Why is Special Education So Afraid of Disability Studies? Analyzing Attacks of Disdain and Distortion from Leaders in the Field

David J. Connor


This article seeks to answer the question: In what ways do recent widespread and sustained critiques of Disability Studies reveal both the restrictiveness and vulnerabilities in the field of Special Education? Using a theoretical framework composed of Disability Studies in Education (DSE), Connor analyzes six recent articles by prominent scholars in the field of special education that contain the following elements: (1) a harsh critique of the social model of disability, frequently distorting and rejecting its contributions; (2) a defense of scientific knowledge as the “true” basis of special education; (3) a generalized tone of fear, anxiety, and anger. In addition to discussing these areas, Connor identifies and engages with the authors’ rationale articulated for rejecting the knowledge claims of DSE, providing evidence of contradiction within their own arguments. The article concludes that the concerted attack on Disability Studies and DSE ironically reveals how special education has lost significant ground in terms of being the sole source of knowledge about education and disability, and can no longer be seen as a “stand alone” legitimate field of study.


Special Education Disability Studies

Full Text:


JCT: Journal of Curriculum Theorizing is an interdisciplinary journal of curriculum studies. It offers an academic forum for scholarly discussions of curriculum. Historically aligned with the "reconceptualist" movement in curriculum theorizing and oriented toward informing and affecting classroom practice, JCT presents compelling pieces within forms that challenge disciplinary, genre, and textual boundaries.

The journal is published by the Foundation for Curriculum Theory and is associated with the Bergamo Conference on Curriculum Theory and Classroom Practice, held in the autumn of each year. JCT is indexed in The Education Index.

NOTICE: As of December 2008, the Journal of Curriculum Theorizing (Volume 24, Issue 1) and all future issues
are available freely and exclusively online to all individuals and institutions. More Information...

Contributors to the Journal of Curriculum Theorizing retain copyright to their work.

All other content: Copyright © Foundation for Curriculum Theory. All rights reserved.

ISSN: 1942-2563