Da Regime’s DEEZ-6 RPG Rules System:
SYGIL Chapter 1: The Fedora’d Borgata – AKA “The Hangover”
This story is set in Sygil – a city at a dimensional intersection of the cosmos. Sygil is equal parts spaceship and home planet – everywhere and nowhere, inhabited by outsiders of space and time. Cities like Sygil are said to be made of portals – accumulations of countless access points to the vastness of reality. Every resident of Sygil is the relic of a story from some dimension lost to the politics of the multiverse. Every character seeks the why and how to their residence in Sygil, as they negotiate their place in the infinitude.
The immortal residents of the city have awoken to a numbing and destructive rebirth of Sygil under the yoke of Mind-Flaying Illithids – tentacled conquerors who harvest whole universes to fuel their explorations. We will each have an opportunity to create and play many of 52 characters in a borgata – each of whom have their own story of amnesia and recovery from Mind-Flaying as they link up with what is clearly a grand conspiracy to save existence itself!
DEEZ-6 RULES: The Basic Die Roll
This is a traditional Role Play Game designed to be played virtually, using a version of Da Regime’s Deez-6 system organized for this setting.
The system is simple: When the storyteller wants the element of chance to impact the story, they call for a single 1d6 “role-play die” and consult the following basic roll result table:
Basic Roll Table
1 – Catastrophic Fail
2 – Success at basic tasks
3 – Success at skilled tasks
4 – Success under pressure
5 – How did I do that?
6 – Heroic Success
Scaled Roll Table:
- The basic roll (above) is usually also modified using a system of statistical character descriptions (see below).
- If it is logical to do so, a character may multiply the above result by a combination of Attributes and Traits that reflect their expertise at a given task.
|Total Roll||Scaled Result|
|0-1||Catastrophic Fail resulting in a +1 Double-Edged Trait added to an appropriate Attribute|
|6-10||Success under favorable conditions.|
|11-15||Success in a challenging or competing situation.|
|16-20||Success in a dangerous situation (like combat)|
|21-25||Success in a dire or amazing situation|
|26-30+||Epic Success resulting in bonus +1 Trait under the Legend ability category.|
DEEZ-6 RULES: Character Statistics
In the Deez-6 system, every character is described using two layers of statistics:
- Attributes: one of the 6 categories of stats that don’t change from character to character: Physical / Mental / Social / Combat / Powers / Legend
Prior to a roll of the die, players choose to potentially multiply their character’s action result up to their score in any one Attribute. The higher the multiplier, the greater the impact of the die roll – (in both epic fail and epic win situations!)
Attributes remain at their permanent score for every roll – unless they’ve been reduced or increased by certain Traits.
- Traits: the skills, abilities, powers, and important possessions individual to every character.
After a die roll, a player can choose to buy additional successes by spending points from their Traits pool. The exact effects of traits are left up to the imagination of the player.
Useful in the event of a near-miss or epic fail, players can spend a number of Traits per roll up to the score of the Attribute used for the initial roll.
Traits are temporarily “spent” until the character gets a Level-Up, at which point all stats are restored.
DEEZ-6 RULES: Attributes and Traits
In the Deez-6 system, basic characters start with one die in each of the Attributes:
Physical / Mental / Social / Combat / Powers / Legend
Players then individualize their characters by describing their Traits in each Attribute category. (Note: Many Traits are appropriate under multiple Attribute categories).
The Deez-6 System intends for the players to create their own character’s Traits, rather than relying on a limited list provided by a rule book. Feel free to invent your own rules or powers provided by a character’s Traits!
Double-Edged Traits are just that – consequences of a character’s decisions or story that can provide positive or negative (but always dramatic!) results on an action. These Traits can be used by The Storyteller to complicate a character’s actions by reducing the success multiplier. Unlike normal Traits, Double-Edged Traits disappear permanently after one “use” – and then become a new permanent normal Trait selected by the player (Legend Traits is suggested)
Dracmore Dragonsbane is trying to avoid being detected by the Illithids’ Prismatic Cannons – fearsome weapons that shoot an array of spells simultaneously. As he edges around a destroyed building, The Storyteller activates Dracmore’s Double-Edged “Massive” Trait. A bright red half-Dragon in primitive magitech armor isn’t exactly designed for stealth. Regardless of what now happens to Dracmore – the Massive trait vanishes and the character gets a free permanent normal Trait.
