Philosophical Inquiry in Education
Volume 28, Number 2, 2021 Guest-edited by Ashley Taylor
Table of contents (11 articles)
Introduction (Special Issue)
Intellectual Ability and Disability: New Questions for Philosophy of Education
Ashley Taylor and Kevin McDonough
Why Does Intellectual Disability Matter to Philosophy?: Toward a Transformative Pedagogy
This article explores what it means to include intellectual disability (ID) in philosophical discourse and in the philosophy classroom. Taking Audre Lorde’s claim that “the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house” as a starting point, it asks how certain forms of cognitive ableism have excluded ID from the “philosopher’s house.” Drawing upon Michel Foucault’s work as a theoretical framework, part one critically examines the ways that ID has been included, excluded, and constructed within philosophical discourse. Part two then considers what it would mean for ID and people with an ID to be included in the philosophy classroom. It offers some examples of how the work in disability studies, philosophies of disability, and philosophy of art can lead to a more inclusive and transformative pedagogy that will generate new critical questions and expand our philosophical dwelling places.
Applying the Capabilities Approach to Disability and Education
Christopher A. Riddle
This paper aims to establish three things. First, that the capabilities approach is the best candidate for an adequate theory of justice to provide just educational opportunities for people with intellectual disabilities. Second, that the capabilities approach, while possessing many merits over rival conceptions of justice, must acknowledge that a prioritization of some capabilities over others is essential. Third and finally, that intellectual disability presents a particularly urgent case for educational justice, because those with intellectual disabilities are historically under-serviced within educational institutions and stand to lose much more than others because of the potential for the compounding of corrosive disadvantage. A stronger claim to justice for people with intellectual disabilities represents a potential for change in the policy and funding associated with education more generally, and for people with intellectual disabilities more specifically.
Independence, Dependence, and Intellectual Disability: From Cultural Origins to Useful Application
American government educational policy and leading advocacy groups commonly espouse independence as a primary goal for young people with intellectual disabilities. An extensive philosophical literature of autonomy has focused mostly on analyses of cognition that achieve individual self-governance. But the loosely defined concept of independence used by disability policymakers and advocates provides a more malleable, social understanding that involves someone actively relying on the assistance of others. The purpose of this paper is to examine the cultural, historical origins of the notion of independence for disabled persons through an exploration of the biography of Ed Roberts, the father of the independent living movement, and the cultural context of Berkeley, California, in the 1960s and 1970s, where the movement began. The paper applies those cultural concepts to the life situations of persons with intellectual disabilities, asking how well independence serves as a useful goal for the group.
Dependent Rational Activists: Disability, Student Activism, and Special Education
Neil Dhingra and Joel D. Miller
Historians of student activism have rarely focused on students with disabilities, while educational historians who study students with disabilities have focused on legal reforms, not activism. We present a philosophical argument for an inclusive definition of student activism that can take place within legal and bureaucratic processes in which students act collaboratively with parents or guardians. Drawing on the new disability history and critical disability studies, we first argue that such activism is necessary because those processes routinely involve the conceptual objectification, silencing, and invisibilization of disabled people. Further, we argue that activism is necessary to shift individualized education plan (IEP) meetings from bargaining to collective deliberations for the common good. Finally, following Alasdair MacIntyre, we argue that activism, legal and otherwise, may involve families acting collaboratively, because parents and others can become attentive to the rational reflections of those with disabilities.
Seeing the Rock: Expanding One’s Vision in Community with Preschool Knowers
This paper takes a philosophically informed approach to what it means to make sense of the world. Specifically, it asks how understanding might be enhanced when we listen to young children who are labelled with disabilities. To address this question, I describe a lesson I taught as a guest teacher in which my understanding of both a rock and an activity, descriptive inquiry, were challenged and expanded through the participation of a child identified with a significant language-based disability. To explore this event and its implications for what it means to teach and know, I juxtapose Jacques Derrida, Miranda Fricker, and Jacques Rancière with each other and with my descriptions of the event.
“Ain’t I Got a Right to the Tree of Life?”: Examining Special Education through the Application of Afro-Humanity
Joy Banks, Kmt Shockley and Courtney Wilkerson
In this manuscript we chart the intersection of dis/ability and Afro-humanity. We propose that Afro-humanity is a contextual paradigm within African-centred ideology that can be applied to explore the ways in which disability may be perceived differently when applying a specific, cultural philosophical lens. We also explore the process of decolonization, whereby African American parents, with a child identified with an intellectual disability, reorient themselves to a way of thinking that is more emancipatory. The parents act in a way that challenge concepts about human cognitive variance and notions of dis/ability in school settings. Drawing on such a model as Afro-humanity, we argue for a more equitable approach to community and educational engagement for Black students labelled with dis/abilities.
