chapter  10
Special Needs, Inclusion and Social Exclusion
Pages 13

This chapter will examine the ways in which the area of special education has addressed issues of inclusion and social exclusion. These have become polarized into ideological positions based upon either the medical model or the social model of disability. The politics of special education exemplifies the prevailing tensions that exist between a market economy of education and inclusive values relating to justice and equity. Many of the dilemmas that relate to discriminatory practices regarding ethnicity, gender and social class are relevant to disabled learners. Where the difference is significant, however, is in the contentious assessment procedures surrounding the diagnosis and prognosis of various disabilities. Other learners are generally seen as distinctly male or female, white or black, wealthy or poor. These factors are more readily discernible in most aspects of equal opportunities policy-making but disability remains a fluid and contested concept. This is one of the reasons why special education must be recognized as an intensely political arena, although for many years it was assumed to be largely apolitical, based on notions of care and compassion. It is an integral part of the education system, influenced by market forces and inextricably bound up with those issues that affect education as a whole.