The player of Dracmore decides to add “Human Battering Ram” as a Trait under his Legend Attribute.
|Attribute Categories – (All start with a score of 1)||Trait – Pick 6 Per Category (Samples Included)|
|Physical||How strong, fast, enduring, or attractive a character can be.||Skills: running, jumping, sneaking, lifting, climbing.|
Description: acrobat, natural armor, bone-crushing- strength, icy beauty, controlling your metabolism.
Double-Edged: one eye, mutilated hand, concussion, bleeding wound, diseased, ugly, decrepit.
|Mental||How intelligent, knowledgeable, perceptive, and willful a character is.||Skills: linguistics, medicine, vehicle piloting, physics, machine repair, stone-cutting, herbalism, painting.|
Description: inventor, artist, cunning linguist, chess master, resisting temptation, assessing-the-odds, winning arguments about tanks, fixing the Hyperdrive.
Double-Edged: intoxicated, ignorant, poorly educated, skitzophrenic, untraveled, drugged, primitive, strict belief system.
|Social||How charismatic, inspiring, persuasive, or convincing a character can be.||Skills: seduction, leadership, persuasion, intimidation.|
Description: sultry, rugged, flawless lies, innocent face, commanding presence, fearsome gaze, convincing your date to pick up the check.
Double-Edged: infamous, hairy, wanted, excommunicated, debtor, mercenary, inflexible, boring, stern, offensive, loud, alien, cultural outsider.
|Combat||How much ass can one character kick?||Skills: blasters, machine guns, swords, improvised weapons, demolitions, throwing knives, mixed-martial arts, dodge-and-weave. |
Description: cruel combatant, rage frenzy, esoteric martial arts systems, ambidextrous, throwing team-mates wearing armor with wings, quickdraw artist, rock-paper-scissors-lizard-Spock, historical rap battles.
Double-Edged: untrained, avoids technology, glory-hog, narrow-minded-tactician, temperamental, undisciplined, sensitive to energy weapons, “Non-8th-level spells are not my idiom.”
|Powers||(Optional) Supernatural abilities and objects.||Skills: innate powers, spells, potions, magical items, familiars, alien technology.|
Description: werewolf, summoning demons, healing meditation, silver-plated katana, unlimited fireballs, speak with the dead, flying carpet, imbued tattoo of a naked lady that gives +1 multiplier to social rolls, pulsebeam cyberarm, headware computer.
Double-Edged: demonic visage, angry drunken hate-rage, only skimmed the spellbook’s glossary, gaes/quest/bargain for powers, The Dark Side of the Force, drinks blood, scares little children.
|Legend||(Optional) The reputation, important possessions, rank or position, and significant NPCs that surround a character.||Famous Titles: gunslinger, hero, smuggler, fencer, ninja, wizard, emperor, necromancer, healer, vampire, hidden identity, “I was a Navy SEAL.” |
Huge Events: saving the planet again, burning down your own hideout, defeating the dark lord, that Shadowrun on the Ares Corporation building, “this mofo is crazy,” what happens in Vegas…, Puff Daddy changed his name to Pee Did He?.!
(Nearly) Indestructible Possessions: The Electrobank starship, armor with the wings, an ancestral estate, jetpack, a signature cigar, impermeable hairdoo, secret stash of money, Fairlight Excaliber Cyberdeck, gaudy-looking cane with a laser and vibro-knife in it.
Important “People”: Prince DeLaurant, Crime Boss Hutt, Police Sergeant O’Grady, Shady Weapons Merchant, Perma-Baked Stoner Tinkerer, Machine Gun Moll Secretary, Primogen of Clan Tremere, Epically Ancient Demi-Dracolitch Father Zselvaeghaar.
Double-Edged: specific enemies, travesties, dishonor, losses, “I heard you were dead”, wanted for murder, hunted by the inquisition, bad credit / no credit, you shot off your own foot, “crazy ex-“.
DEEZ-6 RULES: Character Creation
Obligatory Setting Fiction:
(The following is an example of Storytelling under this game context)
That’s nothin’! I awoke face-down in 6 inches of the worst muck that The Mire had to offer. For those who just sat down – The Mire is the section of Sygil with all the portals to the Para-Elemental Plane of Mud (conveniently parked between the Elemental Planes of Earth and Water). For semi-legitimate entrepreneurs like myself, The Mire is a central part of any dirty business. Also, don’t get me wrong now, I’ve been face-down in a gutter many times. But the gutters in The Mire are a whole different shift…and this wasn’t by choice.
