Thea Renda Abu El-Haj is an assistant professor in the Graduate School of Education at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. Her diverse experiences as an elementary school teacher, researcher and teacher educator have shaped her primary commitment to teaching and research that fosters the development of just and equitable educational practices for all children. Her writing is focused in two areas: how equity is conceptualized in everyday practice; and the meanings and practices of citizenship education in the context of globalization.
When my daughter was five she was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. It was clear from the first moment that my daughter returned to her kindergarten class that, as a parent advocating for a child with a medical disability, the stance I took toward difference would matter greatly. One approach, perhaps the obvious one, would have focused on her physiological disability and understood the “problem of difference” as an individual one, making the fewest possible demands on the school community. The simplest way to manage her diabetes would be to pack her snacks and lunch daily and to provide special treats that she could eat when the classroom had birthdays or holiday celebrations. This solution would make it reasonably easy to calculate my daughter’s insulin requirements; however, it would also burden her with the sole responsibility for the challenge her difference posed. She would be constantly marked as different, excluded from routine classroom activities such as the sharing of daily snacks and lunches and the pleasure of special foods on festive occasions.