The idea of “normal” in schools is problematic. It arbitrates the way educators think about ability, achievement, and behavior. Normal implies a hierarchy of student abilities, suggesting that some can achieve and some cannot. For students who cannot achieve at the same rate as their peers, they are blamed as many assume the problem is the child. Students who deviate from normal are often characterized as different by race, language use, socioeconomic status, or perceived ability. This has historically led to educational inequities. Equating difference with deficits is problematic as US schools are growing in diversity daily. Drawing from Cultural Historical Activity Theory (CHAT), I argue that revealing the historical and cultural practices inherent in the activity of US schooling will help us find productive ways to change the activity of schools. I share findings from a qualitative case study conducted with 10 practicing educators who explored how an ideology of normal functions in their own schools. Through their work to make the ideology of normal visible, they acknowledged the importance of radically altering heritage practices that label and marginalize difference. Then, the conceptualization of what normal means can change to something more encompassing of the diversity of learners.
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Moore BA. Revealing the Ideology of Normal: Using CHAT to Explore the Activity of School. SAGE Open. April 2022. doi:10.1177/21582440221091233