Wow, for once mothers aren’t to blame

“Kids at risk if dad too fat for genes” says headline in the Daily Telegraph.

“A University of Newcastle study of more than 3000 families found four-year-olds whose fathers were overweight or obese were at least four times more likely than other children to have weight problems themselves by eight years of age.

On the other hand, an overweight or obese mother made little difference to the chances of her child developing their own weight problems.

You can read the full story here.

Towards radical inclusion: Bring down the barriers!

great article in the Chronicle of Higher Education this week calls on people teaching in universities to recognise the need for radical inclusion:

A genuine effort to include—not simply to accommodate—people with disabilities could have a radical effect on our teaching and our professional practices. What if the instructor who silenced the stutterer had instead taken his disability as an opportunity to examine the goals and purpose of class participation? What if a professor who was asked to give a disabled student extra time on an exam paused to think about whether 50 minutes was the ideal time for any student to complete the exam?

When our campuses tolerate, but do not welcome, people with disabilities, they undermine the values of democracy, justice, and intellectual freedom that are the core values of higher education. And when we regard students and colleagues with disabilities as nuisances or disruptions, we lose the opportunities they provide to think critically, with fresh eyes, about the assumptions on which our pedagogy and our intellectual projects are based.

I couldn’t agree more. In fact, disability offers us a lens for looking at learning and teaching – it sharpens and makes vivid some of the difficulties which many students face. Mick Healey found that

[a]s with many academic endeavours, the more I learn about supporting the learning of disabled students, the more I realise I have to learn about supporting the learning of all students.

He sees disability legislation, which requires us to remove the barriers which disable people, as a Trojan horse smuggling in good teaching practice to everyone’s benefit.  And the author of the Chronicle article, Rachel Adams, has a practical suggestion – learn from the Universal Design movement.

So what a great opportunity to link to some resources for doing just as she suggests:

– at the University of Connecticut’s Center on Postsecondary Education and Disability, they call it Universal Design for Instruction, and at the University of Washington, where the DO-IT project promotes the use of technology for access, it’s Universal Design of Instruction
– the University of Guelph has all kinds of resources on Universal Instructional Design
– there’s even a US National Center on Universal Design for Learning (though unlike the other links, this one’s not specifically aimed at postsecondary education)
– the Australian site CATS has tips for inclusive teaching in higher education, and they emphasise that it’s important for meeting the needs of students from different cultural backgrounds, too
– The UK’s Open University has a site on making your teaching inclusive which incorporates video clips of disabled students talking about their experiences

Let’s bring down the barriers and let the Trojan horse in!

Torturing lesbians in Ecuador

Ecuador has a number of ‘correction clinics’, which aim to ‘treat’ gay people, turning them straight. Their techniques are torture. Most of the people subjected to it are lesbians, although some gay men and transsexuals have also been imprisoned and tortured. Paola Ziritti was recently interred in one, and she is the first lesbian to file a complaint about the treatment she suffered. She was imprisoned for eighteen months – her family took her there, believing it would ‘cure’ her of her homosexuality. Whilst detained, she was sexually abused, battered, suffered deprivation of all kinds, constantly insulted, and chained up. Once her mother realised what was happening, she tried to take her daughter away from the ‘clinic’ but was prohibited from doing so. She had to fight to have her daughter freed.

The lesbian organization, Taller de Comunicación Mujer, says there are 207 clinics of this type in Ecuador. Ziritti’s testinomy led to 27 being closed by the authorities this year. But many are still open, including the centre where Ziritti was imprisoned and tortured.

Ziritti says that since she filed the complaint, she has been stopped by young lesbians and gay men in the street, thanking her for her bravery. Their parents planned to send them to clinics to be cured, but will no longer do so, since the supposed ‘treatment’ methods have been revealed.

You can read more here.

“Moral Monstrosity”

Penn State’s president and their legendary football coach were removed from office yesterday by the Board of Regents. We mentioned the scandal as the first words of it hit the national media. Now we know more, and I think Jeffry Toobin of CNN gets it just right: See the video here.

If the clip gets on youtube later, we’ll post it. If you find it there, please let us know.

I’m embarrassed to say that in the first post I was thinking in terms of students and faculty harrassed at universities. The child sexual abuse is just horrible, and I hope I don’t detract from that again by noting the following: Denials and cover-ups happen a lot in universities and the practices might be quite different if universities regularly fired at least those who practice indecent assault and extreme retaliation, and those who cover it up. For an incident, do look at the last link in the earlier FP post linked to above.