Stutterer Speaks Up in Class; His Professor Says Keep Quiet
As his history class at the County College of Morris here discussed exploration of the New World, Philip Garber Jr. raised his hand, hoping to ask why China’s 15th-century explorers, who traveled as far as Africa, had not also reached North America.
He kept his hand aloft for much of the 75-minute session, but the professor did not call on him. She had already told him not to speak in class.
Philip, a precocious and confident 16-year-old who is taking two college classes this semester, has a lot to say but also a profound stutter that makes talking difficult, and talking quickly impossible. After the first couple of class sessions, in which he participated actively, the professor, an adjunct named Elizabeth Snyder, sent him an e-mail asking that he pose questions before or after class, “so we do not infringe on other students’ time.”
As for questions she asks in class, Ms. Snyder suggested, “I believe it would be better for everyone if you kept a sheet of paper on your desk and wrote down the answers.”
Later, he said, she told him, “Your speaking is disruptive.”
Unbowed, Philip reported the situation to a college dean, who suggested he transfer to another teacher’s class, where he has been asking and answering questions again.
While Philip’s case is unusual, stuttering is not: About 5 percent of people stutter at some point, and about 1 percent stutter as adults, according to the National Institutes of Health.
His classroom experience underlines a perennial complaint among stutterers, that society does not recognize the condition as a disability, and touches on an age-old pedagogical — and social — theme: the balance between the needs of an individual and the good of a group.
“As we do with all students seeking accommodations, we have taken action to resolve Philip’s concerns so he can successfully continue his education,” said Kathleen Brunet Eagan, the college’s communications director…