Theorising Special Education

By Catherine Clark; Alan Dyson et al. | Go to book overview

13

THEORISING SPECIAL EDUCATION

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Catherine Clark, Alan Dyson and Alan Millward

There is a tradition in academic publishing that the editors of a volume retain the right to produce a final chapter which offers an overview of the book as a whole, summarises its various contributions and proffers a view of its field which makes claims to be authoritative. We wish to avail ourselves of this right-but only to a limited extent, and only after recording a number of caveats.

In the introductory chapter to this volume, we asserted our claim that theorising is non-optional and that it is a process. We agreed with Schön (1983a) that any action at the very least implies a theory, and the only question is the extent to which such theories are made explicit and coherent. Moreover, we suggested, along with many contributors to this volume, that the development of such explicit and coherent theories inevitably takes place within and reflects a particular sociohistoric context. Put simply, theories are inevitably 'of their time' and reflect the values, assumptions and priorities of that time.

It follows from this that, however powerfully particular theoretical positions may be argued, and however all-embracing and complete they may appear to be, they necessarily emerge out of a process of theorising in which particular theories rise and fall as the values, assumptions and priorities which underpin them shift. Recently, Skrtic (1995) has argued for a post-modern approach to theorising special education-an approach which accepts this processual nature of theorising, which problematises the claims of particular theories to be finally 'true', and which sees the essential task of the theorist as being to make the process of deconstructing old theories and constructing new ones as open and explicit as possible.

In essence, this is the task which we have set ourselves in this final chapter. As editors, we are no more in a position to offer an 'ultimate' theory of special education than any of our contributors. Any overview which we chose to provide would be based on values, assumptions and priorities which would be

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