A Faceless Bureaucrat Ponders Special Education, Disability, and White Privilege

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The other is a way of distinguishing those who are different from us. Being The other can be based on skin color, language, culture, ethnicity, religious affiliation, class, sexual orientation, gender, and presence of disability. The nature and construction of individual and group identities inform our understanding of race, ethnicity, and disability and are inextricably linked to issues of ethics, power, privilege, and context in determining what is normative and how we become sorted into us, them, and The other. This article uses a critical approach to social analysis and knowledge construction that suggests two conjoined projects: a critique of what is and an advancement toward an ought. The first part of the article is a critique of categorical approaches to special education, overrepresentation of minority children in special education, inclusion and exclusion and White privilege. The second part of the article describes the potential of multicultural education, transformation, and participatory leadership approaches to address the issues raised in the critique.

Keywords: White privilege; categorical approaches; classification; disability; exclusion; inclusion; labeling; multicultural education; overrepresentation; race; special education

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.2511/rpsd.26.3.180

Affiliations: U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs.

Publication date: September 1, 2001

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  • Research and Practice for Persons with Severe Disabilities is now published in association with SAGE Publications. For new issues please visit: rpsd.sagepub.com
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