Reading vs. critical reading
• We read every day. We read cereal boxes, posters, tweets. But there
is a difference between reading and critical reading. When we read
critically, we question what we read. What is the author saying here?
Is this statistic correct? Why is the author using this specific
word/phrase? Why is the author writing this essay?
• Critical reading is only an extended and focused version of the kind of
thinking we all do every day when we set out to solve problems: we
gather evidence, we examine options, we look at advantages and
disadvantages, and we weigh others’ opinions for possible bias.
• What are some ways to read more critically?
• One way to read critically is to ask questions.
Reading as Inquiry – questions to ask
• Explore and Explain
• What is this text saying?
• What does this information mean?
• Who is this article intended for?
• Why is the author writing?
• What are some of the
words/phrases that I need to look
• Evaluate and Reflect
• What do I think about what the
author is saying?
• What value is this reading
• Does this author have any
Week 2 Reading Assignment
• Please read Nick Walker’s “Throw Away the Master’s Tools: Liberating
Ourselves from the Pathology Paradigm.” The PDF file is uploaded on
D2L – Contents – Readings. Engage with the text critically – I would
encourage everyone to take notes.
• The following slides are designed to get you started thinking about
reading critically. Analyze closely and ask questions.
Spread it, make it known
Change in the system of
beliefs, not just one aspect
A positive and desired outcome
Mental condition: Autistics sometimes have
difficulty socializing with others in
Author works in academia
Discussion, conversation, how people
Design choice: the author used subheadings. Why? Maybe to be extra clear?
Again, the author is someone in
Why did he choose
Content choice: a joke from Princess Bride.
How is this setting the tone?
A metaphor: why did the author use a metaphor after the definition?
of questions also
change with the
What does the word “true” mean here?
So on and so forth. Please finish the rest of the reading to prepare for the homework assignment this
week – which is to summarize what you’ve read.
How to summarize a source
• A summary captures the gist of a source or some portion of it, boiling
it down to a few words or sentences. Summaries tend to be short.
They extract only what is immediately relevant from an article, book
chapter, or other source. When summarizing a source, first identify its
key facts or ideas, think about their relationships, and then assemble
these ideas into a concise, coherent statement about the whole
piece. Be sure that what you’ve written is detailed enough to stand on
its own and will make sense several weeks after you examined the
material. Of course, any summary should be entirely in your own
• How can something as simple as a summary go wrong? There are
several ways. You might, for example, make the summary too short
and simple and leave out the crucial details. Such a summary
scribbled on a note card might be useless when, days later, you try to
make sense of it.
• On the other hand, your summary might fail because it misses the
central point of a piece by focusing on details not relevant to the
argument. Useful in a different context, these facts are misleading if
they don’t capture the essence of what the author wrote.
• Yet another danger lies in using the actual words of the original
author in your summary. If these unacknowledged borrowings make
their way into your project itself without both quotation marks and
documentation, you are guilty of plagiarism.
Bad summary example 1
• In “Throw Away the Master’s Tools: Liberating Ourselves from the
Pathology Paradigm,” Nick Walker talks about using a different
language. Pathology Paradigm is problematic and needs to change.
• This summary is over-simplified. What is the different language? Why is
Pathology Paradigm problematic? What change is the author talking about?
Bad summary example 2
• Nick Walker argues in “Throw Away the Master’s Tools: Liberating
Ourselves from the Pathology Paradigm” that there is no such thing as
a “master race” anymore. He says changing the language will
empower the Autistics because we don’t say “you suffer from being a
race” anymore. Race is who they are, and so is Autism. Using different
tools will help get out of the Pathology Paradigm and not build the
• This summary is not accurate in that it focuses only on “race” among many
other metaphorical tools that the author uses to emphasize his main
argument on language and Autistics. This summary makes the article sound
like it is all about race.
