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Dismantling the Disabling Environments of Education

Creating New Cultures and Contexts for Accommodating Difference


Edited By Peter Smagorinsky, Joseph Tobin and Kyunghwa Lee

Dismantling the Disabling Environments of Education: Creating New Cultures and Contexts for Accommodating Difference challenges assumptions that view people of difference to be "abnormal," that isolate attention to their difference solely in the individual, that treat areas of difference as matters of deficiency, and that separate youth of difference from the mainstream and treat them as pathologized. As outsiders to mainstream special education, the authors of this collection take a more social and cultural perspective that views the surrounding social environment as at least as problematic as any point of difference in any individual. Most of the scholars contributing to this volume work with preservice and inservice teachers and grapple with issues of curriculum and pedagogy. One of the primary audiences we hope to reach with this book is our colleagues and practitioners who have not made special education or disability studies the focus of their careers, but who, like we, are determined to engage with the full range of people who attend schools. Dismantling the Disabling Environments of Education: Creating New Cultures and Contexts for Accommodating Difference can be a valuable text for undergraduate and graduate courses in teacher education, as it addresses key issues of inclusion, diversity, equity, and differentiated approaches to educating the full range of students.

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Introduction (Peter Smagorinsky / Joseph Tobin / Kyunghwa Lee)


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This volume is situated within the contours of four related fields concerned with human variation. Disability Studies (DS) and its companion (and in some conceptions, its successor), Critical Disability Studies (CDS), are concerned with contesting the society-wide, debilitating assumptions about people who do not conform to conventional notions of able-bodiedness. Disability Studies in Education (DSE) and Critical Special Education (CSE) focus this compassionate view of human difference within educational institutions, both in classrooms and in the physical and institutional structure of the environment. Our work resides within what we believe to be a useful niche, that of teachers and teacher educators from diverse content areas who acknowledge the potentially disabling effects of bodily and mental diversity, without taking the pathologizing perspective of human difference prevalent in society and often in schools.

DS and CDS emerged from the humanities and have a discursive emphasis; that is, they tend to view textuality as central, and seek to shift the rhetoric of representation from deficit to asset. Many claiming a DSE or CSE perspective emerged from within the field of mainstream special education (MSE), yet reject its medical model of sickness and cure. Like DS and CDS, they embrace a positive, empathic view of students with special needs as people with potential requiring knowledgeable and deliberate cultivation. We enter this discussion from disparate research programs that have led to concerns for how...

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