This article serves as an introduction to the special edition of Disability Studies Quarterly dedicated to revisiting Christine Sleeter's germinal 1987 publication, "Why is There Learning Disabilities? A Critical Analysis of the Birth of the Field in Its Social Context." In this introductory essay we first highlight the influence of Sleeter's work in historicizing disability and normalcy, learning and schooling, asking readers to consider social class and race in the construction of learning disability. Second, we position her in a community of other critical special educators who troubled existing beliefs and practices within the field of special education. Third, we briefly review the thirteen articles featured in this special issue, noting how each engages with ideas from Sleeter's original analysis. Fourth, we trace how Sleeter and other researchers influenced the emergence of disability studies, and particularly disability studies in education (DSE). In closing, we acknowledge the ongoing schism between DSE and traditional special education, taking strength from the work of Sleeter and other critical special educators who have gone before us, and remain ever optimistic for a more open dialogue.

It has been just over 20 years since the germinal publication by Christine Sleeter, Why is there learning disabilities? A critical analysis of the birth of the field in its social context, in which she locates the emergence of the category of learning disability (LD) as fulfilling a political and economic purpose in light of threats to U.S. supremacy during the Cold War years. In this piece she argues that the category of LD enabled parents to differentiate and protect white middle class children who were failing in school from lower class and minority children, during a time when schools were being called upon to raise standards for economic and military purposes (1987, p. 212).

Here, Sleeter places the rise of the learning disability category as bound up in oppressive ideologies of race and class. Hers is a politics of emergence: asking, why now? — And, for whose benefit? To answer these questions, she carefully outlines a constellation of occurrences that provided the context for the "birth" (or construction) of learning disability in the early-1960s. According to Sleeter, the category of LD allowed schools to explain the failure of white, middle class children who were failing to meet the increased expectations for achievement in ways that did not threaten white supremacy or the presumed worthiness of middle class children, their homes, or their families. In other words, the category of LD did not materialize out of thin air, but rather appeared in the educational landscape at a particular point in history and to achieve a specific task — that of explaining underachievement without questioning the status quo of white, middle class privilege. A form of organically-based, "minor neurological damage" that disabled certain children seemed a far more palatable idea than considering why large numbers of white, middle class students were unable to keep up with increased standards rooted in U.S. economic expansionism and cultural imperialism of the late 1950s and early 1960s.

In thinking about how we first encountered Sleeter's essay, we both remembered valuing the way that she complicated the neat an orderly progress narrative of LD (see Dudley-Marling & Paugh, this issue). Historicizing disability and normalcy in the context of schooling and learning, she asked readers to consider social class and race in the construction of disability, and in doing so deeply influenced the ways in which we came to approach our own work in disability studies in education (DSE). In many respects Sleeter's pioneering thoughts went directly against the grain of traditionalists within the field of special education — and, for her radical reinterpretation of the inception of LD, she certainly paid a price (see Skrtic, this issue). Many of the old guard in special education dismissed her critique as ideological, as opposed to their own "objective" perspectives grounded in science. Of course she was indeed questioning the ideology of the LD category, but traditional special educators, as positivists, failed to see their own perspectives as equally ideologically grounded. In doctoral seminars that finally exposed us to the work scholars such as Lous Heshusius, Thomas Skrtic, Ellen Brantlinger, and Christine Sleeter — we recall being profoundly affected by their observations and analyses of disability in schools and society. For example, in Why is There Learning Disabilities? Sleeter unlocked the Pandora's Box of special education, unleashing previously contained ideas that now openly circulated in our thoughts, provoking us to further question the construction of all disability categories in relation to the needs and context of schools. As former teachers who hold masters degrees in teaching students with learning disabilities, we asked ourselves: Why did we have to wait for our doctoral programs to hear about Sleeter's work and other voices that resisted dominant discourses within the field of special education? In a nutshell the answer, unfortunately, is that the field of special education is highly effective in hiding, obscuring, dismissing, ignoring, excluding, trivializing, and censoring its own resistant voices (Brantlinger, 1997).

