Disability Plots: Curriculum, Allegory, & History

Mark Helmsing


This article discusses theoretical approaches from disability studies and curriculum studies to help educators see how we position the experiences of, and discourses about, people with disabilities in the various narratives we recreate about “America” and U.S. national history. It uses Pinar’s curriculum theory of allegory (2015) to explain how historical narratives of disability can be read in diverse ways. The specific stories of disability that appear in the curriculum of history education performatively do different things. The article shares examples of disability histories taught in classrooms to argue that these are historical allegories of our present thoughts on disability with each narrative following a specific curricular mode of emplotment, ranging from romance to epic, horror, and more.


Dis/Ability; Curriculum; enplotment; history

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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.

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