Bad summary example 3
• Nick Walker argues in “Throw Away the Master’s Tools: Liberating
Ourselves from the Pathology Paradigm” that people with Autism
needs to change their perspectives. By throwing away the tools, they
can throw away language that disempowers them. That way, things
• If you read this summary a couple weeks after having read Nick Walker, this
summary will probably not make any sense. What tools? Why language
disempowers them and how? What change are we talking about?
Furthermore, the phrase “people with Autism” is an inaccurate use of
language as Nick Walker will use the phrase “Autistics.” The phrase “people
with Autism” is exactly the language that disempowers Autistics and treats
Autism as a disease, according to Walker.
So then.. What is a good example?
• In “Throw Away the Master’s Tools: Liberating Ourselves from the
Pathology Paradigm,” Nick Walker proposes a paradigm shift from
Pathology to Neurodiversity. Addressing both Autistics and neurotypicals,
Walker argues that the shit would not categorize Autistics to be
“abnormal,” but simply “different.” Walker claims that the method of
shifting derives from a change in language because a paradigm affects all
part of how we operate, including language. By changing the words people
use to address Autistics from “normal” or “something wrong with you” to
“neurominority” or “diverse,” people can stop addressing Autism as a
disease. Walker uses examples such as racial or gender minorities to
emphasize his point that Autism is not a disease but an identity.
• Here is an example of a good summary on Nick Walker. The main argument is clearly
stated. Details on language (paradigm shift and vocabulary) are listed. Examples of
race/gender are listed to support the main argument that Autism is an identity
marker. There are no opinions or bias – it is stating only what is in the actual article.
Week 2 Homework to Upload
• For discussions board this week, write a couple sentences on “What
makes a good summary?” What needs to be in a good summary?
What needs to be left out in a good summary? What makes a good
summary good? (And what makes a bad summary bad?) Respond to
each other’s posts.
• On D2L Dropbox, upload your Nick Walker summaries on Word
documents. The summary should be less than 300 words.
Throw Awaythe Master's Tools: Liberating
Ourselves from the Pathology Paradigm
by Nick Walker
I believe that the widespread and lasting empowerment of Autistic
people hinges upon our ability to make an internal paradigm shift,
and to propagate that shift as widely as possible. Such a paradigm
shift is already happening in some parts of the Autistic community,
but for the most part it's not yet recognized that it is a paradigm
shift, or exactly what that means.
My academic career involves the study of paradigm shifts, so I
figured I'd share a few of my thoughts on the matter, in the hope
that they might be of some use to other members of the Autistic
community in the ongoing work of shifting the public discourse
around Autism, or in the more personal ongoing work of selfempowerment and self-liberation. I promise to do my best not to
bore you with a whole lot of academic jargon.
. First Things First: What's a Paradigm?
Even if you haven't encountered it in an academic context, you've
probably heard the term paradigm before, because it's annoyingly
over used by corporate marketers these days to describe any new
development they're trying to get people excited about: A new
paradigm in wireless technology! A new paradigm in sales
As a great Spanish diplomat once put it, I do not think it means
what they think it means. A paradigm is not just an idea or a
method. A paradigm is a set offundamental assumptions or
principles, a mindset or frame of reference that shapes how one
thinks about and talks about a given subject. A paradigm shapes
the ways in which one interprets information, and determines
what sort of questions one asks and how one asks them. A
paradigm is a lens through which one views reality.
Perhaps the most simple and well-known example of a paradigm
shift comes from the history of astronomy: the shift from the
geocentric paradigm (which assumes that the Sun and planets
revolve around Earth) to the heliocentric paradigm (Earth and
several other planets revolve around the Sun). At the time this shift
began, many generations of astronomers had already recorded
extensive observations of the movements of planets. But now all
their measurements meant something different. All the
information had to be reinterpreted from an entirely new
perspective. It wasn't just that questions had new answers - the
questions themselves were different. Questions like "What is the
path of Mercury's orbit around Earth?" went from seeming
important to being outright nonsense, while other questions, ones
that had never been asked because they would have seemed like
nonsense under the old paradigm, suddenly became meaningful.
