nacirema

"The magical beliefs and practices of this tribe have been described in great detail; yet there is concern over several slightly masochistic tendencies.  Nacirema tribal customs include: scarping and lacerating the face or legs with a sharp instrument, piercing the skin with sharp instruments and then taking great care to keep the holes from closed again, ceremonial painting of the body, and insertion and ritualistic movement of a bundle of hog hairs in the mouth several times a day.  The people of this tribe seek out the assistance of medicine men many times during the course of a year to treat physical ailments, release them from the power of devils that have lodged in their heads, and gouge holes in their teeth (this is done in order to prevent oral decay and offend ones friends).  The Nacirema gather in large numbers to watch clans within the tribe enact small battles often with many physical injuries and to observe individual tribal members fight to unconsciousness." 

So?  Where do you think these people live?  How would you describe them?  Barbaric?  Uncivilized?  Inhumane?  Those are some of the words used to describe them when we did this exercise in class.

Would you believe that this passage is about us?  Americans?  Well....it is.  The magical beliefs and practices mentioned is talking about religion.  Scarping and lacerating the face and legs with sharp instruments is referring to shaving.  Piercing the skin and keeping the hole open is talking about our ear (or any other place on our body) that we pierce.  Ceremonial painting of the body refers to tattoos.  Insertion of a bundle of hog hairs in the mouth?  The first toothbrushes were made out of hog hair.  Seeking out the assistance of medicine men several times a year is the same thing as going to the doctor when we are sick or get checkups.  Gouging holes in the teeth refers to root canals.  Watching clans enact small battles with physical injuries is talking about football and fighting to unconsciousness is talking about ultimate fighting.

So, did you learn your lesson?

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