chapter  27
15 Pages

“The Tell-Tale Body”: The Constitution of Disabilities in School


A popular but risky way to play nature and nurture1 with children comes in two parts: the fi rst describes what they cannot do at an early age; the second assumes that the identifi ed limitations predict directly what they cannot do as adults. A more reliable way to predict what children will do as adults is to describe the roles available in the social structure that will acquire them regardless of their abilities. The analytic view from adult roles is most revealing and corrective in a society with a systematic and unjust misfi t between the likely potentials of children and the jobs ready to reward them with position and status. The possibility of an unjust misfi t requires, as Emerson might say, that we listen to “the tell-tale body” of the children to see what they have been through, to see what their “face and eyes reveal” about getting squeezed into lives smaller than promised at birth.