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[Re]conceptualizing Inclusion: Can Critical Race Theory and Interest Convergence Be Utilized to Achieve Inclusion and Equity for African American Students?

by Shelley D. Zion & Wanda Blanchett - 2011

Background/Context: Even though not fully realized, in legislation and theory, the requirements of the Individuals With Disabilities Education Improvement Act and the No Child Left Behind Act have created pressure to address the historical inequity in educational opportunity, achievement, and outcomes, as well as disparities in achievement between students of color and White students; disproportionality in special education referral, identification, and placement; high dropout rates for students of color; and disproportionate discipline and referrals for students of color, students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, students from immigrant families, and students in urban areas.

Purpose/Objective/Research Question/Focus of Study: The authors argue that inclusive education never had the potential to be truly inclusive because it is built on the premises of an inferiority paradigm. Issues of race, class, and privilege have rarely been incorporated into the inclusive education definitions or debates in the United States, and certainly not in practice. The purpose of this article is to examine: (a) the historical context of public schooling in America; (b) inclusive education in practice: segregation of African American and other students of color; (c) [re]conceptualizing inclusion: the importance of a social justice lens and critical theory; and (d) the relevance of interest convergence.

Research Design: Analytic essay

Conclusions/Recommendations: The authors contend that the inclusive education movement has not resulted in positive outcomes or inclusion in general education for African American students because the movement was built on faulty assumptions that centered on ability and placement and did not look at the intersection of ability/disability with race, class, culture, and language. More important, the movement did not address issues of racism, White privilege, White dominance, and social class dominance. The authors assert that social justice, critical race theory, and interest convergence are powerful tools with which to [re]conceptualize inclusion and inclusive education in America.

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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 113 Number 10, 2011, p. 2186-2205
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 16430, Date Accessed: 7/23/2021 12:19:51 PM

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About the Author
  • Shelley Zion
    University of Colorado Denver
    SHELLEY ZION is the executive director of the Center for Advancing Practice, Education, and Research and assistant research professor at the School of Education and Human Development at the University of Colorado Denver. She specializes in issues of social justice and equity in urban education, with a focus on school reform, teacher preparation, and student voice. Related publications include Klingner, J. K., Artiles, A. J., Kozleski, E., Harry, B., Zion, S., Tate, W., et al. (2005). Addressing the disproportionate representation of culturally and linguistically diverse students in special education through culturally responsive educational systems. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 13(38), 1–40; and Blanchett, W., & Zion, S. (in press). Asking the right questions in urban education research: Researcher values. In K. A. Scott & W. J. Blanchett (Eds.), Research in urban educational settings: Lessons learned and implications for future practice. Charlotte, NC: Information Age.
  • Wanda Blanchett
    University of Missouri–Kansas City
    WANDA BLANCHETT is dean of the School of Education and Ewing Marion Kauffman/Missouri Chair of Education at the University of Missouri–Kansas City. She specializes in urban and special education teacher education, issues of educational inequities, and social justice. She has published in journals such as the Educational Researcher, Theory Into Practice, Remedial and Special Education, and Urban Education, and has presented extensively at annual conferences of the American Educational Research Association and the American Association of Colleges of Teacher Education. Her most recent publications include: Lindsay, B., & Blanchett, W. J. (Eds.). (2011). Universities and global diversity: Preparing educators for tomorrow. Routledge Research in Education Series. London: Routledge; Blanchett, W. J. (2010). Telling it like it is: The role of race, class, & culture in the perpetuation of learning disability as a privileged category for the White middle class. Disability Studies Quarterly, 30(2); and Shealey, M. W., & Blanchett, W. J. (Eds.). (2009). Students with disabilities: A missing component in the urban education agenda [Special issue]. Urban Education, 44(4).
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