The Non-Normative Expansion of Special Education
The continuity across non-normative categories illustrates an open sequence of linked solutions: the problems that gave form to the original category of Backward children were “solved” by the reformulation of the category as Mentally Deficient, embracing the momentum of the intelligence movement. Viewed more broadly, more institutionally, the field of special education arose between two populations of exceptional children: those in separate, often residential institutions, and those who gained admission into public schools. Racial overrepresentation spoiled what had been a dramatic postwar expansion of special education. The initiating event was the presentation in 1945 of results from the study Vocational Education in the Years Ahead sponsored by the Office of Education. The need for many students to earn a living certainly accounts for some of the wide attraction that life adjustment education gained. Like the image of the comprehensive high school, the theory of general education was rich with promise, but lacking in empirical verification.