That's a true paradigm shift: a shift in our fundamental
assumptions; a radical shift in perspective that requires us to
redefine our terms, recalibrate our language, rephrase our
questions, reinterpret our data, and rethink our concepts and
The Pathology Paradigm
In regard to Autism (and human neurological variation in general),
the dominant paradigm in the world today is what I refer to as the
pathology paradigm. The new, emergent paradigm - the paradigm
to which we need to shift, if we want to bring about widespread
and lasting empowerment of Autistics - I refer to as the
A paradigm can often be boiled down to a few basic principles,
although those principles tend to be far-reaching in their
implications and consequences. The principles ofa widely
dominant sociocultural paradigm like the pathology paradigm
usually take the form of assumptions -that is, they're so widely
taken-for-granted that most people never consciously reflect upon
them or articulate them (and sometimes it can be a disturbing
revelation to hear them plainly articulated).
The pathology paradigm ultimately boils down to just two
1. There is one "right," "normal," or "healthy'' way for human
brains and human minds to be configured and to function (or
one relatively narrow "normal" range into which the
configuration and functioning of human brains and minds
ought to fall).
2. If your neurological configuration and functioning (and, as a
result, your ways of thinking and behaving) diverge
substantially from the dominant standard of "normal," then
there is "Something Wrong With You."
It is these two assumptions that define the pathology paradigm.
Different groups and individuals build upon these assumptions in
very different ways, with varying degrees of rationality, lunacy,
fearfulness, or compassion - but as long as they share those two
basic assumptions, they're still operating within the pathology
paradigm (just as ancient Mayan astronomers and 13th Century
Islamic astronomers had vastly different conceptions of the
cosmos, yet both operated within the geocentric paradigm).
The psychiatric establishment that classifies Autism as a
"disorder"; the "Autism charity" that calls Autism a "global health
crisis"; Autism researchers who keep coming up with new theories
of "causation"; wing nuts who believe that Autism is some form of
"poisoning"; anyone who speaks of Autism using medicalized
language like "symptom," "treatment," or "epidemic"; the mother
who thinks that the best way to help her Autistic child is to subject
him to Behaviorist "interventions" intended to train him to act like
a "normal" child; the "inspiring" Autistic celebrity who advises
other Autistics that the secret to success is to try harder to conform
to the social demands of non-Autistics ... all of these groups and
individuals are operating within the pathology paradigm,
regardless of their intentions, or how nice they are, or how much
they might disagree with one another on various points.
The Neurodiversity Paradigm
Here's how I'd articulate the fundamental principles of the
1. Neurodiversity - the diversity of brains and minds - is a
natural, healthy, and valuable form of human diversity. There
is no "normal" style of human brain or human mind, any more
than there is one "normal" race, ethnicity, gender, or culture.
2. All of the diversity dynamics (e.g., dynamics of power,
privilege, and marginalization) that manifest in society in
relation to other forms of human diversity (e.g., racial, cultural,
sexual orientation, and gender diversity) also manifest in
relation to neurodiversity.
The Master's Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master's House
At an international feminist conference in 1979, the poet Audre
Larde delivered a speech entitled "The Master's Tools Will Never
Dismantle the Master's House." In that speech, Larde, a Black
lesbian from a working-class immigrant family, castigated her
almost entirely white and affluent audience for remaining rooted
in, and continuing to propagate, the fundamental dynamics of the
patriarchy: hierarchy, exclusion, racism, classism, homophobia,
obliviousness to privilege, failure to embrace. diversity. Lorde
recognized sexism as being part ofa broader, deeply-rooted
·paradigm that dealt with all forms of difference by establishing
hierarchies of dominance, and she saw that genuine, widespread
liberation was impossible as long as feminists continued to operate
within this paradigm.
"What does it mean," Lorde said, "when the tools of a racist
patriarchy are used to examine the fruits of that same patriarchy?
It means that only the most narrow perimeters of change are
possible and allowable.[ ...] For the master's tools will never
dismantle the master's house. They may allow us temporarily to
beat him at his own game, but they will never enable us to bring
about genuine change."
