Academic journal article Journal of Teacher Education

A Disability Studies Response to JTE's Themed Issue on Diversity and Disability in Teacher Education

Academic journal article Journal of Teacher Education

A Disability Studies Response to JTE's Themed Issue on Diversity and Disability in Teacher Education

Article excerpt

In a recent themed issue of Journal of Teacher Education (JTE 63.4) about issues of disability, diversity, and teacher education, guest editors Marleen Pugach, Linda Blanton, and Lani Florian (2012) invite readers to participate in "honest, difficult, and much needed dialogue across the many diversity constituencies in teacher education" (p. 235). In this commentary, I extend the dialogue begun in this special themed issue by considering the affordances of a Disability Studies in Education (DSE) perspective for understanding the intersectional nature of diversity, disability, and the social, cultural, and political production of educational inequities.

The guest editors of JTE 63.4 are to be commended for gathering and presenting a collection of voices that seek to position identifications of "disability" alongside other markers of diversity in a conversation about preparing teachers to foster educational equity. Collectively, the articles represent an important first step toward disrupting the process of ability profiling (Collins, 2003, 2013), that is, the process of educationally marginalizing or segregating students based on perceived differences in race, ethnicity, linguistic repertoire, social class, gender, and dis/ability. However, the articles in this issue also illustrate that the disciplinary discourses we bring to bear in identifying, locating, and responding to perceived differences and dis/abilities shape the voices that are heard and, subsequently, the understandings that are created.

In this commentary, I draw on research in DSE to clarify some of what is obscured by the disciplinary lenses represented in JTE 63.4. I begin with a brief overview of the articles in JTE 63.4 and the foundations of DSE. I then move to more deeply explicate a DSE perspective on two important concepts, disability labels as a social and political response to difference and personal narrative as decolonizing methodology. After introducing a DSE perspective on each of these points, I contrast it with those represented in JTE 63.4. I conclude with a discussion of the perspectives that a DSE lens affords relative to teacher education and educational equity that are not otherwise addressed in the special issue.

A Brief Overview of the Articles in JTE 63.4

The authors of the five centerpiece articles in JTE 63.4 each foreground different aspects of the complex relationship between diversity and disability in teacher education. The issue begins with Marilyn Cochran-Smith and Curt Dudley-Marling (2012) presenting an overview of the "issues that divide" general and special teacher educators, including the disciplinary roots of general and special education, deficit perspectives on difference (which they locate within special education), and access to the general curriculum for all students. The authors also discuss those areas where connection seems possible, including teacher inquiry within preparation programs.

Two of the remaining four centerpiece articles explicate specifically situated perspectives on diversity and disability in teacher education. In "The 21st Century Teacher: A Cultural Perspective," Robert Rueda and Jamy Stillman (2012) foreground issues of cultural (in)congruence between teachers and students and argue that teachers must become "informed observers of all students" (p. 250). In "Complex Relationships Between Multicultural Education and Special Education: An African American Perspective," Jacqueline Jordan Irvine (2012) calls attention to the disproportionate representation of students of color in general and of African American boys in particular in special education. She argues for an approach that would prepare all teachers to enact culturally relevant pedagogy as means of disrupting the deficit thinking that shapes overrepresentation.

The other two centerpiece articles, "Preparing Teachers to Work in Inclusive Classrooms: Key Lessons for the Professional Development of Teacher Educators from Scotland's Inclusive Practice Project" by Lani Florian (2012) and "Enacting Diversity in Dual Certification Programs" by Marleen C. …

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