chapter  8
10 Pages

What is normal?

ByHELEN PENN

The changing status of disability This chapter reviews a range of ideas about normality and disability and considers their implications for practice in working with young children.

What is normal? I have been rereading some of the books by the novelist Iris Murdoch. The plot of The Bell, one of the earlier novels, written in the 1950s, hinges entirely on the homosexuality of the principal character Michael, and how his life is destroyed, not once, but twice, by revelations of his homosexual yearnings, which he tried desperately to suppress. By the 1990s Iris Murdoch portrays homosexuality quite differently. In The Green Knight it is a normal and unremarkable phenomenon. What was once regarded as a perversion and matter of shame, is now described as a pleasurable commonplace. There are many such examples of major changes in attitude and these changes are going on before our eyes. Already

in the USA in one state and in twenty-five major cities, white Americans are a minority-Hispanics and blacks represent the majority, if not the dominant culture, and by 2080 it is predicted that white Americans will be a minority in the USA as a whole. How will this affect the study-indeed an industry in America-of child development which will no longer be able to take white middle-class expectations as a norm for behaviour, or English as its first language?