Recognizing Sleeter's Contributions

As Taylor (2006) points out, before DSE had a name, there were scholars who explored similar issues that interest contemporary researchers. For example, Becker (1963) proposed that understanding disability as a social phenomenon is inextricably linked to society's desire to create deviants by labeling certain people as "outsiders." In addition, Mercer (1973) applied labeling theory, the self-inscription of individuals into an assigned social role, to people defined as mentally retarded. In brief, Mercer took a risk in articulating the difference between a clinical perspective of disability and a social perspective on disability, emphasizing the hitherto under addressed importance of the latter (Taylor, 2006).

Similarly, in the 1980s Sleeter's work stood in stark contrast to the majority of the LD (and other disability) related research. The contribution of Sleeter's argument to the emergence of disability studies in education is obvious. She writes, "rather than being a discovery of science," LD is a constructed category that allowed schools to maintain "race and class stratification…but in a way that appears to be based on innate human variation and objective assessment of individual characteristics" (p. 234). Her work has helped scholars to question the construction of all "school-based" disability categories, as well as various sorting practices within schools such as assessment, labeling, tracking, and the operationalization of compulsory standards. Importantly, Sleeter's work shows how these practices create student subject positions that serve to protect the status quo of white, middle-class privilege. In undertaking a critical analysis of taken-for-granted historical disability labels, Sleeter denaturalizes categories, recasting them as tools that ensure the preservation of middle-class values and ways. Furthermore, as one of the first to specifically connect the construction of LD with racial and social class privilege, Sleeter's work offers an intersectional analysis that continues to shed light on the persistent problem of overrepresentation of students of color in special education categories and segregated classrooms.

In this special issue of DSQ we revisit Sleeter's ideas about the construction of LD to bring her writing in conversation with contemporary debates and analyses within DS and DSE. It is both relevant and timely to return to this important work because although Sleeter originally locates the emergence of the category of LD in the Cold War era of the industrial and military expansion, the U.S. is once again experiencing a federal mandate to promote increased rigorous standards in education. Now, as then, we see an escalation of concern over academic ranking of children in the U.S. compared to other countries. Now, as then, the U.S. faces a threat to its status as the primary political power in the world. Now, as then, the government is responding with an intense focus on systematically raising standards. Thus, in this age of accountability and high stakes testing, we believe it judicious to revisit Sleeter's analysis and contemplate the pertinent points she raised. For example, how are the pressures for increased student achievement creating the need, once again, to interrogate school practices that shift the focus to student-based explanations of underachievement, rather than on ways in which schools are failing an ever-increasing number of children and youth? The purpose of this special issue is to consider once again, "Why is there (learning) disability?"

This special issue is divided into three sections. The first section is Systems, Structures, Ideologies, and Practices, in which authors build on Sleeter's earlier (as well as more recent) work to engage in the theoretical insights of her scholarship and to examine their implications in terms of contemporary theory and practice. The second section is Individuals and Families, featuring contributions of individuals with LD along with parents of children labeled LD. The third and final section, Challenging the Dominant Discourse of LD in Schools, shifts the focus onto teachers and teacher education.

Section I: Systems, Structures, Ideologies, and Practices

"In Ideology, Institutions, and Equity: Comments on Christine Sleeter's 'Why is There Learning Disabilities'?" Tom Skrtic and Zach McCall skillfully summarize and historicize Sleeter's theoretical argument, which, they write, focuses on the "ways dominant groups sustain structural and cultural inequalities by developing ideologies and other modes of legitimation." Deftly linking neo-liberal school reforms to the ongoing stratification and inequality in schools, they outline the social, historical, and theoretical contributions Sleeter makes, while recontextualizing her earlier writing in terms of today's educational climate of standards-based reform. Drawing on Foucault, they argue that Sleeter's work remains relevant because "the best way to understand a social institution like education is to consider it from the perspective of the institutional practices that emerge to contain its failures."

In "Hiding in Plain Sight: The Nature and Role of Theory in Learning Disability Labeling," Deborah Gallagher carefully deconstructs the historical wrangling over the definition of LD, noting that despite various shifts and disagreements in the field, the construct of LD continues to defy definition. Observing the history of struggle over the ideology of LD, she rightly asks how is it that schools have identified millions of school children as having a condition that we have yet to define? Instead of searching for some better grand theory of LD, which she sees playing out in the current parlance of Response to Instruction or RTI, Gallagher joins forces with Sleeter to argue that in lieu of pathologizing student difference, we would do better by our students in focusing our efforts on ameliorating rather than contributing to educational and social inequality.

