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International Journal of Special Education

    2002, Vol 17, No.2.



    Brenda van Rooyen

    Lesley Le Grange


    Rona Newmark

    University of Stellenbosch

    In this article we (de)construct functionalist discourses in South Africa’s recently published

    White Paper on special needs education. We particularly (de)construct objects, agents,

    action and binaries constituted by the medical/special needs discourse as well as the voices

    this discourse marginalises. We discuss the implications that the medical/special needs

    discourse, as we (de)construct it in White Paper 6: Special Needs Education, has for



    White Paper 6: Special Needs Education, released in July 2001, is a response of the South African governments Department of Education to the inclusion movement. In this article we (de)construct this text to explore some of the constitutions of (dis)ability and in/exclusion. In doing so we frame (de)construction as an aggressive, political mode of critical analysis that strips conventional and assumed truths down to

    their logically insubstantial bare bones (Danforth & Rhodes 1997:358). We suggest that it is necessary to

    (de)constructively read government policy that proposes a course or policy of action, particularly if, as poststructuralists state, language constitutes reality.

    In reading White Paper 6, we (de)construct the functionalist (grand) narrative as hegemonic. Discourses constituted by and constituting this metanarrative include the medical or special needs discourse, the charity discourse, the systems discourse, the business discourse and the pioneering discourse. The objects, agents, action and binaries constituted by the medical/special needs discourse are also (de)constructed, as are the voices on the margins.

    The purpose of our (re)search is not to construct conclusions, but rather to (de)construct the polyphony of voices, truths and realities speaking into and out of White paper 6. In so doing, the indecidability

    (Silverman 1989:4) of the text is (de)contructed. With the indecidable (de)contructed, … discourses can no

    longer dominate, judge, decide: between the positive and negative, the good and the bad, the true and the

    false (Derrida,1992). In the article (dis)ability and in/exclusion are troubled and the text is opened to different readings.

Methodological (dis)position

    We do not use method or methodology as languaged by positivism: storying of method as an orderly way to achieve (objective) knowledge or truth stories. Rather we go along with Harding (1987) that method is the

    way of proceeding whereas methodology is the theory of knowledge and interpretative framework guiding a

    particular research project.



    Our research is broadly informed by poststructural theory(ies). We story poststructuralism as a response to structuralism: structuralism constructed as the search for deep, stable, universal structures, regulated by laws, underlying any phenomenon (Miller, 1997). Cherryholmes (1988) argues that structuralist thought seeks rationality, linearity, progress and control by discovering, developing, and inventing metanarratives, … that define rationality, linearity, progress and control by discovering whereas

    poststructuralist thought is skeptical and incredulous about the possibility of such metanarratives. The

    poststructuralist contention is that a metanarrative is just another narrative.

Within the poststructuralist interpretative framework we use deconstruction as a strategy (method) for

    reading policy. Derrida (1988), points out that deconstruction is not destruction because of the latter’s

    associations with annihilation or a negative reduction. We find Appignanesi & Garratt (1994: 79-80) view

    of deconstruction particularly useful. They write:

    This is deconstruction - to peel away like an onion the layers of constructed meanings …

    Deconstruction is a strategy for revealing the underlayers of meanings in a text that were

    suppressed or assumed in order for it to take its actual form - in particular the assumptions of

    presence (the hidden representations of guaranteed certainty). Texts are never simply unitary but

    include resources that run counter to their assertions and/or their authors intentions.

    One of the things deconstruction does is to look at how dominant discourses couch themselves in terms of binary opposites. Lather (1991) describes a formula for deconstruction of this kind:

    ; Identify the binaries in the argument

    ; Reverse/displace the dependent term from its negative position to a place that locates it as the very

    condition of the term

    ; Transcend the binary logic by simultaneously being both and neither of the binary terms.

Gough (2000) states that deconstructive reading strategies include:

    ; Pressing the literal meanings of a metaphor until it yields unintended meanings

    ; Looking for contradictions

    ; Identifying gaps

    ; Setting silences to speak

    ; Focusing on ambiguous words or syntax

    ; Demonstrating that different meanings can be produced by different readings

    ; Reversing the terms of a binary pair and subverting the hierarchies

    We draw on some of these strategies to deconstruct White Paper 6: Special Needs Education. For the purposes of this article we focus our attention on deconstructing functionalist discourses. We wish to point

    out though that the broader study, which this research forms part of, also deconstructs interpretive, radical

    structuralist, radical humanist and postmodern discourses storied in White Paper 6: Special Needs (see van

    Rooyen 2002).

    (De)constructions of in/exclusion discourses are multiple. Naicker (1999) and Slee (1997) suggest that responses to in/exclusion are constructed by discourses on disability. Naicker (1999) cites four of the discourses constructed by Fulcher (1989) - medical, lay, charity and rights - but omits to mention management discourses noted by Slee (1997). Slee (1997) mentions all five of Fulcher’s discourses but suggests five others, which he calls theoretical perspectives, constructed by Riddell: essentialist, social

    constructionist, materialist, postmodern and disability movement. Skrtic (1995) uses his framework of

    functionalist, interpretivist, radical structuralist, radical humanist to describe discourses around inclusion and disability. Dyson, Bailey, O Brien, Rice & Zigmond (1998) use three primary strands: critical, pragmatic and rights.



