(Article 4 of 5)
Persons with physical disabilities hold limited positions as scholars, teachers or leaders in physical education, recreation and sport. Perhaps the reason is that the field is flooded with able-bodied people who think they know best. But what are they? Michael Oliver, a prominent author, and scholar argues that people with physical disabilities should be the only people in the field of disability studies because they have physical experience with disabilities. The following five-part article series shares the perspective of a sports scholar with disabilities who has his own physical limitations. In each article, he discusses the different problems faced by people with physical disabilities in the physical education, recreation and sport professions.
Part III: If You Can’t Do It – Can You Teach It?
Growing up, I spent a lot of time perfecting my skills in physical movement. As a young professional, I heard able-bodied professionals say, “Students with physical disabilities cannot and should not become sports teachers and coaches because they are unacceptable.” He doesn’t know the hours I spent in the pool perfecting my shot, on the makeshift pitch my parents built for me to take free throws, or practicing the perfect kick of a soccer ball. The professional in question knew very little of who I was. It may be that able-bodied professionals believe individuals with physical disabilities are incompetent as athletes, pre-service teachers, teachers, or coaches because the professional may see the disability first.
Perhaps the professional bias that a person with a physical disability violates Aristotle’s arguments about ethos, pathos, and logos, by which most students judge whether a teacher is a good teacher or not. Ethos is the credibility of the teacher. Is the teacher a subject matter expert? Do they know the game: do they know their field? Teachers usually get the ethos through education and certification. People with physical disabilities also acquire an ethos through education and certification. Most people with physical disabilities choose to become teachers or coaches, due to their own athletic experience, as do able-bodied students.
Pathos is connected with students. Able-bodied professionals believe students cannot relate to teachers with physical disabilities because of the disability. However, consider my experience as a teacher and teaching assistant. An able-bodied and highly skilled Division I soccer athlete stood up to class saying, “Our TA, Aubrey, was amazing.” Then as a university instructor, my student’s class evaluation was very good.
Logos or logic is the last part of Aristotle’s argument. I know it may not be unreasonable to think that someone with a physical disability would want to be in PE where their body is constantly moving. Logic against is based on the premise that disability reduces or limits the ability to teach physical skills that a person does not have: a concept that seems valid. How can a student relate to individuals who are not athletic or do not have high motor skills? One needs to appear and perform at a certain level to teach others. As such, all physical educators are considered highly skilled, subject matter experts with certification. This is the wrong premise. Pre-service PE teachers are not certified by their movement skills or sports skills. Instead, teacher candidates take a broad curriculum in basic movement and sport skills, where they cognitively learn rules, regulations, and pedagogy. Many of these pre-service teachers are not rudimentary motorists, nor do they have a history of sports and athletic experience. Though, I do. I played adaptive sports competitively for six years.
Thus, ethos, pathos, and logos do support pre-service students with physical disabilities to enter the field as educators.
Take This Month’s 5 Part Series
Leading as Scholars with Physical Disabilities
- Don’t judge me by my performance
- I Am Not an Object or Incompetent
- Time Power
- If You Can’t Do It – Can You Teach It?
- Talk to me (July 3)
This series was written by Aubrey Shaw, Ph.D. and edited by Dr. Sharon Stoll (University of Idaho)