In "States of Exception: Learning Disability and Democracy in New Times1 " Bernadette Baker weaves together a politics and poetics of genius, madness, and learning disability. Focusing on performative apophasis as "discourse that turns back relentlessly upon its own propositions," Baker excavates the various "divinations of LD," the (im)possibilities for new modes of discourse, and the implications for inclusive schooling and social justice. Importantly, she sees value in viewing the category of LD as "invented" while simultaneously honoring the "real struggles that children have in classrooms," which, she argues, should not be "dismissed as merely ephemeral or illusory."

"Telling It Like It Is," Wanda Blanchett's paper focuses on "The Role of Race, Class, and Culture in the Perpetuation of Learning Disability as a Privileged Category for the White Middle Class." In doing so, she traces the historical treatment of African-American and other students of color in special education to the shift in demographics of their overrepresentation in the LD category. At the same time, Blanchett calls attention to diverse institutional responses toward students with the same category of LD, including: type of school, amount of access to "mainstream" classes, availability of programs, levels of accommodation offered, and type and frequency of services received. Ultimately, she concludes, what the LD label means for African-American (and other students of color) and White students is still vastly different, determined largely by interlocking discourses of race and class privilege.

In the final paper of this section, "LD and the Rise of Highly Gifted and Talented Programs: Examining Similar Rationales across Decades and Designations," Kathryn Young applies Sleeter's framework as a template for understanding the historical-to-contemporary role played by Gifted and Talented programs in preserving race and class privilege. Drawing parallels to Sleeter's analysis, Young shows how the category of giftedness, like LD, supports bio-medical explanations for student's perceived difference, upholds the myth of meritocracy, and contributes to obscuring pervasive inequalities in education.

Section II: Individuals and Families

In "Sentence Fragments, Reflections, Learning Disability," David Burstein offers a highly personal and deeply reflective monologue about his experience of "growing up in middle school with a 'learning disability.'" Neither a poem nor a short story per se, Burstein offers a meditation on the incomprehensibility of "business as usual" schooling for students who defy school-based norms.

In "A Tribute to My Dyslexic Body, As I Travel in the Form of a Ghost," Dené Granger creates a theoretically-informed poetic critique of the powerful fictions that characterize dyslexic individuals as unable to learn. Instead, Granger engages with alternative ways of knowing and the political and epistemic insights that come from interacting with the ghosts that haunt our theories of difference and disability.

The next several essays draw on parent perspectives. In "Privilege and the Avoidance of Stigma," Chris Hale focuses on upper middle class parents similar to those discussed by Sleeter. In this ethnographic study of parents whose children attend an elite private school, Hale interrogates ways that the concept of LD continues to serve white middle and upper middle class parents to manage the stigma of school failure.

Providing a contrast to Hale, Jasmine Lavine's autobiographical essay represents parents who occupy a very different positionality in relation to schools and society. In "Some Thoughts From a "Minority" Mother on Overrepresentation in Special Education," Lavine highlights the ways that parents' perspectives are often met with antagonism from school personnel, particularly if the parents are from racial minorities. Lavine's account vividly portrays how many parents of color come to see school personnel as instruments of educational bureaucracy, unwilling to engage in a genuine dialog about securing equal educational opportunities for their children — contrary to provisions made by law.

Illustrating how schools not only fail students of color, but also their parents, the final paper in this section, "The Social Distribution of Moxie: The Legacy of Christine Sleeter," written by anthropologists Faye Ginsburg and Rayna Rapp outline ways in which the LD landscape has become even more complex since the publication of Sleeter's essay. In their research on parents of children with IEPs in New York City, the authors document how an immense amount of social labor is required to obtain substantial support for children with LD, noting sharp divisions — across class and racial divides — in accessing services.

