Experiences of Special Education: Re-Evaluating Policy and Practice through Life Stories

Experiences of Special Education: Re-Evaluating Policy and Practice through Life Stories

Experiences of Special Education: Re-Evaluating Policy and Practice through Life Stories

Experiences of Special Education: Re-Evaluating Policy and Practice through Life Stories

Synopsis

Discussion about educational provision for children with learning difficulties has largely ignored the voices of those for whom that provision is intended. Experiences of Special Education argues that these 'insider perspectives' are of central importance for a fuller understanding of special educational needs policy. Bringing a unique focus to the subject of special needs education, Derrick Armstrong reassesses the history of special educational policy through the life-stories of those who have first-hand experience. These stories contest official policy discourses and inform an understanding of the competing political and professional debates in this area, allowing the reader to: * Investigate the social and historical contexts of special educational needs policy * Challenge traditional notions of policy research * Explore alternative policy discourses informed by the voices of the excluded. This thought-provoking book is based on detailed case-study analysis of the experiences of over thirty adults who attended special institutions/schools between 1994 and the present. It provides a fresh perspective on current discussions of special educational provisions for teachers, student teachers, policy makers and academics, involved in special education.

Excerpt

The history of special education is for the most part a hidden history. Rarely are the voices of those who were schooled in this system heard. Yet throughout the twentieth century a significant number of children were identified as having learning difficulties and placed in segregated special schools. The 1944 Education Act introduced compulsory secondary education for all children with the exception (until 1970) of children with severe learning difficulties. The 1981 Education Act saw a development of this 'inclusive' philosophy with the abolition of categories of special educational need and an assessment policy based explicitly upon the idea of a continuum of educational need. There are important continuities in special educational policy in this period as well as some significant divergences, yet little is known about the experiences and perspectives of those who were 'included' within the special education sector as a result of these policy shifts. The proposition put forward in this book is that these 'insider' perspectives are of central importance for an understanding of special education policy during this period.

The language of special education

Special education, like other social phenomena, is the product of competing and often contradictory discourses, policies, social interests and practices. Although there are many variations and overlaps between them, three discourses in particular can be identified as having impacted in significant ways upon the development of special education. The first of these is a discourse of exclusion and segregation, which has its roots in the eugenics movement of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The second is a discourse of 'normalisation', which characterised educational policy in the second half of the twentieth century. More recently a discourse of 'inclusion' has gained prominence, particularly in the critical literature on special education, but also in the rhetoric, at least, of government policy and school practices. Contradictions are to be found both within and between these discourses. For instance, following Ulrich Beck's thesis of the 'risk society', the policy discourse of 'inclusion' may be seen as emanating from an alternative

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