So, my recent memory begins 6 inches deep in an intergalactic drainage ditch, wearing nothing but my black fedora and a pair of hand-sown white silk underwear with hearts on them. I tried to breathe, but ended up sucking in at least a flask’s worth of bile before consciousness returned to my shell. My eyelids were too heavy to open and my ears were screaming at me like an imperial interrogator in a Nasguul trap. Someone had clearly dropped a building on my head. Worst of all, I had just gotten a proper fit on my platinum-on-white textured semi-translucent iridescent trauma-reactive outter-wear ensemble – and now my whole wardrobe budget was either missing or lost in six inches of the Illithid’s after-party! Long story short – that’s a new low!
Soon-after, I mustered all the courage that I could to return to the conscious world. As I wiped the filth from my face and sat up, this shiny barking-dog Kobold sucker ran up close and tried to hijack me for my hat. Through the blur and filth caking my eyelashes, I see this runt pointing my own stolen hold-out blaster at me. I tried to kick muck in his eyes, but to my absolute delight given the life-or-death situation I was facing with the worst headache I’ve ever conceived of – my right foot was missing for some reason. The filth only splashed more on my face and now less-white hand-sown silk boxers with the hearts on them. I wasn’t about to go out again from some knee-high Mire-swimming hijacker that looked like my grandma’s lapdog.
“Look, I know where the rest of the guns are, just don’t shoot me!” I played as I held up my hands. The Kobold grew impatient, weighed down as he was by the loot of every conceivable type or jewelry and piercing (his swag was certainly admirable, if not seemingly inefficient for combat). The whole thing hurt my vision. The mutt agreed that this stand-off would not be mutually beneficial. He introduced himself as the Deuce of Diamonds and then asked me politely (in rather articulate speech for a Kobold) to take off my fedora and examine the inside. The card stapled to the inside of my Fedora was an Ace of Spades. Apparently, he and I were previously acquainted. He told me to never take the Fedora off again because it blocked my mind from the Illithids’ detection. I was fine with that, since the only clean part of my whole body had been covered by the hat.
The Deuce of Diamonds – DD – and I conspired to retrieve my missing right foot. DD seemed to somehow remember that my friggin’ foot was a cybermantic data storage device. Apparently, there is a debt-collector called – literally – The Toe-Cutter. The Toe-Cutter had my friggin’ foot. That wasn’t the best part of the conundrum! My friggin’ foot is actually the center-of-some-grand-conspiracy to get payback on the Illithids. It sounds all epic and complicated, but really, it’s put a crimp on my macking lifestyle. You know how hard it is to find parking for a Repulsor-Limo without some whacked-out inter-demensional being fresh from a portal popping up and somehow deriving nutrition from the exhaust pipe? It’s wrecked the carpets – today I even spilled a drink during a crucial moment of negotiation!
Long story short, DD and I limped to a dive shack called One Foot In The Grave. You heard that right. Look – we all have our steeze, but this guy clearly needs some deprogramming for his feet-fetish. The place was dug-out of a pile of loose rocks and broken mining equipment. DD advised against kicking in the door (I was missing a friggin foot, after all) – so we made a polite call to The Toe-Cutter.
I got past “security” (a smattering of burnt-out and flayed humanoids all missing a right foot) by convincing them I was a nail-clipper merchant here to settle my debt. The Toe-Cutter was the biggest, fattest, drooling, snot-nosed, dog-breathed, three-legged and bleach-eyed mongrel I’ve ever seen. Who in their right mind would owe favors to this hairy mass of table-scraps?
But sure enough, it had my right friggin’ foot hanging around his neck on a metal cable along with 20 or 30 other random nasty feet. Some of them were exotic alien anatomy – but it looked like the rest were from Kobolds.
My poor hearing. The second we walked in the “club”, it was like a Jah Works concert played on aluminum plating. Every last one of those yip-yipping beasts and their fleas all dapped-up or bowed to DD with these really annoying high-pitched whines.
“Do you two know each other?” I asked DD as we got within earshot of this Noble-Lord of Angel Investing. DD pointed some type of ring at me with a glowing bluish-white gem and winked.
