“In the early decades of the twenty-first century, we are learning to speak yet another language of cause and effect, and constructing a new epidemiology of self: we are beginning to describe illness, identity, affinity, temperament, preferences—and, ultimately, fate and choice—in terms of genes and genomes…. One of the most provocative ideas about our history and future: that the influence of genes on our lives and beings is richer, deeper, and more unnerving than we had imagined.”
– The Gene (Mukherjee, 2016: 494)
In September 1998, my mother walked me the ten minutes from our home in suburban Virginia to Mosby Woods Elementary School, named after the American Confederate Ranger John Singleton Mosby. I was to be enrolled in the first grade. When my parents tell me this story, they
talk about my mother’s thick Nigerian accent and my grandmother, who spoke no English and accompanied us that day. Soon after I was enrolled, I was placed into a remedial reading program. According to my father, who is White, this was without justification: the school assumed I was growing up in a single-parent immigrant household with limited English. After he went to Mosby Woods to ask why I had been identified for special education, I found myself back in the ‘regular’ classroom.
My experiences with the US education system and my positioning in American society as a biracial woman of colour, who is often identified as Black, have shaped and influenced my intellectual interests. I am interested in the concept of intelligence; it is a quality often viewed as necessary for success in virtually all facets of life — social, economic, political, and educational. Rooted in a history deeply tied to eugenic, classist, and racialized discourses, intelligence and its study have long offered scientific ways of making sense of human diversity and of classifying individuals in terms of ‘ability.’
I am a recent PhD from the University of Cambridge Faculty of Education interested in the historically burdened concepts of intelligence, genetics, race, and socioeconomic status. I examine how these four terms intersect and inform or potentially inform the United States education system, which is marked by socioeconomic and racial disparities in terms of academic achievement, educational attainment, rates of suspension & expulsion, and representation in special education and gifted education (to name a few).
Views are my own.