This book offers a rich contribution to scholarly writing and research in the fields of inclusive education and Disability Studies in Education (DSE). The chapters within this text offer analyses of what inclusive education means, and for whom, as well as the unique cultural, historical, and political forces that have shaped the development of inclusive education in local contexts. The range of methods, from macro systems-level and policy analyses, to micro approaches including case-study and spacial/geographic analyses, all adhere to what the authors describe as a cultural historical perspective. This approach allows for a broad consideration of inclusive education and students, across a variety of difference markers (disability, race, gender, ethnicity, language use, immigration status, class, and religion), while maintaining a commitment to issues of educational equity and access. This text adds important dimensions to literature in the field of inclusive education that has historically focused on the technical implementation of practice by instead considering intersections across markers of student difference and focusing on what happens when these markers interact with educational systems around the globe. As such, this book would be a useful resource for graduate students focusing on issues of educational equity and educational leadership, as well as those in areas such as social and cultural studies in education, DSE, and education policy studies.
The editors chose to organize the book based on what they call equity issues in "first generation" and "second generation" efforts aimed at inclusive education. This structure allows for potential comparisons between and across those countries that enacted legislation similar to that of the United States, beginning in the 1970s, and those for whom considerations of equity and inclusivity in education emerged from the Salamanca Statement in 1994. Although the editors never specifically explicate the significance of these different periods of development, chapter authors take up the unique historical, cultural, and material factors that have shaped locally-interpreted versions of inclusive education.
Chapters 1, 4, 5, 7 and 8 present broad policy analyses in Austria, Germany, South Africa, and India respectively, which help readers understand issues in local implementation of inclusive education policies. Chapter 1 begins the volume with a set of case studies that highlights the issues inherent in Austria's highly-tracked educational system, in which disability interacts with race, ethnicity, gender, and class in ways that have tremendous impact on equitable student access and inclusion. Luciek and Biewer also importantly identify the power of education professionals in decision-making about access to integrated/inclusive schools for students within the Austrian tracked system. A focus in this chapter is on the increasing population of immigrant students into the Austrian system, which is also taken up by Loser and Werning, in their discussion of equity for immigrant students within the German educational system (in Chapter 4). The authors of this chapter describe a model of de-facto segregated education for students with disabilities in Germany, which has been reinforced and reified with the emergence of an immigrant student population. Trends in educational segregation reflect Germany's social and educational systems' resistance to equitably incorporating students who are "different" according to a range of markers. Loser and Werning also identify a tension that exists in educational systems around the globe and their response to student difference. The authors ask, "If students get access to different supports and scaffolds are they being treated equally?" (93) This question is explored in the Swedish context in Chapter 5. Berhanu explores conceptions of equity, equivalence, and equality through a cultural historical lens, in ways that are particularly useful for disability studies scholars and students across a range of disciplines.
Chapters 7 and 8, about the development of inclusive education in South Africa and India, respectively, each utilize broad demographic and policy analyses, as well as student/family data. The picture that emerges from each of these chapters is one familiar to readers aware of the development of special and general systems of schooling in the United States, and the disability categories mandated by U.S. legislation and reified in school programs and classrooms. Further, the authors of these chapters highlight the complexity through which cultural meanings about disability are embedded within makers of difference such as caste, religion, and gender, and are also influenced by geographic location.
Chapters 2, 3, and 6 highlight the issue of disproportional representation of certain race/ethnic and gender groups within specific disability categories (Chapter 2 & 6), and show how educational inequities are reflective of larger social inequities that exist in English society (Chapter 3). In Chapter 2, Artiles, Kozleski, Waitoller, and Lukinbeal offer a critique of previous research about issues related to student difference, highlighting the limitations of research that has focused on education professionals' practices, school factors, and/or socio-demographic characteristics of students. Instead, these authors provide an analysis of how multiple systems (e.g. state to city to neighborhood) interlock with contexts and cultural forces to create disproportionate representation of non-White students in high-incidence disability categories in the Chicago Public Schools. Similarly, in Chapter 6, Ahram and Fergus explore the issue of disproportionality within two school districts in New York. These authors use school-level, qualitative data in order to paint a powerful picture of how deeply embedded cultural deficit thinking is in the frames of education professionals at the two school sites, and how this leads to the creation of "othered" institutional identities for students who are situated within these frames. Ahram and Fergus also include analyses of school structures and processes that contributed to disproportionality, and conclude that the line between ability and disability is a fuzzy one. Finally, Chapter 3 demonstrates the uneven distribution of social opportunities and resources according to both geography, and by social group. This articulation of inclusive values usefully moves beyond traditional conceptions of inclusive education as being only about students with disabilities.
Chapters 9 and 10 each use an analysis of international and national policies, their effect on a local context, and finally, analysis of local data to highlight shortcomings of inter/national policy in the development of inclusive education in Argentina and Kenya, respectively. In Chapter 9, Skliar and Dussel analyze the legal framework for inclusive education in Argentina, as outlined in the Argentinian Nation Law of Education (enacted in 2006) and contrast it with UNESCO data on the status of inclusive education for young people and children with disabilities in Argentina from 2009. The analysis of teacher narratives that Skliar and Dussel conclude the chapter with is significant, as this data articulates, from the perspective of teachers, the belief that equity can be achieved through inclusion. Chapter 10 positions Kenya in a very different place than global contexts featured in other chapters. At this point, no federal legislation or mandate explicitly addresses the rights of students with disabilities in the Kenyan educational system, and there are no funding or teaching-training initiatives addressed in legislation. In this chapter, Mutua and Swadener use the narratives of families to describe both the desire for inclusivity at the family/community level, and meanings about disability that are attached to local culture and indigenous language. I found Chapter 10 to be a powerful end to a volume dedicated to a cultural-historical consideration of inclusive education because of the argument for Kenyan national policy, as it develops, to be reflective of and driven by grass roots advocacy.
The book's conclusion chapter addresses this last concern by returning readers to a consideration of the utility of all labels, in the context of what educational professionals then do with these labels. In this final chapter, Ray McDermott, Brian Edgar, and Beth Scarloss, bring together the collective stories of global contexts contained in the volume and raise questions regarding the assumed contributions of marginalized and labeled students, both within the U.S. and across the globe.
While this book has many strengths, I found myself wanting deeper analyses of the perspectives of students and their families. Although chapters 7 and 10 utilize descriptive analysis of photo-elicited student narratives, and those of families alongside broader policy analyses, there is very little other representation of the voices of those experiencing education on the margins and how their families interact and intersect with educational inclusivity or not. Additionally, I was troubled by the dichotomy created in some chapters between "hard" and "soft" (or "judgmental") disability categories. This distinction creates a theoretical "line in the sand," so to speak, between those students who exist in socially-constructed kinds of disability categories and those students whose disabilities that are supposedly "real." I find this distinction less than useful if the purpose of this volume, as the editors suggest, is to understand issues of education equity, access, and thus participation in broader society. Further, this distinction seems to implicitly justify (or at least accept) high degrees of educational segregation, lack of access to curriculum and individual supports, and institutionalization, for those students who are labeled within "hard" (or "real") disability categories.
Despite these critiques, I easily conclude that this volume is an important development to the fields of inclusive education and Disability Studies in Education. Authors within the book push the boundaries of what inclusive education means and for whom, across many contexts and landscapes. The range of methodological approaches that all utilize a cultural-historical lens offers new, exciting, and insightful ways to approach research about, for, and with those students and their families who exist at the margins of educational systems, and for whom educational inclusion remains elusive.