chapter  11
11 Pages

THE POLITICS OF THEORISING SPECIAL EDUCATION

The practice of special education has proven extremely resilient since its beginnings in the nineteenth century with Johann Jakob Guggenbuhl’s refinement of the work of Itard and Seguin (Kanner, 1959; Lewis, 1989) until its present and many manifestations. It would not be an overstatement to suggest that special education has reinvented itself to stake its claim in the so-called era of inclusion. The linguistic adjustments that have recently taken place to describe and legitimate the expansion of special educational interest and practice do not, however, constitute a comprehensive ‘retheorising’ of special education. In fact, at the risk of being provocative, I would assert that the failure to apply theoretical analysis has been detrimental to the project of inclusion. What has transpired is, as Bernstein (1996) demonstrates, better described as the ‘submersion’ of special educational interest within the distractive discursive noises (Ball, 1988) of integration and, latterly, inclusion. To be sure there have been some beneficiaries, but they remain those with an interest in traditional special educational practice, an unreconstructed school system and the bureaucratic and political imperatives of education policy makers.