Amanda Howerton-Fox, Ph.D., has dedicated her life’s work to social justice through education, particularly for deaf children and children learning English in school. So, when her research became a cornerstone of President Joseph Biden’s plan for “Full Participation and Equality for People with Disabilities,” it not only offered validation but also encouragement.
“I’ve spent the last 20 years writing, researching, talking and trying to change people’s minds. But maybe we need to change policy first,” said Howerton-Fox, Ph.D., assistant professor of Education at Iona. “I’ve been doing a lot of reading this semester about anti-racism, and one of the things [Ibram X.] Kendi talks about is how he tried for so much of his life to change people’s minds, hoping that would change policy. But that’s actually not how it works. You change policy, and once policy changes, then people are ready to change their minds. So, this really got me excited about the possibility of being more involved on the policy end.”
In keeping with the mission, vision and values of Iona, where service, justice and opportunity are foundational tenets, Howerton-Fox has been a steadfast advocate for deaf and bilingual education on campus and beyond. Arguing that early exposure to language is critical for a child’s development, she has pioneered innovative pedagogies and formed exciting partnerships to expand access. Attracting the attention of the president of the United States, however, certainly came as a surprise.
“The fact that this is even on [Biden’s] radar, that it’s part of his agenda, is wonderful,” she said. “He talks about the early supports; he talks about looking at the research, recognizing what’s going on, and making sure that the families have the supports they need to get access to that early language – that’s huge.”