“Oh just wait until I put my foot in your ass.” I retorted as I turned to face The Toe-Cutter’s amalgamation of lard, posted upon a throne of old meat bones. My arrival had clearly interrupted some of its personal time. As I got closer, the stench was unbearable. The Toe-Cutter was barking about having just rolled in something ripe and was being fanned by a confined sentient air spirit with a clear case of the doldrums. As a final note, The Toe-Cutter had a black velvet holster hanging from his “chair” – I recognized the personalized black-on-black ergonomic grip with biometric trigger lock. I hid my delight at the damage he’d done to it trying to get the heavy blaster to shoot.
“You-You-Ace-You dead! I took foot! Illithid pay big for you dead! You no dead, me no money!” a confused-looking crime boss growled like I’d gotten too close to his food dish.
With cordial introductions made, I cut right to business: “Yeah – look Mr. Toe-Cutter – lovely to meet you again, such an imposing name – I love what you’ve done with the place, by the way, the coal and ash look is really with the times – but I don’t even know for sure that you actually have my foot.” I implied.
With a deep angry howl, The Toe-Cutter began a torrent of phlegm-ridden barking. In-between animalistic grunts, I pieced together two things:
- Sygil’s universal communication algorithms weren’t functioning.
- The Toe-Cutter was about to be amputated from this life-cycle.
Once the beast wore itself out with the sweaty effort of basic sentient communication, I laid the trap:
“I absolutely see your position now! Look…I don’t have the money…with me”. I explained with a practiced finesse, while emphasizing my present abundance of worldly possessions – a black fedora and a pair of hand-sown white silk boxers with hearts and muck stains on them. “Who walks around Sygil with that type of cash?” I gestured to indicate that I was broke.
The Toe-Cutter sat in pleasant silence, so I continued: “Like I said – I don’t even know if that’s my foot. Could it – w-w-would it be possible for me to see the foot and make sure it’s mine before I go giving away all of my toe-clipper money?”
The Toe-Cutter unceremoniously ripped the foot from his necklace and tossed it on the ground with a smug chuckle. I picked it up for inspection – it appeared to be made of a light metal with articulated toes and attached itself at the ankle via a bone-fused socket. The bottom read “Astrotech-9”, which brought back some trippy memories I’ll talk about after another round of Aquaboogie.
I gave DD a quick look and he began to charge up that funky ring he’d shown me at the door of this place. “Yup! That’s my foot alright!” I exclaimed to The Toe-Cutter, who was busy licking himself. As he turned to look at me, I cocked my right arm back – and with the practice of 100 thermal detonators, beamed the foot (with a perfect spiral, if I do say so myself!) at The Toe-Cutter’s face.
The double-distraction assault has always been one of my favorite surprise tactics – especially when your partner doesn’t realize that’s the play. Needless to say, The Toe-Cutter recovered from a bone-crunching metal *smack* of a Hail Mary pass-kick to the face by catching the body of DD – who was firing some sort of beam from that ring of his when I grabbed him by the skruff of the neck and his tail and jump-slammed him into the broken-faced body of The Toe-Cutter.
With the speed of someone who wasn’t 3 feet tall, I bounded towards the bleeding pile of yipping Kobolds and initiated a storm of thunder-clap back-hands. It helps that most of my left fore-arm has been eaten away by a grey scaly alien virus that I picked up from some long-forgotten close encounter. It makes my open-hand disco-karate combat form particularly effective in subduing opponents.
Long story short – I got my friggin’ foot back. I cancelled all of The Toe-Cutter’s debts, in exchange for 1% of whatever his unwitting victims (mostly Kobolds) scrounge up out there trying to survive in Sygil. And the 1% is what I say it is. The Toe-Cutter? He’s recovered from the Mind-Flaying and got a new job shining shoes.
Sample Character Sheet:
Creation rules for SYGIL Team 1: The Fedora’d Borgata AKA “The Hangover”
Begin by accessing the Google Sheets document shared in Discord.
- Each character begins with 7 points to distribute between their Attributes:
Physical / Mental / Social / Combat / Powers / Legend
Note that for this team ONLY, characters may not begin with any points in the Legend and Mental Attributes. Your characters have just been subject to a Mind-Flaying and are suffering the results.