Section III: Challenging the Dominant Discourse of LD in Schools

In the first of these essays, "Confronting the Discourse of Deficiencies," Curt Dudley-Marling and Patricia Paugh advocate that special educators unlearn the pervasive deficit-based ways of thinking and talking about students and replace them with a social constructivist gaze that asks, "what makes students smart?" Employing Critical Discourse Analysis, the authors examine teacher talk in order to uncover tacit ideologies that undergird teacher attitudes about students with disabilities. Dudley-Marling and Paugh express their concern that because attitudes reflect some of the most dominant myths about schooling and society, they can prove to be very hard — but not impossible — to disrupt.

In "Exploring the Construction/Deconstruction of Learning Disabilities in an Urban School: Revisiting Sleeter's Essay", Jean Wong invites us into three team-taught eighth grade urban classrooms. By contrasting these teachers' thoughts, she illustrates how the "epistemological and ontological underpinnings…of special education discourse actually position(s) students as disabled" and serves to limit the special education teachers' perceptions of their students' learning potential. Conversely, the general educator in this study operates from a very different set of assumptions, positioning students with IEPs as "capable and competent."

In the final essay, "'my name is jay': On Teachers' Roles in the Overrepresentation of Minorities in Special Education and What Teacher Education Can Do," Susan Baglieri and Akintoye Moses position Sleeter's essay as a "harbinger of troubling trend" where poor students and students "of color" continue to find themselves overrepresented in special education and frequently consigned to segregated and inferior educational placements. Like all of the papers in this section, Baglieri and Moses argue for an intense focus on anti-oppressive and liberatory teacher beliefs and practices around issues of race, class, and disability. Acknowledging the structures that uphold and even rationalize oppressive ideologies and practices, the authors insist on the ability of teachers, researchers and students to actively and critically resist such structures. By merging the duality of voices, Baglieri and Moses construct a dialogic interaction — a verbal blend of academic, filmic, and poetic critique that commands us to continue pushing the boundaries of LD discourse toward a more inclusive and emancipatory future for all students.

We believe that each response to Why is There Learning Disabilities? illuminates a different facet of Sleeter's original work, all of them confirming the value of her innovative critique. In revisiting Sleeter's writing, we have paid tribute to her insightful analysis informed by integrating social, cultural, and historical forces that give birth to, and continue to shape, the notion of learning disability and disability more broadly conceived. As an aside, it is interesting to note that her life's work is not around disability, but it is very much inclusive of it. The majority of Sleeter's career has been spent on researching and theorizing about issues of race, ethnicity, social class, sexual orientation, gender, and disability (see for example, Sleeter & McLaren, 1995). Furthermore, for several decades she has urged for intersectional approaches to understanding educational phenomenon (Grant & Sleeter, 1986), has been a key player in the development of multiculturalism (Sleeter, 2000), and has focused on issues of whiteness in the context of education (1995). Recently, Sleeter was presented with the award Outstanding Educator in Social Justice by the American Education Research Association, and in her speech, she integrated disability issues, guided by the work of Rosemarie Garland Thomson (Sleeter, 2009).

It is fair to say that scholars such as Christine Sleeter, Len Barton, Douglas Biklen, Robert Bogdan, Ellen Brantlinger, Phil Ferguson, Lous Heshusius, Richard Iano, Roger Slee, Thomas Skrtic, Susan Peters, Steve Taylor, Sally Tomlinson, and William Rhodes can be considered the "first wave" of educators who troubled the bedrock foundations of special education. These, in turn, influenced scholars such as Julie Allan, Scot Danforth, Diane Ferguson, Susan Gabel, Deborah Gallagher, Shelley Tremain, Linda Ware, and others,2 who have all played an important role in providing alternative perspectives, counter-stories, and questions about what constitutes disability, what is the purpose of special education, and what is the role(s) of researchers? These scholars have paved the way for other critics of special education and scholars who self-identify with a disability studies orientation. While scholarship in DSE has flourished in its own right, the field of special education — despite a few nods to valuing a plurality of perspectives — still largely remains a conceptual fortress, insular, guarded, and suspicious of how other disciplines function.

