Academic journal article Exceptional Children

With a Little Help from My Friends (and Mark Twain Too): Musings and Farewells

Academic journal article Exceptional Children

With a Little Help from My Friends (and Mark Twain Too): Musings and Farewells

Article excerpt

Over the years, I have drawn on a variety of friends, both fictional and real, to help me make specific points when writing professional papers and books for teachers, administrators, and researchers. This included Snoopy and other Peanut characters to describe how struggling writers compose (Graham, & Harris, 2002); Calvin and his imaginary tiger Hobbes to introduce sound instructional principles (Graham & Harris, 2002); the producer, writers, and actors from a Star Trek film to develop an analogy for how a program of research develops and evolves over time (Graham & Harris, 2009); the work of scientists conducting dubious research to highlight concerns and issues in contemporary intervention research in special education (Graham, 2005); and the voices of professional writers throughout the ages to illustrate what is involved in skilled writing (Graham & Harris, 2005).

In this farewell to the field as the editor of Exceptional Children from 2003 to 2010, I call once again on an old friend (at least I like to think so). He is one of the most influential American writers of all time: Samuel Clemens or, as we more commonly know him, Mark Twain. At first glance, this may seem like an odd choice, as he was not always a fan of editors, as evidenced by this quote from a letter published in the Chicago Daily Tribune (1906):

   How often we recall, with regret, that Napoleon once shot at a
   magazine editor and missed him and killed a publisher. But we
   remember with charity, that his intentions were good. (p. 3)

After spending a week as a newspaper editor, however, he softened his stance, noting, "Nobody except he has tried it, knows what it is to be an editor" (Twain, 1901, p. 87). Taking this rather dubious statement as an optimistic sign, I decided to invite Mark Twain along as my guide for my final act as the editor of Exceptional Children.


My first challenge in crafting a farewell was to determine what I wanted to say. When I consulted Mr. Twain on this matter, his advice was: "When in doubt tell the truth" (Ayres, 1987) this seemingly simple piece of advice proved to be quite challenging. What truth should I tell? One simple truth would be to thank all of the people who made it possible for the journal to operate successfully. This includes the executive associate editors (Donna Ford, Joan Lieber, and Maggie McLaughlin, who served as action editors on various manuscripts over the years), associate editors (Alfredo Artiles, Michael Benz, Diane Browder, Doug Fuchs, Sam Odom, Cheryl Utley, and Bernice Wong, who helped me pick field reviewers and who reviewed submitted papers themselves), field reviewers and guest reviewers (too many to name), and the authors who submitted manuscripts. Also important to the success of the journal were my assistants (Eleni Papadopoulou, Anna Emily, Xiaolun Qi, and Leslie Rogers) as well as the folks at the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC; Richard Mainzer, Stefani Roth, and Meridee Mucciarone). Publishing a journal is a huge undertaking, and whatever successes occurred during my term as editor rests on the hard work and dedication of all of these wonderful people.

Another simple truth would be to emphasize what the articles published in the journal during my tenure tell us about the field of special education. One thing is certain, and perhaps not surprising, given the nature of special education. We are very interested in identifying effective instructional procedures, including valid and reliable assessment procedures for determining if those treatments work. We are also concerned about the fate of children and youngsters from underrepresented groups (e.g., children from impoverished families who are Black, Hispanic, Asian, or Native American). This focus on issues of social justice was further reflected in articles that concentrated on the concept of self-determination for persons with disabilities. …

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