Getting the stories straight: allowing different voices to tell an 'effective history' of special education law in the United States

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Traditional historical narratives can serve to mask injustices that exist beneath a celebratory surface of statistics, legislative enactments, and judicial decision-making that may present an impression of continuous progress. With this understanding, this article adopts a framework applying Foucault's distinction between 'traditional' and 'effective' history to examine the legal foundations of special education in the United States. The ultimate goal of this article is to challenge the assumption that 'societies follow a developmental pathway, away from superstition, prejudice and cruelty, and in the direction of greater enlightenment and humanity.' The comparison of 'traditional' and 'effective' historical narratives is necessary to illustrate some basic - and perhaps flawed - assumptions inherent in traditional narratives.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee,

Publication date: June 1, 2007

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