Considering diversity in (special) education: disability, being someone and existential education

Solveig M. Reindal



Discussions on diversity and disability in dialogue with special educationalists and philosophers of education are not often found in the research literature. Researchers within disability studies have been critical towards the enterprise of special education and vice versa, and the language they use is often different, as they draw on various subject fields. In this article, I bring these fields of research together and draw on research from the philosophy of education, special education and Disability Studies. My argument is that a language of diversity needs to be embedded in a language about educational ends and other fundamental questions discussed in the philosophy of education, and not solely in discussions within the field of inclusive education, as is often found in the research literature relating to special education. I argue that the language of diversity related to disability should be embedded in the language of the person, being someone. In order to build my argument, I sketch out three distinctions: disability and impairment, education as cultivation versus an existential education and the distinction between being someone and being something. I argue that an understanding of diversity and the case of disability within the framework of (special) education should preferably be: (1) interpreted within a social relational model of disability, drawing on an adjusted capabilities approach, (2) an existential educational paradigm and (3) seeing the person as someone, and not as something that is associated with a series of facts that happen to relate to what we call persons.

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