Stoic Pragmatism for Parenting a Child with Disabilities

An Essay Addressing Philosophers, Parents, Teachers, and Educational Policymakers

Cover image of the book in which my article was published, 'Disability and American Philosophy.'It takes a village. Raising children takes all hands on deck, including parents or guardians, teachers, administrators, and educational policymakers. This paper examines common philosophical norms relevant to each of these groups. The norms include the idea of wanting a better future for our children than we had; the idea that human beings are rational animals; and that the unexamined life is not worth living. What does that mean for parents, teachers, administrators, and policymakers when our children are intellectually or communicatively impaired?

This photo features my daughter, Helen, in 2019, sitting in her wheelchair and awaiting the school bus on a sunny morning.

My daughter Helen in 2019.

WARNING: At least for me, rereading this paper inspired an emotional response. The stoicism called for in the paper is intended to help ease emotional reactions, but the fact of such a need for some readers (and others have let me know that they have shared such a reaction) is itself worth noting in advance.

Click here for the paper in PDF format.

Download the paper here.

We think of the norms I have mentioned as cultural. Philosopher John Dewey saw philosophy as the critique of culture, essentially as thinking about thinking. How we think plays a powerful role in how we treat people and how we educate ourselves and others. In this context, this paper examines one of the difficult contexts for education and the raising of children. And, I offer my own and my family’s experience for consideration, bringing philosophical ideas to bear on tough moments, decisions, and questions.

I first presented a draft of this essay at the annual meeting of the eastern division of the American Philosophical Association in January of 2019. It has just now been published in Disability and American Philosophies, edited by Nate Whelan-Jackson and Daniel J. Brunson in January of 2022 with Routledge Press of London.

It may be worth noting that in 2019 I was still married, something no longer true now, in 2022, when the essay has finally been released in print.

I agreed to publish this article with the understanding that I would have permission to share the essay in this way. You can download a copy of the essay in PDF format here or by clicking on the Adobe image above in this post.

Last, but not least, I have generated a computer-created text-to-speech recording of the essay. If I had more time, I would record myself reading the essay. The following recording took me only a few minutes to generate, by contrast to over an hour or more of work to record it myself. For the sake of accessibility, and at a friend’s request, I generated this audio file, which can be listed to if that is preferred over reading the text. I did not include the notes or bibliography section in the audio file.


Citation:  Weber, Eric Thomas, “Stoic Pragmatism for Parenting a Child with Disabilities: An Essay Addressing Philosophers, Parents, Teachers, and Educational Policymakers,” Chapter 11 in Disability and American Philosophies, Edited by Nate Whelan-Jackson and Daniel J. Brunson (London: Routledge, 2022), 182-198.

The post Stoic Pragmatism for Parenting a Child with Disabilities first appeared on Eric Thomas Weber.

The Eulogy Virtues Valued in Life

This is a photo of the cover of David Brooks's latest book, The Road to Character, 2015. David Brooks has been challenging young people lately to think about more than what he calls the “résumé virtues.” His latest book is called The Road to Character, and he has been touring the country to talk about what’s more important than the many small steps we take in advancing our careers. Which matters more: what people think or say about your résumé, or what people will say at your funeral?

Brooks argues that so many of us today focus on the wrong things — on getting the next notch in our belts — when what we should be developing are the eulogy virtues. In the end, people usually don’t care about this or that promotion you earned. The bigger house you bought rarely comes up at a funeral. What matters most to people are the qualities of your character, not the quantities in your bank account.

Brooks’s message especially to young professionals and those aspiring to be them resonates with me. First of all, Aristotle noted that happiness is something that can only really be measured in terms of a person’s whole life. When we say we are happy, in everyday language, we are primarily talking about how we feel right now. What makes for a happy life, however, is not a certain number of happy-feeling-moments. We can endure great challenges for the right reasons and be happy about what we have contributed. The feeling is less the issue, however. What matters, as Brooks notes, is our character.

With a focus on professionalism today, one can certainly make a great deal more money going into any number of careers than one earns as a teacher. So some other force pushes people into that line of work. As I said in my last post, I’ve been very fortunate to feel appreciated at the University of Mississippi. Recently, a number of students added to that very kindly.

The funny thing about moving, as Annie and I soon will, is that you get a glimpse of people’s appreciation of the eulogy virtues, but without the dying part.

The logo of the University of Mississippi's Student Alumni Council.The Student Alumni Council at the University of Mississippi is a clever organization, in which current students are involved in the work of the alumni association — hook’em early, they say. It’s a great idea, actually, for networking purposes as well as for opportunities for student leadership. Yes, those are related to résumé virtues. The group is more meaningful than that, however. They organize an event each spring (though I don’t know how long this has been going on) where they recognize mentors, hosting a “Random Acts of Kindness” event. When I received my invitation, I joked to myself that I generally intend my acts of kindness to be thoughtful and purposeful, rather than random.

The event was lovely. One student at a time got up to say a few words about a mentor he or she wanted to recognize on campus with a Random Act of Kindness award. Next, two students got up to say that they had both nominated a certain professor. It was heartwarming. We do this work because we believe in it. It’s icing on the cake when people actually show you appreciation for it. When the time came, I was taken aback by three students who each got up to say some deeply thoughtful and kind things about our work together. I got a taste of the value of the eulogy virtues, without having to die, when Mary Kate Berger, Natalie King, and Rod Bridges each spoke eloquently and kindly in their explanations for their nominations for me.

I feel profoundly fortunate to have worked with great people in Mississippi. I also am more confident that Brooks and Aristotle are right. Character is the most important thing we can cultivate. The funny thing that so many people miss, however, is that attending to one’s own happiness really comes down to attending to the same for others. I can’t think of a more rewarding opportunity than to help others to shape their character.

