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Commentary: Time, Now, For a Little Serious Complexity

The first four chapters of this two-volume set have delineated some of the reasons why the remaining 30-odd chapters are necessary. The domain called learning disabilities is critically in need of elucidation by scientists trained in contemporary analytical and technological methods. The historical overview that Doris (this volume) has provided-a masterful treatment, indeed-shows how the domain has been defined in large part by sociopolitical forces (Cruickshank, 1983; Milof sky, 1974; New York Times Education Section, November 11, 1984; Wiederholt, 1974). This is, of course, true of the entire educational system (Gracey, 1972; Hum, 1978), so we should not expect special education to be an exception. However, many of the issues addressed in the first four chapters and in other chapters of these volumes can be understood only by reference to the politics and economics of special education. For example, there is the matter of the diagnostic ambiguities characterizing the LD population as the educational system identifies it (Fletcher & Morris, this volume). We generally attribute this to variability in testing materials and criteria, insufficient training in test administration, insufficient understanding of psychological theory or statistics, administrative confusions, etc., etc. We assume, in other words, that the educational system wants to eliminate ambiguity, but isn't able to. In fact, as I presently explain, this may not be the case at all.