Mad at School: Rhetorics of Mental Disability and Academic LifeMargaret Price 2011
---Melanie Panitch, Ryerson University
"Ableism is alive and well in higher education. We do not know how to abandon the myth of the 'pure (ivory) tower that props up and is propped up by ableist ideology.' . . . Mad at School is thoroughly researched and pathbreaking. . . . The author's presentation of her own experience with mental illness is woven throughout the text with candor and eloquence."
---Linda Ware, State University of New York at Geneseo
Mad at School explores the contested boundaries between disability, illness, and mental illness in the setting of U.S. higher education. Much of the research and teaching within disability studies assumes a disabled body but a rational and energetic (an "agile") mind. In Mad at School, scholar and disabilities activist Margaret Price asks: How might our education practices change if we understood disability to incorporate the disabled mind?
Mental disability (more often called "mental illness") is a topic of fast-growing interest in all spheres of American culture, including popular, governmental, aesthetic, and academic. Mad at School is a close study of the ways that mental disabilities impact academic culture. Investigating spaces including classrooms, faculty meeting rooms, and job searches, Price challenges her readers to reconsider long-held values of academic life, including productivity, participation, security, and independence. Ultimately, she argues that academic discourse both produces and is produced by a tacitly privileged "able mind," and that U.S. higher education would benefit from practices that create a more accessible academic world.
Mad at School is the first book to use a disability-studies perspective to focus on the ways that mental disabilities impact academic culture at institutions of higher education. Individual chapters examine the language used to denote mental disability; the role of "participation" and "presence" in student learning; the role of "collegiality" in faculty work; the controversy over "security" and free speech that has arisen in the wake of recent school shootings; and the marginalized status of independent scholars with mental disabilities.
Margaret Price is Associate Professor of English at Spelman College.