Thank you again, Rod, Mary Kate, and Natalie (left to right in the photo)!

This is a photo of Rod Bridges, Mary Kate Berger, Eric Thomas Weber, and Natalie King at the UM 2016 Student Alumni Council 'Random Acts of Kindness' event.


Video of My Interview on WLOX TV News at 4

The video clip of my interview on WLOX TV News at 4 in Biloxi, MS, is included at the bottom of this post. I had a great time visiting the coast, seeing the beautiful water, and talking with some really nice people.

This is a still video frame from my interview on WLOX TV News at 4 in Biloxi, MS, about my book, Uniting Mississippi.

I also had a great time meeting Jeremy from Bay Books for the book signing afterwards at the West Biloxi Public Library. While I was at the TV studio, I was able to snap these photos.

I knew I had found the right place. The official studio, looking sharp. The requisite multi-TV display, demonstrating that this is a TV studio. The West Biloxi Public Library, where we held the signing. Made me laugh. One perk of a visit to Biloxi.

Here’s the interview video:

If you can’t see this video in your RSS reader or email, then click here.

MHC-logo-FBFor more information, you can visit my page about the book here. If you are looking for a speaker for your group or think your community might enjoy a book talk and signing, visit my Contact page and drop me a note. Groups in Mississippi can apply for a mini grant from the MS Humanities Council, as they have a speakers’ series that features my talks on Uniting Mississippi.

Also, if you haven’t already, follow me on Twitter @EricTWeber and on

Had a Great Visit with Katrina Berry on WLOV Tupelo

Photo of terrible rain in between Oxford and Tupelo, MS.Despite the torrential rain this morning, I made it on time to meet with Katrina Berry of WLOV Tupelo’s This Morning show.

Berry is an impressive, award-winning journalist and TV anchor. Her award was from the Associated Press for her weekly series, Heavenly Helpers. When I first got a chance to talk with her, she explained that they aim to support local authors on the show, which was great.

It can seem strange to most scholars to put a lot of effort into securing and participating in a 3 minute interview, which is what it came out to be. Consider how much advertisers spend on 30 seconds or 1 minute of television, however, and all of a sudden, you can appreciate better what 3 minutes of air-time means, in financial terms. One source estimates that even on a local show, ads can cost from as little as $200 to as much as $1,500 for 30 seconds. So a 3 minute interview could be valued from anywhere between $1,200 and $9,000. That’s worth the drive to Tupelo, MS. Those aren’t funds that come to me, of course, but they are value that the show offers for getting the word out about Uniting Mississippi.

After a few nice questions about the book, Berry asked me about the book signing that I’ll be holding from 12-1:30 pm today at Reed’s Gumtree Bookstore, here in Tupelo. Here are a few photos I snagged of my visit to WLOV. When I get a clip of the video of the interview, I’ll post it to my site also. It was a great experience.

Selfie photo of Eric Thomas Weber with Katrina Berry of WLOV Tupelo. Photo of the weatherman in front of a green screen in Tupelo, MS's WLOV TV studio. Photos from the WLOV TV studio in Tupelo, MS.

Know a TV station that might be interested in hearing about Uniting Mississippi? Let me know on Twitter or on Facebook

Unscientific Justification for My Coffee Dependency

Silly chart that I made unscientifically to show a slight correlation between increased coffee consumption and increased per capita GDP.

I was thinking about coffee because I love it, and a silly idea struck me. I’m not a quantitative researcher and the silly activity I spent a few minutes on this morning is utterly unscientific and drawn from sources that confer no serious credibility. Therefore, I urge anyone looking at this not to cite it in any kind of research or writing, unless you’re writing about silliness.

I wondered whether one could show some correlation between growth in coffee consumption and economic growth. Selecting out an inconvenient year before my chart starts, I got a bit of a correlation. Both go up! See?!

It gave me a chuckle, so I thought I’d share. Even if it’s just a silly thought to make me feel better about my dependency on coffee…

Photos from the book signing at Square Books

Thanks to Daniel Perea for snapping these pictures at the book signing on Wednesday (September 9th, 2015)! Daniel kindly agreed to let me have the copyright for the images (Weber, 2015). Please do not use these without permission. Visit my contact page and drop me a line if you’d like to use one, especially for press or promotional purposes for future events. Thank you, Daniel!

I also want to thank Cody Morrison and Square Books for being great hosts. It was a wonderful first book signing experience. I’m honored and was very grateful and encouraged to see a number of nice folks brave the weather to hear about Uniting Mississippi. I’m pleased to report that we sold all but two copies, though one of those remaining is now gone. Square Books has one left as I write this, though a new shipment will be there soon. I’ll head over at some point soon to sign those, as one of the really cool things about real, brick and mortar bookstores like Square Books, and about literary towns like Oxford, is that authors sign books here and you can get your new book already signed by the author. You can’t do that on the forest-river-yellow Web site site. Thanks again, Square Books!

sb-signing-090915-2 sb-signing-090915--10 sb-signing-090915-8 Daniel Perea took these photos at my book signing for 'Uniting Mississippi,' held at Square Books. sb-signing-090915--11 sb-signing-090915-4 sb-signing-090915-7 sb-signing-090915--13 Photo of Weber signing a book for Mrs. Gray in Oxford, MS. sb-signing-090915-1b sb-signing-090915-1 sb-signing-090915-3

To learn more about the book, visit my page for Uniting Mississippi. If you’d like to support local bookstores like Square Books, you can order your copy on their Web site here:

Buy ‘Uniting Mississippi’ from Square Books

You can also see a brochure about the book here:

Printable Adobe PDF Brochure for ‘Uniting Mississippi’