- For each point placed into an Attribute, you receive 6 points to place between Traits and Hit Points. It’s why the Barbarian has no skills but a few hundred hit points. It’s why the wizard and thief have loads of magic and skills but fall over from a stiff breeze.
I’ll post “Ace of Spades” character sheet as a model.
DEEZ-6 RULES: Basic Example of Scaled Die Rolling:
“The player of Dracmore wants to lift a huge piece of metal that has pinned his character to the ground.”
With a Physical Attribute score of 3, Dracmore can multiply his die roll result by 3. The Storyteller secretly decides that Dracmore will need a scaled result of 15 to free himself from the debris.
- Dracmore gets a 4 on his lift roll.
- Multiplied by his 3 in the Physical Attribute:
- Dracmore’s total result is 4*3 = 12 – not enough to get free of the fallen metal.
The Storyteller describes: “Dracmore’s muscles strain as he performs a full-on bench press of the metal pillar that is pinning him to the ground. The metal is starting to budge, but the strain is getting to Dracmore – who isn’t used to being out-weighed by anything!”
The Player decides: “Dracmore is half-Ogre Mage / half-Red Dragon. He should be able to lift a piece of metal. I’ll use three of his Physical Traits – Supernatural Strength, Raw Muscle & Draconic Anatomy. This adds 3 to the multiplier for escaping the inanimate object:
4 (initial roll)
6 (3 in Physical Attribute + 3 Traits)
= 24 (final scaled result)
The Storyteller Adds: “With a barbaric reptilian roar, Dracmore stands to his full 7.5 foot height and lifts the rivet-lined bar above his head.
Dracmore’s player adjusts the character sheet to reflect the use of 3 Physical Traits. He hopes that there won’t be many more pure physical challenges until Dracmore gets a level-up.”
DEEZ-6 RULES: Example of Contested Scaled Die Rolling:
When character actions are resisted by another actor in the story, both sides of the conflict make Scaled Die Rolls. The higher the margin of success for the winning roll, the greater the result for that character.
“While dead-lifting a metal pillar in an idiomatic fashion, Dracmore’s screams caught the attention of some opportunistic Sygil denizens nearby. After making eye-contact with a group of Kobolds , Dracmore’s player decides to turn on the character’s natural charm and scare them to their next victim. “
The Storyteller decides that some puny Kobolds are easily intimidated by Dracmore’s embodiment, but they are in a group of four. For this reason, the scaled target number for this intimidation roll is 12.
Under Social Attributes, Dracmore has a score of 1. Fortunately, his player bought the Trait: Monstrous Intimidation. By spending this Trait, Dracmore can add his Physical Attribute multiplier to intimidation rolls.
Dracmore’s player rolls the initial 1d6 and receives a 3.
By spending a Trait and multiplying the initial roll by 3 Physical Attribute levels, Dracmore comes to a final scaled result of 12 in attempts to rid his vicinity of the yappy-dog-like humanoids:
3 (initial roll)
4 (1 in Social Attribute + 3 in Physical Attribute after spending a Trait)
= 12 (final scaled result).
The Storyteller describes: “Upon making eye contact with Dracmore, the Kobalds eye each other in consideration of their next action. They’d hate to move against such a formidable foe, but the shiney tooth necklace he wears is a tempting prize…”
The Kobolds have a Social Attribute of 1 – so they’ll only get the single die roll to determine their fate.
Unless the result is a 6 – Epic Win – it looks like the mountainous Dracmore wins this contest of wills.
The Storyteller rolls for the Kobolds – a result of 5. Even if the ST wanted to incorporate some Traits to multiply the monsters’ result, common sense says they’d move on to easier pickings.
DEEZ-6 RULES: Combat:
While the morality of Sygil’s denizens is as individualistic as its residents, we will be playing exceptional characters. As a result, our characters have slightly better survival capabilities than most of the lost actors surviving day-to-day in Sygil.
Combat is just like contested rolling, with a few additions:
Sygil is a dangerous place – take damage, lose Hit Points. Lose all your Hit Points and the character gets Mind-Flayed. For every Hit Point of damage beyond 0 a character takes, they receive a double-edged Trait and have their memories flayed (minimum of 1 Trait).
Damage is taken point-for-point when a dangerous contested roll happens and the character’s result is worse than the opponents’. Damage can be mitigated by characters spending appropriate Traits. The Storyteller can also add or reduce damage for dramatic purposes.
