Comparing Special Education: Origins to Contemporary Paradoxes

By John G. Richardson; Justin J. W Powell | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER 1
IDEAS AND INSTITUTIONS
The Enlightenments, Human Nature,
and Disability

If one steps back from the present into the past, what patterns,
what structures does one discover in the successive waves of this
movement, if one looks not from us to them, but from them to us?
Norbert Elias, The Civilizing Process

THE EDUCATION OF CHILDREN WITH disabilities long preceded the formal expansion of public education. The established organizational forms for the education of the blind, deaf, and “dumb”; the “feebleminded” and “insane”; disorderly, criminal, pauper, dependent, and neglected youth were diverse—from charitable asylums and orphanages to hospitals and various reformatories. Setting aside superficial differences in name, size, and administration, the universality of these organizational forms is compelling. In societies with widely different religious, cultural, political, and economic systems across Europe, such organizations for disabled children and youth were established. The differences lay in their relative importance and the timing of their founding.

Asylums, orphanages, hospitals, workhouses, and reformatories have their own and conjoint histories that are more than subordinate chapters in the chronology of national education systems. If we retrieve these histories, we

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