Historically Troubling the "Special" in Education

Until fairly recently the field of Special Education has served as default box into which all issues of disability and education have been placed. We acknowledge that special education continues to offer hope to many families whose children with disabilities who — prior to 1975 when local schools were federally mandated to educate all children — were completely excluded or placed in institutions (Fleisher & Zames, 2001; Safford & Safford, 1996). However, thirty-five years later, special education is implicated in many questionable practices, including: the ongoing racial segregation in schools (Losen & Orfield, 2002); stigmatizing difference (Keefe, Moore, & Duff, 2006); segregating, assimilating, and educationally impoverishing many migrant and indigenous children (Gabel, Curcic, Powell, Khader & Albee, 2009); watering down curriculum with low expectations (Brantlinger, 2006); and contributing to the "school-to-prison pipeline" where approximately eighty percent of incarcerated individuals have significant problems with general literacy skills (Karagiannis, 2000).

What is omitted from most mainstream special education journals and traditional college texts is the fact that individual scholars from within the field of special education have persistently critiqued its very foundations and the practices that rest upon them. Areas that have been criticized include the field's: fierce and unquestioned embrace of positivism (Heshusisus, 1989); primary conceptualization of disability in medical terms (Danforth, 1999); failure to recognize its own ideologies (Brantlinger, 1997); politics of exclusion (Ware, 2004); history of institutionalization (Bogden & Taylor, 1989); influence on school funding and subsequent compartmentalization (Gartner & Lipsky, 1987); professionalization of school failure (Ferguson, 2002); segregation within schools according to disability (Dunn, 1968); limited pedagogical approaches (Iano, 1986); and, ultimately, its resistance to change (Skrtic, 1991). As educators with life-long careers in the field of special education, we have always been acutely aware of its paradoxes and limitations — including the chasm between educational theory and practice, what is promised by law versus what is actually provided, and the inequities that continue to exist in terms of race, class, and gender (Connor & Ferri, 2007). The special education "divide" has been openly acknowledged by Andrews et al. (2000), who posit two major paradigms of thought within the field (1) incrementalists, essentially conservatives who view disability as a deficit within the individual, and favor continuity within traditional special education practices, and (2) reconceptualists who seek significant of change, understanding disability primarily in terms of human variation and the subsequent need for equal access to education. These radically different paradigms greatly influence the ways in which educators theorize about disability, conceptualize and conduct their research, and advocate for where and how individuals with disabilities are taught.

Out of Dissention: The Emergence of Disability Studies in Education Over the Last Decade

While Andrews et al.'s (2000) article provided a refreshingly direct comparison between stalwarts of traditional special education and their critics, the snapshot of these diverse dispositions failed to convey the inequities that play out in terms of publishing and funding within the field of special education. For example, when submitting work to major journals in the field, dissenting scholars — including those mentioned in previous sections — have experienced patterns of rejection. Their submissions were likely to be immediately returned by editors and/or attacked by peer reviewers, who (predictably) dismissed their ideas as ideological and unscientific. Yet, when taken to task by critical special educators who point out the ideological positioning of all research (Brantlinger, 1997) and the illusion of scientific certitude (Gallagher, 1998), traditionalists within the field have steadfastly refused to engage in an ongoing dialogue. Instead, their responses have been defensive, even openly hostile, revealing that indeed, a nerve had been touched (see, for example Fuchs & Fuchs, 1995; Kaufman, 1995; Kaufman & Sasso, 2006).

Critical special educators who touch a nerve have always existed, but by virtue of their small numbers, were somewhat isolated, scattered across the country and globe. However, from the mid 1970s when disability studies (DS) began to emerge as a multi-disciplinary field in its own right, its ideas began to reach a broader base of critical special educators. Historically within DS, the field of special education has ironically been viewed not as an enabling system, but rather a disabling one (Linton, 1997), and by extension, all special educators positioned as potential oppressors (Russell, 1998).3 Given this, it is understandable that scholars within education who specialized in disability were often viewed suspiciously by other DS scholars — as there did not seem to be an alternative discourse to the deficit-based models of special education in which critical thinkers could be positioned. By the 1990s, however, scholars such as Steve Taylor, Susan Peters, Phil Ferguson, Susan Gabel, and Linda Ware had grown increasingly dissatisfied with the dominance of special education discourse, and began gravitating toward DS. They introduced issues pertaining to education within the interdisciplinary Society for Disability Studies (SDS). What began as infusing education into disability studies soon shifted into its own entity: Disability Studies in Education (DSE). The inception of the relatively new field of DSE can be traced to the 1999 conference of The Association for Severely Handicapped (TASH), when a panel calling itself the Coalition of Open Inquiry in Special Education (COISE) discussed the social and political trends in disability research and scholarship. The panelists — Ellen Brantlinger, Scot Danforth, Phil Ferguson, Lous Heshusius, and Chris Kliewer — asserted the need for inquiry and scholarship for persons concerned with the social valuation and inclusion of persons with disabilities. One year later, a small but steadily growing number of educational researchers discouraged by special education's insularity and lack of plurality of perspectives formed a Disability Studies in Education Special Interest Group on (DSE-SIG) within the American Educational Research Association. In 2001, the first Annual International Conference on Disability Studies in Education was held in Chicago, hosted by National Louis University. Since then, the DSE-SIG has steadily increased in size and influence. The annual conference that is now in its tenth year and is scheduled to be held at the University of Ghent, Belgium, in May 2010 (http://disabilitystudiesineducation.be).