Each character starts with 6 Hit Points. This can be raised permanently at Level-Up. Also, certain items, powers, etc, can add or subtract temporary or situational Hit Points. Shields, armor, and cover can both reduce damage and add situational Hit Points. It’s up to the players to design how their stuff affects their characters – the storyteller also modifies results based on environmental factors.
In many situations – Hit Points can be spent to buy Traits in cases where it may not apply (like Initiative), to power certain weapons and abilities, and to multiply results.
Hit Points are restored at Level-Up and via healing skills, powers, and devices.
A simple d6 role-play die is rolled to determine initiative, highest roll going (and declaring action) first. In rare cases (like quick-draw battles), a Hit Point can be spent to add an additional die to Initiative.
DEEZ – 6 RULES: The Storyteller
15 Minutes of Fame:
Unlike standard RPGs with a single constant Game Master, the Deez-6 system uses the 15 Minutes of Fame rule. Every 15 minutes, the players roll a single d6 die – the person with the highest score is the Storyteller. For the next 15 minutes, they set the action: call for rolls, arbitrate disputes and are completely in charge.
Storytellers award a Level-Up to a single player (other than themselves) at the end of their turn.
Double-Edged Traits can also be awarded to characters as a result of plot events at any time.
(It is suggested that Storytellers award at least one Double-Edged Trait per turn – remember that Double-Edged Traits are temporary but turn into permanent Traits selected by the player once activated).
Storytellers should make full use of characters’ Double-Edged Traits and activate them to add drama to otherwise banal rolls.
When a player receives a Level-Up, they apply it to a single character of their choice.
At Level-Up, all Attributes, Traits, and Hit Points are restored to their maximum normal levels.
The character also receives an additional Attribute of their choice and 6 points to distribute between new Traits, and Hit Points.
Let me know if I need to clarify/add anything.
Bio: Disabled. Hyperactive. Disorganized. Anti-Authoritarian. Highly Effective*.
I am a teacher of New Language Arts English (ENL/TESOL) to exceptional learners (“Special Education”) at Harry S Truman High School in Bronx, New York.
My joy is guiding young adults towards literacy and productive lives. In my spare time, I rhyme, study the martial sciences, cook for my wife, and play with my daughter.
The purposes of this website are threefold:
- To share research and research with the educational community.
- To document my personal experiences as I grow as an educator, while commenting on education, labor, and society.
- To provide public accountability so that I reach my personal goals.
- To mock, satirize, jive, jeer, jest, jeckle, heckle, hoodwink, bamboozle and flim-flam banal aspects of academic life.**
This blog is informed by my own experiences as:
- An adult with multiple learning disabilities.
- A father and husband.
- A doctoral student (ongoing).
- A Teacher’s Union Organizer and Lobbyist that worked in multiple states.
- An educational sales rep for corporate America.
- A private tutor, both for the privileged and undeserved alike.
Thank you for taking the time to read my blog.
Peace. Love. Respect.
-The Future Doctor Sugar
- According to the Danielson Rubric For Teaching, I am rated as a “Highly Effective” teacher on the basis of classroom instructional observations.
- According to the NYS battery of teacher examinations, I am in the 96th percentile in every subject area.
- My GRE scores place me in the bottom 25th percentile for Verbal Reasoning AND Mathematical Reasoning.
- My credit score is in the Good range, with a poor debt-to-income ratio (you read that part about the Master’s Degree and Ph.D, yes?).
**Did you see what I did there?
“Learning” can be defined as the brain processes that facilitate the acquisition of skills and knowledge. (See: Oxford Handbook of the Learning Sciences for reference).
The term “disability” is a myriad concept, whose meaning and importance changes depending on the context. The Americans with Disabilities Act provides the following:
An individual with a disability is defined by the ADA as a person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, a person who has a history or record of such an impairment, or a person who is perceived by others as having such an impairment. (ADA 2009).
The ADA definition is impressive because it pinpoints the cultural nuances of people who have been deemed “disabled” by our society. First, there is the differentiation between physical versus mental impairments. Moreover, by using the language “person who has…” the definition emphasizes both the humanity of the people that the act applies to, as well as the present-tense nature of disabilities.
