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The Hunt for Disability: The New Eugenics and the Normalization of School Children


by Bernadette Baker — 2002

This paper is an attempt to reconsider issues of sameness, difference, equality, and democracy in present public school systems. It focuses on the question of (dis)ability and the implications of rethinking (dis)ability as an ontological issue before its inscription as an educational one concerning the politics of inclusion. The everyday dividing, sorting, and classifying practices of schooling are reconsidered through an analysis of old and new discourses of eugenics as “quality control” of national populations. The paper suggests that in the transmogrification of old to new eugenic discourses, disability becomes reinscribed as an outlaw ontology reinvesting eugenic discourse in a new language that maintains an ableist normativity. The paper concludes by considering the very difficult question of trying to imagine alternatives to sending the posse out in schools.


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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 104 Number 4, 2002, p. 663-703
http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 10895, Date Accessed: 4/27/2017 2:40:55 PM

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About the Author
  • Bernadette Baker
    University of Wisconsin-Madison
    E-mail Author
    BERNADETTE BAKER is an assistant professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her research interests traverse curriculum theory, curriculum history, historiography, and philosophy of education. Recent publications include the monograph In Perpetual Motion: Theories of Power, Educational History, and the Child (2001), Peter Lang Publishing, New York, and “(Ap)pointing the Canon: Rousseau’s Émile, Visions of the State, and Education” in Educational Theory, Winter 2001, volume 51, number 1, pp. 1–43.
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