We share this brief history of disability studies in education, a discipline forged by critical special educators and their allies, in order to contextualize Sleeter's contribution to the field. Although DSE scholarship has flourished in the form of numerous articles, special journal issues, and two book series with Peter Lang Publishers (edited by Scot Danforth and Susan Gabel) and Syracuse University Press (edited by Steve Taylor, Arlene Kanter and Beth Ferri), as well as a comprehensive framework of DSE, complete with tenets (Connor, Gabel, Gallagher, & Morton, 2008), major tensions between DSE and special education continue to exist. These tensions are perhaps nowhere more clearly manifest than in the maintenance of traditional special education publications, whose editors continue to reject DSE-based research because it does not meet their positivistic, quantitative, intervention-focused, and "scientifically-based" paradigm. In her edited book, Challenging Orthodoxy in Special Education: Dissenting Voices, Deborah Gallagher (2004) calls attention to the historical censorship of "heretical" critical special educators Lous Heshusius, Richard Iano, Thomas Skrtic, and herself, while illustrating how each of their works offer valuable contributions to the field of education. In analyzing reasons for rejection by editors and/or reviewers, she concludes that their responses "…portray a professional field that is highly politicized, closed to ideas, and reluctant at best to engage in free and open intellectual exchange" (p. x). Revisiting Sleeter's article Why is There Learning Disabilities? gives us the opportunity to pause and consider not only ways in which special education remains a highly problematic field, but how DSE can continue to evolve.

In closing, I (David) would like share a related experience. I recently completed a qualitative research project focusing on intrinsic knowledge (as opposed to familiar external supports) used by students with LD to self-manage their first year in college. This work was an extension of other research projects around narrative knowing, and featured three individuals. It had been pre-reviewed by four colleagues in the special education department where I work, and all of them had encouraged me to send it to the Journal of Learning Disabilities (JLD). Although I realized JLD is largely quantitative in nature, I had previously published there; plus, I recognized several of their listed reviewers as having expertise in qualitative work. Uploading the documents, I breathed a sigh of relief as the grant-funded project that had taken over two years to come into fruition.

Two days later I received an email from JLD's editor, which read:

Dear Dr. Connor:

Thank you for allowing me to read this interesting manuscript. However, the sample size is limited and the results do not directly extend the existing research base. This does not take away from the importance of the study. In both qualititaive [sic] and quantative [sic] research we publish only studies that provide advancements in theory.

I thank you for allowing me to read this thoughtful manuscript and hope that you will continue to consider this journal as an outlet for your scholarship in the future.

H. Lee Swanson, PhD
Editor-in-Chief, Journal of Learning Disabilities

Disappointment quickly melted into disbelief. Here, I must point out that I never assume a journal will publish a submitted manuscript. I do, however, hold a reasonable expectation that the manuscript will be sent out for peer review to professionals with expertise in the field of LD and qualitative research. It became clear that the editor did not, could not, or would not understand the nature and purpose of my submission, a study of LD within a DSE theoretical framework. To my mind, that particular work attempts to advance theory by focusing on instances of lived experience and situated knowledge and accompanying acts of agency by college level students with LD. The stories of three individuals are analyzed and discussed, in part, to counter balance widespread negative associations and passive portrayals of college students with LD. In sum, the study sought to understand from people with LD how they perceive and negotiate their worlds. Nevertheless, the forty-eight hour turn-around notification, complete with a genuinely baffling note, spoke loud and clear: a gatekeeper of LD knowledge did not want a to permit an article about LD using a disability studies-based lens to be peer reviewed. Why would a study with the participation of individuals with LD be summarily dismissed without even the courtesy of a review? We suspect it is because, as scholars working in disability studies in education, our work continues to hit a nerve.