The present-tense emphasis brings us to the second consideration – “a person who has a history or record of such an impairment.” The ADA’s “history or record of…” language is important when considering the black-and-white state of disability. That is, people in our society are considered either disabled or normal. There is no “non-disabled” or “undisabled,” in the present model for disability evaluation. In the area of mental health, there exists a medical model for determining the presence of a mental or emotional disability. Psychiatrists employ evaluation methods designed for say, diabetes or high blood pressure, but apply them to social or intellectual phenomena.
Problematically, the sources of data for mental health are far less scientific and objective than blood sugar concentration or blood pressure readings. Instead, Psychiatrists compare anecdotal or qualitative evidence from patients, co-workers, teachers, and family members. Even where quantitative exams are used – IQ tests, surveys, etc, they are methods of data collection that are based in social science and not medical science. As a Learning Scientist myself, I am not disparaging psychological research. Rather, implying that it is not the same as medical-biological data used in health sciences. At the end of the evaluation process, the data is compiled as a picture of the patient’s mental health status. The Psychiatrist then makes a determination as-to the existence or non-existence of a disability.
Realize that it is possible for a person to gradually become undisabled. After all, physical trauma can often be overcome with exercise and physical therapy. Injuries suffered in a car crash can be disabling. During the recovery process, the person can be said to be disabled, even if this status changes later. Alternatively, mental disabilities can occasionally be transitory. Depression occurs in many people for brief periods of time. Patients will take medication and go to therapy, and eventually no longer be considered “depressed.”
Both the medical model and present-tense emphasis of disability mark the poignancy of the ADA’s “history of…” language. Someone with a history of a condition can still be considered a “disabled” person, even if they themselves do not agree with this label.
The third portion of the ADA definition of disability is arguably my greatest source of personal adversity. That is “a person who is perceived by others as having such an impairment.” The term “impairment” implies a negatively impacted ability to perform a task. No matter how we culturally progress as a society, the word “disabled” has a negative connotation, as does the term “impairment.”
For someone to be considered a person with a disability, there exists an inherent deficit compared to cultural norms. People are considered disabled by society because they are compared negatively to an idealized notion of physical or mental capability. In other words, people are not themselves disabled – society deems them disabled because said persons deviate from culturally constructed expectations for normalcy. Instead of considering the natural variance in biological function inherent to any species, disabled people belong to a black-and-white social paradigm – people are either disabled, or they are not.
This duality is problematic when you consider that all people manifest, to varying degrees, the infinite array of skills humanity has developed. Within my social circle, some people are brilliant at math, but can’t make it through an informal gathering without insulting someone. Other people are professional athletes, but struggle to maintain personal finances. This calls into question the social values that disable members of our society – a conflict whose adversity inspired the very piece that you are reading.
Since 3rd grade, disability has been a point of question, evaluation, label, and contention for this adult contending with multiple learning disabilities. The notion of contending with a disability bears emphasis. I have never considered myself disabled. Yet, according to conventions of education and mental health, I have a history of both Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), as well as an Executive Functioning Deficit. Note the repeat use of “deficit” in my official medical-psychiatric prognosis!
Contenting with ADHD means that focusing my attention on a task I find unpleasant is truly a challenge, while removing my attention from something pleasurable is equally a challenge (just ask my wife about doing the dishes when I’d rather be dancing around the kitchen with our daughter!) In college, I was diagnosed with an Executive Functioning Deficit – which relates to breaking down complex ideas into smaller parts, so that they are manageable. After intense Educational Therapy, my professional skills are appreciated by my colleagues (even if I still need help with the dishes). I scraped by my Bachelor of Arts degree in English with a 2.3 GPA. My Master of Science degree in TESOL saw a 3.75 GPA. These days, I am a PhD candidate in The Learning Sciences with a 4.0 GPA.
Throughout my public and post-secondary school education, I was both supported and undermined by teachers. I was both encouraged and discouraged from reaching for the highest stars. Every year, my parents met with the “IEP Team”, who wanted to move me from Honor’s level classes to self-contained Special Education classes. When interviewed, the teachers either loved or despised me. Typically, this correlated with how challenging or how boring the class was!
In my professional career, there have been many similar nadir experiences. I’ve held many types of jobs in multiple sectors of the economy – community organizing, marketing, sales, as well as more menial job positions. Bosses at various employers have called me incompetent, as well as innovative – as life would have it, my career always seemed to return to education. After achieving professional success in educational politics, I decided to become a teacher and formally enter the classroom.