Questioning Autism’s Racializing Assemblages
This article questions the ways autism knowledge is racially assembled. Of specific interest is how clinical and cultural definitions of autism routinely deny the existence of autistics of colour and regularly instantiate autism as a White condition. Employing a contrapuntal reading of autism knowledge, which foregrounds the life-writings of autistics of colour, this article argues that disproportionality and delayed autism diagnoses for children of colour as well as autistic Whiteness habituates autism’s diagnostic space. Not only does this result in the clinical and cultural exclusion of children of colour from autism knowledge, it also hierarchically orders humanity. While autism has received recent philosophical attention from Ian Hacking, this article suggests that Hacking’s historical ontology does not adequately attend to the racializing effects of autism knowledge. As such, this article concludes by gesturing toward the need to re-assemble autism’s diagnostic shape through the invention of collective sites of expression which make possible #BlackAutisticJoy.
Educational Justice and Disability: The Limits of Integration
Integration as a requirement of social justice is generating much enthusiasm in political philosophy. In The Imperative of Integration (2010), Elizabeth Anderson defines integration as involving and furthering “the free interaction of citizens from all walks of life in terms of equality and mutual regard” (Anderson, 2010, p. 95). However, this idea of integration as a moral imperative is yet to be tested in the case of students with an intellectual or behavioural disability (I/BD), a small group with complex and diverse educational needs. While “inclusive” schools may be increasingly the norm in Western education systems, it is not self-evident that the imperative of integration ought to carry over into special education. Focusing on the unique concerns for integrating students with an I/BD into generalist classrooms, I aim to describe the moral constraints that ought to be imposed on the process of integration.
The concerns for integrating students with an I/BD will be framed as a question of the just distribution of costs associated with bringing about integration. It will be argued that, within the context of education, the imperative of integration is unjust if it unduly burdens students with an I/BD, perpetuates the harms it proposes to resolve, or results in a failure to provide the educational goods owed to students. As schools are specially tasked with the provision of educational goods in society, educational costs are more ethically significant in the given context than the costs of not integrating. Educational institutions should still play a role in achieving an integrated society through just means. This must be done by shifting the burdens of integration off students with an I/BD and onto the education system.
Barriers to Knowing and Being Known: Constructions of (In)competence in Research
Casey L. Woodfield and Justin E. Freedman
In this paper, we examine the barriers to, and possibilities of, recognizing individuals labelled intellectually disabled as producers and contributors to knowledge about their experiences. Through engaging perspectives within the fields of philosophy of education and disability studies, we examine contrasting research about the use of facilitated communication, an augmentative and alternative communication technique for teaching people with disabilities to communicate through pointing, or typing with support provided by a communication partner. We examine how researchers impose demands for the scientific validation of facilitated communication and use such demands to discredit autistic people identified with intellectual disabilities in their attempts to be recognized as knowers and producers of knowledge. Our analysis calls into question whether self-imposed limitations on contemporary knowledge production render educational research (in)capable of accepting forms of evidence that will facilitate the agency of those labelled or regarded as intellectually disabled and (in)capable of providing consumers of educational research access to knowledge that reflects the wide range of communicative, neurocognitive, and intellectual diversity in schools and communities.
Disabling Intervention: Intellectual Disability and the Justification of Paternalism in Education
Kevin McDonough and Ashley Taylor
This paper criticizes mainstream philosophical justifications for paternalism in children’s education, highlighting their exclusion of students labelled with intellectual disability. Most philosophical justifications of paternalism presume “able-mindedness” – that is, they presume that learners possess the potential to develop capacities of rationality and autonomy considered normal – and normatively superior – for adults. Prioritizing these able-minded norms obscures educationally worthwhile communicative, reasoning, and behavioural capacities that diverge from able-minded norms, but which nevertheless express forms of rational and epistemic agency that are educationally beneficial. The paper argues that able-mindedness therefore constitutes a conceptually impoverished basis for educational paternalism. A number of harmful educational implications of able-minded educational paternalism are explored and a more promising and inclusive avenue for justifying educational paternalism is briefly outlined.