While progress is slow in challenging the dominant ways of special education, the growing body of researchers that work both within and without its boundaries remain steadfast, challenging traditional conceptualizations of disability. In doing so, we live within the tensions and paradoxes of special education as each one provides fertile ground to utilize DSE in advocating for more nuanced, holistic understandings of disability located within social, cultural, and historical contexts. To Christine Sleeter, and all other scholars who found their own path, regardless of the forces intent upon thwarting their journey — we thank you for showing us the way.

Author's note: Thank you to Scot Danforth for encouraging us to edit this special edition of DSQ. Also, thank you to Susan Gabel for her valued input.

Works Cited

  • Andrews, J. E., Carnine, D. W., Coutinho, M. J., Edgar, E. B., Forness, S. R., Fuchs, L. S., Jordan, D., Kauffman, J. M., Patton, J. M., Paul, J., Rosell, J., Rueda, R., Schiller, E., Skrtic, T. M., & Wong, J. (2000). Bridging the special education divide. Remedial and Special Education, 21(5), 258-267.
  • Becker, H. (1963). Outsiders: Studies in the sociology of deviance. New York: Free Press.
  • Bogdan, R., & Taylor, S. (1989). Relationships with severely disabled people: The social construction of humanness. Social Problems 36(2), 135-147.
  • Brantlinger, E. A. (1997). Using ideology: Cases of nonrecognition of the politics of research and practice in special education. Review of Educational Research 67(4), 425-459.
  • Brantlinger, E. A. (Ed.). (2006). Who benefits from special education? Remediating (fixing) other people's children. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
  • Connor, D. J., & Ferri, B. A. (2007). The conflict within: Resistance to inclusion and other paradoxes within special education. Disability & Society, 22(1), 63-77.
  • Connor, D. J., Gabel, S., Gallagher, D., & Morton, M. (2008). Disability studies and inclusive education — implications for theory, research, and practice. International Journal of Inclusive Education, 12(5-6), 441-457
  • Danforth, S. (1999). Pragmatism and the scientific validation of professional practices in American special education. Disability and Society 14(6), 733-751.
  • Dunn, L. M. (1968). Special education for the mildly retarded: Is much of it justifiable? Exceptional Children, 35(1), 75-83.
  • Ferguson, P. M. (2002). Notes toward a history of hopelessness: Disability and the places of therapeutic failure. Disability, Culture and Education 1(1), 27-40.
  • Fleischer, D. & Zames, F. (2001). The disability rights movement: From charity to confrontation. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press.
  • Fuchs, D., & Fuchs, L. (1995). Inclusive schools movement and the radicalization of special education. In J. M. Kauffman & D.P. Hallahan (Eds.), The illusion of full inclusion: A comprehensive critique of a current special education bandwagon (pp. 213-242). Austin, TX: Pro-Ed.
  • Gabel, S. L., Curcic, S., Powell, J., Khader, K., & Albee, L. (2009). Migration and ethnic group disproportionality in special education: An exploratory study. Disability & Society, 24(5), 625-639.
  • Gallagher, D. J. (1998). The scientific knowledge base of special education: Do we know what we think we know? Exceptional Children, 64(4), 493-502.
  • Gallagher, D. J., Heshusius, L., Iano, R. P., & Skrtic, T. M. (2004). Challenging orthodoxy in special education: Dissenting voices. Denver, CO: Love.
  • Gartner, A. & Lipsky, D. (1987). Beyond special education: Toward a system of quality for all students. Harvard Educational Review, 57(4), 367-395.
  • Grant, C., & Sleeter C. E. (1986). Race, class, and gender in education research: An argument for integrative analysis. Review of Educational Research, 56(2), 195-211.
  • Heshusius, L. (1989). The Newtonian mechanistic paradigm, special education, and contours of alternatives: An overview. Journal of Learning Disabilities 22(7), 403-415.
  • Iano, R. (1986). The study and development of teaching: With implications for the advancement of special education. Remedial and Special Education 75(5), 50-61.
  • Karagiannis, A. (2000). Soft disability in schools: Assisting or confining at risk children and youth? Journal of Educational Thought, 34(2), 113-134.
  • Kauffman, J. M, (1995). Commentary: Today's special education and its messages for tomorrow. Journal of Special Education, 32(4), 244-254.
  • Kauffman, J. M, & Sasso, G. M. (2006). Certainty, doubt, and the reduction of uncertainty. Exceptionality, 14(2), 109-120.
  • Keefe, E. B., Moore, V., & Duff, F. R. (2006). Listening to the experts: Students with disabilities speak out. Baltimore, MD: Paul H. Brookes.
  • Linton, S. (1998). Claiming disability. New York University: New York University Press.
  • Losen, D., & Orfield, G. (2002). Racial inequity in special education. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
  • Mercer, J. R. (1973). Labeling the mentally retarded: Clinical and social system perspectives on mental retardation. Berkeley: University of California Press.
  • Mooney, J. (2008). The short bus: A journey beyond normal. New York: Henry Holt.
  • Russell, M. (1998). Beyond ramps: Disability at the end of the social construct. Monroe, ME: Common Courage.
  • Safford, P. L., & Safford, E. J. (1996). A history of childhood and disability. New York: Teachers College Press.
  • Shapiro, J. H. (1993). No pity: People with disabilities forging a new civil rights movement. New York: Three Rivers Press.
  • Skrtic, T. M. (1991). Behind special education: A critical analysis of professional culture and school organization. Denver: Love Publishing Company.
  • Sleeter, C. E. (1987). Why is there learning disabilities? A critical analysis of the birth of the field with its social context. In T. S. Popkewitz (Ed.), The formation of school subjects: The struggle for creating an American institution. (pp. 210-237). London: Palmer Press.
  • Sleeter, C. E. (1995). White silence and white solidarity. Race Traitor 4, 14-22.
  • Sleeter, C. E., & McLaren, P. L. (Eds.) (1995). Multicultural education, critical pedagogy, and the politics of difference. Albany, New York: State University of New York Press.
  • Sleeter, C. E. (2000). Creating an empowering multicultural curriculum. Race, Gender & Class, 7(3), 178-196.
  • Sleeter, C. E. (2009, April). Documenting social justice-in-action using tools of research. Paper presented at the annual American Educational Research Association, San Diego, CA.
  • Taylor, S. (2006). Before it had a name: Exploring the historical roots of disability studies in education. In S. Danforth and S. L. Gabel (Eds.), Vital questions facing disability studies in education (xiii-xxiii). New York: Peter Lang.
  • Ware, L. (2004) (Ed.) Ideology and the politics of (in)exclusion. New York: Peter Lang.


