Mentally disabled writing instructors who do not show visible signs of our psychiatrically diagnosed conditions have what is known as “sane privilege,” the ability to “pass.” If we so choose, we can teach without disclosing our often stigmatizing diagnoses to students. This article addresses a classroom incident that forced me to consider both the benefits of such disclosure and its inherent risks. I reflect on the incident and argue that I should not have stayed silent when my class burst out laughing at a student comment related to my particular mental disability. Instead, I should have disclosed my disability, thereby giving students the opportunity to engage a stigmatized “other” in a dialogic setting. As a suggestion for how to facilitate this kind of engagement, I offer the lesson plan I wish I would have followed in response to encountering stigma in the classroom.
The Uses of Disclosure: Building a Rhetorical Scaffolding to Fight Stigma in the Writing Classroom
N. Renuka Uthappa is an adjunct professor in the CORE department at Adrian College, where she teaches first-writing and first-year public speaking. She received her doctorate in Rhetoric and Composition from Wayne State University in 2017. Her dissertation is titled “This Is Us Saying Who We Are: Speaking the Rhetoric of Mental Disability.”
N. Renuka Uthappa; The Uses of Disclosure: Building a Rhetorical Scaffolding to Fight Stigma in the Writing Classroom. Pedagogy 1 October 2018; 18 (3): 566–572. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/15314200-6937035
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