The master's tools will never dismantle the master's house. To work
within a system, to play by its rules, inevitably reinforces that
system, whether or not that's what you intend. Not only do the
master's tools never serve to dismantle 'the master's house, but any
time you tryto use the master's tools for anything, you somehow
end up building another extension of that darned house.
Lorde's warning applies equally well, today, to the Autistic
community and our struggles for empowerment The assumption
that there is Something Wrong With Us is inherently
disempowering, and that assumption is absolutely intrinsic to the
pathology paradigm. So the "tools" of the pathology paradigm (by
which I mean all strategies, goals, or ways of speaking or thinking
that explicitly or implicitly buy into the pathology paradigm's
assumptions) will never empower us in the long run. Genuine,
lasting, widespread empowerment for Autistics can only be
attained through making and propagating the shift from the
pathology paradigm to the neurodiversity paradigm. We must
throw away the master's tools.
The Language of Pathology vs. the Language of Diversity
Because the pathology paradigm has been dominant for some time,
many people, even many who claim to advocate for the
empowerment of Autistic people, still habitually use language
that's based in the assumptions of that paradigm. The shift from
the pathology paradigm to the neurodiversity paradigm calls for a
radical shift in language, because the appropriate language for
discussing medical problems is quite different from the
appropriate language for discussing diversity. The issue of
"person-first language" is a good basic example to start with
(others more eloquent than myself, like Jim Sinclair and Lydia
Brown, have already written extensively on this particular topic,
and their writings are readily available on the Internet, so I'll keep
If a person has a medical condition, we might say that "she has
cancer," or she's "a person with allergies," or "she suffers from
ulcers." But when a person is a member of a minority group, we
don't talk about their minority status as though it were a disease.
We say "she's Black," or "she's a lesbian." We recognize that it
would be outrageously inappropriate - and likely to mark us as
ignorant or bigoted - if we were to refer to a Black person as
"having negroism" or being a "person with negroism," or if we
were to say that someone "suffers from homosexuality."
So if we use phrases like "person with Autism," or "she has .
Autism," or "families affected by Autism," we're using the language
of the pathology paradigm - language that implicitly accepts and
reinforces the assumption that Autism is a problem, a SomethingWrong-With-You. In the language of the neurodiversityparadigm,
on the other hand, we speak ofneurodiversity in the same way we
would speak of ethnic or sexual diversity, and we speak of Autistics
in the same way we would speak of any social minority group: I am
Autistic. I am an Autistic. I am an Autistic person. There are Autistic
people in my family.
These linguistic distinctions might seem trivial, but our language
plays a key role in shaping our thoughts, our perceptions, our
cultures, and our realities. In the long run, the sort of language
that's used to talk about Autistics has enormous influence on how
society treats us, and on the messages we internalize about
ourselves. To describe ourselves in language that reinforces the
pathology paradigm is to use the master's tools, in Audre Lorde's
metaphor, and thus to imprison ourselves more deeply in the
I Don't Believe in Normal People
The concept of a "normal brain" or a "normal person" has no more
objective scientiflc validity- and serves no better purpose - than
the concept of a "master race." Of all the master's tools (i.e., the
dynamics, language, and conceptual frameworks that create and
maintain social inequities), the most powerful and insidious is the
concept of"normal people." In the context of human diversity
(ethnic, cultural, sexual, neurological, or any other sort), to treat
one particular group as the "normal" or default group inevitably
serves to privilege that group and to marginalize those who don't
belong to that group.
The dubious assumption that there's such a thing as a "normal
person" lies at the core of the pathology paradigm. The
neurodiversity paradigm, on the other hand, does not recognize
"normal" as a valid concept when it comes to human· diversity.
Most reasonably well-educated people these days already
recognize that the concept of "normal" is absurd and meaningless
in the context of racial, ethnic, or cultural diversity. The Han
Chinese constitute the single largest ethnic group in the world, but
it would be ridiculous to claim that this makes Han Chinese the
"natural" or "def ...
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