Now, I am in my 6th year as a teacher at Harry S Truman High School in the Bronx, NY. I’ve completed the requirements of the New York City Teaching Fellowship. More importantly, I serve the very students that I identified with at their age: those young people considered somehow deviant from the culturally derived “norm.” I am rated Highly Effective – the highest rating possible for a teacher – according to the Danielson Rubric for teaching. My Principal trusts me with both the most sensitive AND the most successful student populations at our school.
For me, this is what it means to overcome adversity. You take what society calls a handicap – and you harness it into a blessing in disguise. The same neurochemistry that was attacked by my schools’ IEP teams are allowing me to synthesize nuanced, complex concepts – and ENJOY doing so. The same teachers and bosses that held me back from happiness and full potential will soon have to call me “Dr. Sugar.”
Five years of Doctoral study has offered new perspectives on Space and Time. It was only yesterday that I offered my first introductory video, (of course in rhyme), the “Ode to My Future Self:”
Now, I can truly mean it when I spit the bars:
“You better get a
to come see me.
I flex with a rep
I rap with
your steeze –
All joviality aside, Space and Time has new meaning for a recently knighted PhD. “Dr. Sugar” can now appreciate the doctoral journey fading into the rear-view mirror of my car. Time snaps forward sooner than we realize – especially when academic deadlines are looming. Simultaneously, time often seems to stand still – especially in the long hours of an “all-nighter”, when aforementioned deadlines have somehow penetrated a wormhole and are now due immediately.
This academic journey began with a single step – researching the PhD position. Then, creating a vision for myself. Before I realized it, I was taking Introduction to Academic Writing and Mathematical Reasoning classes. With a snap of a finger, two semesters were done. That’s when an odd change came over me – I started referring to myself as a “Learning Scientist” and discussing “Cognition” in casual conversation.
My thesis – Instruction of Exceptional English Language Learners – forged my academic and contemplative abilities in a crucible. Standing before my professors to defend my work made the hardest Kumite Karate Sparring session look like patty-cake!
These days, I see my daughter bend Space and Time – she’s about to start first grade. I now watch her progress as both a father and a researcher. It was my passion that began with a dream, then became a vision. From my vision, I created a plan, then implemented, evaluated, and modified that plan. Today, my dream has been fulfilled – not only do the doubters have to call me “Dr. Sugar,” but the most sensitive learning populations in public schooling have sound research to advise the professionals that teach them.
In synthesizing the various types of research articles inherent to a Ph.D. program, this researcher has developed a qualitative measure of the linguistic approaches used by scholars in reporting their research. Please consider the following spectrum of language found in research reporting.
On one end of the spectrum, we have Malcolm X:
Brother Malcolm speaks in direct, concise language. His thoughts have an organized, accessible logic. This logic is informed with equal parts experience and extensive references to literature and research. He makes transparent adjustments to his prior conclusions and works to constantly improve his methods. Moreover, X demonstrates an empathy for his audience – a study of his delivery shows his commitment to engaging the recipients of his message.
For a clear anecdotal example, consider “The Bullet or the Ballot,” a speech that defines Brother Malcolm’s poise:
On the other end of the spectrum, we have Mojo Jo Jo:
Mojo Jo Jo uses endless pontification in reference to insignificant concepts. His purpose is finite: to take over the world and destroy all who oppose him – especially the Powerpuff Girls.
Here is a brief example of Mojo’s speech patterns:
The above video is salient to this researcher. The plot of the episode is that Mojo Jo Jo is sentenced to teach English as a New Language for his nefarious crimes. In doing so, he conditions his entire town to speak in his needlessly expanded language – language that he uses as evidence of his superior genius and onus to rule the world. Mojo has no regard for his audience or the quality of his presentation. Instead, he is obsessed with proving his own worth to the world.
By referring to the literature pertaining to the linguistic patterns of qualitative researchers, this educator hopes to demonstrate the applicability of this spectrum to the analysis of scholarly research.
Today marked a continuation of the raging debate over the validity of types of research, their relationship to reality – and indeed – what the heck IS reality, anyway.
For a concise summation of this debate, we should turn to the webcomic, XKCD (used without permission, but with awe and reverence):