  1. Original preface based on an earlier work: Baker, B. (2007). The apophasis of limits: Genius, madness, and learning disability. International Journal of Inclusive Education, 11(1), 1-33.

    Return to Text
  2. Space restrictions do not permit an exhaustive list. We apologize if inadvertently omitting other scholars who have been influenced by the "first wave" of critical special educators. For a better sense of the broad array of DSE-scholars see, for example, S. L. Gabel & S. Danforth (2008) (Eds.) Disability and the politics of education: An international reader. New York: Peter Lang.

    Return to Text
  3. Note that many scholars and activists with disabilities who work in disability studies have documented some of their own bleak school experiences and those of others (Fleischer & Zames, 2004; Mooney, 2008; Shapiro, 1993).

    Return to Text
Return to Top of Page

Copyright (c) 2010 David J Connor, Beth A Ferri

Beginning with Volume 36, Issue No. 4 (2016), Disability Studies Quarterly is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives license unless otherwise indicated. 

Disability Studies Quarterly is published by The Ohio State University Libraries in partnership with the Society for Disability Studies.

If you encounter problems with the site or have comments to offer, including any access difficulty due to incompatibility with adaptive technology, please contact the web manager, Terri Fizer.

ISSN: 2159-8371 (Online); 1041-5718 (Print)