Disability, Schooling and the Artifacts of Colonialism
by Christopher Kliewer & Linda May Fitzgerald — 2001
Eloquent, empirical, and philosophic decrees have been put forth describing and demanding a fundamental democratization of American public education. The primary foci of these critiques have centered on race, class, and gender. All but absent from the multicultural, feminist, and critical studies of schooling are serious analyses of the subjugation experienced by students tagged with disability labels. No other culturally recognized group of students experiences a similar mass level of deterministic segregation, tracking, and systematic social devaluation. That calls for school democratization consistently ignore students with disabilities suggests to us a certain ambivalence on the part of progressive scholars toward the place of disability in a just and excellent school: "Perhaps at disability," so the logic must go, "we have encountered an essential need for separation." In this paper, we reject the essentialist notion of the need to exclude children with disabilities from the community of school. We trace the origin of disability segregation to the advent of Western colonialism, and demonstrate the symbiotic relationship between cultural and racial oppression and the oppression of people with disabilities. We end with an urgent argument to include disability issues within postcolonial educational frameworks.
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