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The Myth of the Normal Curve

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Curt Dudley-Marling and Alex Gurn

It is generally taken for granted that human behavior distributes along the lines of a bell-shaped, normal curve. This idea underpins much educational theory, research, and practice. There is, however, a considerable body of research demonstrating that the normal curve grossly misrepresents the human experience. Yet the acceptance of the normal curve continues to be used to pathologize children and adults with disabilities by positioning them as abnormal. Collectively, the contributors to this volume critique the ideology of the normal curve. Some explicitly challenge the assumptions that underpin the normal curve. Others indirectly critique notions of normality by examining the impact of normal curve thinking on educational policies and practices. Many contributors go beyond critiquing the normal curve to propose alternative ways to imagine human differences. All contributors agree that the hegemony of the normal curve has had a devastating effect on those presumed to live on the boundaries of normal.

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Index 259

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INDEX Ableism, 140–142, 143, 172, 249 ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) as disability, 87, 88–90, 99 diagnosis of, 7, 89–90, 92–96 increased prevalence of, 88, 94 influence of pharmaceuticals on, 94 over identification of African Americans as, 89 parent perceptions of, 98-100 social construction of, 100–101 student perceptions of, 96–98 treatment for. See Ritalin Althusser, Louis Pierre, 225–226 Animal-human hybrids, 73–74, 79, 80 Anzaldua, Gloria, 250 Army Alpha test, 125–126, 128 Assessment. See Intelligence testing; Reading assessment Average animal. See average man Average man, 11, 17, 18, 29, 30, 108 Bell Curve, The, criticism of, 1–2, 60 See also Murray, Charles Bérubé, Michael, 236 Biological determinism, 140, 142 Bizarre distributions, 15 Bourdieu, Pierre, 225 Brazilian street children mathematical ability of, 114–115 Brown v. Board of Education, 157, 158, 159 Bubble kids, 229, 247 Buck v. Bell, 144 Catell, James, 127–128 Ceci, Stephen J. 114–115 Cochran-Smith, Marilyn, 227 Comparative dynamics, 45–49 Complex systems, 4, 41–46, 47–48 Complicated systems, 42, 43, 45 Cone, Joan, 234, 235 Conservative political agenda market-based schooling, 34 religious right, 171, 172, 174, 180 Critical race theory, 139, 140 Index 260 Culturally responsive pedagogy, 165, 230, 231, 246–247 Dancing Across Borders, 233 Darwin, Charles, 73, 79 Data-driven instruction. See evidence-based practices Davis, Lennard, 2, 9, 10, 12, 19, 20, 202 deMoivre, Abraham, 11 Descriptive review, 254 Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorder (DSM-IV-TR) for diagnosing ADHD, 89, 92, 93,...

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