Table 1: In/exclusion discourses (de)constructed

    Naicker (1999) Slee (1997) Dyson et al. (1998) Skrtic (1995)

    Medical Essentialist Pragmatic Functionalist

    Charity Social constructionist Critical Interpretivist

    Lay Critical Rights Radical structuralist

    Rights Disability movement Radical humanist

    Postmodern Postmodern

    In the broader study (van Rooyen 2002) deconstructs grand narratives as categorized by Skrtic (1995). However, she also draws on the categories identified by Naicker (1999), Slee (1997) and Dyson et al (1998) to construct mini-narratives within Skrtic’s (1995) framework. In this article we focus our attention on functionalist narratives.

The functionalist (grand) narrative

    We focus on the functionalist narrative because we, as does Skrtic (1995), construct it as the dominant

    mode of social theorizing in the modern era. Skrtic describes functionalism as presupposing an objective,

    inherently orderly and rational social reality. Social or human problems, disorder or irrationality are therefore storied as pathological. (1995:68). Social scientists operating within the functional paradigm use positivist methodologies to study microscopic social phenomena (Skrtic, 1995: 32). It is this interpretation of social reality, Skrtic argues, that grounds knowledge, practices and discourses of the social professions (1995: 66). Slee (1997:411) speaks of the essentialist position as representing an essentially functionalist

    position and defines the essentialist perspective on disability as one which situates pathology or defect or disability within the individual. We construct the medical discourse within the functionalist grand narrative.

The medical discourse

    The medical discourse or what is often referred to as the medical model constructs disability as within the individual and constructs a process of assessment, diagnosis, prognosis and intervention as necessary to identify and manage the disability (Burden, 1996; Kriegler & Skuy, 1996; Archer & Green, 1996). As Slee (1997) writes: the defective individual … is subjected to diagnostic classification, regulation and treatment. Expanding on the construct of the defective individual, Naicker (1999: 13) states that the medical discourse constructs disability as an objective attribute, not a social construct and as a natural and irremediable

    characteristic of the person. This construction - of people with impairments as disabled or unable and of

    this disability as an objective characteristic of the person - leads to exclusion because they are seen as inadequate human beings who are unfit to be included in mainstream economic and social life (Naicker,

    1999). As Naicker (1999) points out, the medical discourse links impairment with disability. This can be

    contrasted to the construction of organizations of people with disabilities such as Disabled People International who distinguish between impairment as lacking part of a limb, organ or mechanism of the

    body and disability as the disadvantage imposed by societys reactions (Sebba & Sachdev, 1997). Dyson & Forlin (1999) associate the medical models construction of people with impairments to what they describe as the politicization of disability. They argue that different cultures have historically constructed disability in different ways but that, as modern states have developed, governments have found it necessary to develop social policies to guide national responses to issues believed to be associated with disability.

    The medical discourse is traditionally associated with institutionalization, differentiation, exclusion, regulation, dehumanization (Bèlanger: 2000) and special education practice (Kugelmass, 2001). Lloyd (2000) describes traditional medical, deficit models of disability as resulting in segregated educational

    provision based on notions of treatment and remediation. However, within so-called inclusive education

    systems, the medical discourse is associated with what we would call in/exclusion or exclusion within inclusion related to the assessment of and provision for special needs: a discourse which we will discuss




    We find it significant in South African policy that the report of the National Commission on Special Needs in Education (NCSNET) and the National Committee for Education Support Services (NCESS) still constructs the medical discourse. Appointed by the Department of Education to investigate and make recommendations on all aspects of special needs and support services in education and training, NCSNET/NCESS proposed a move in education from changing the person to a systems-change approach

    (Department of Education, 1997) - thus a move from focusing on individual deficit to systems deficit. However, one of the barriers to learning and development discussed is disability, the NCSNET/NCESS

    report stating that there are some learners whose impairments may prevent the learner from engaging

    continuously in structured learning and development. Among such impairments are schizophrenia, severe

    autism, severe intellectual disabilities or multi-disabilities (Department of Education, 1997). The implication is that the system cannot adapt to meet some needs and that exclusion and learning breakdown will occur because of internal, individual barriers, presumably diagnosed. The NCSNET/NCESS Report

    also makes recommendations founded on a medical discourse including early identification, assessment and intervention for at risk learners (Department of Education, 1997) and assessment of learners with high needs for support (Department of Education, 1997). The medical discourse with its focus on the individual and exclusion of those pathologized seems alive and well in South Africas inclusive texts. But let us turn now to a discussion of special needs discourses

Special needs discourse

    What we construct as the special needs discourse is the languaging of people with disabilities as other with thspecial needs defined by the Concise Oxford Dictionary 10 edition as particular educational requirements

    resulting from learning difficulties, physical disability, or emotional and behavioural difficulties (Pearsall,

    1999). Thus the particular educational requirements are treatments or interventions related to labels of difficulty and disability applied through a process of assessment and diagnosis. We therefore argue that special needs is the medical discourse dressed in words other than pathology, disorder or disability.

Clough, quoted by Bèlanger (2000) differentiates disability and special needs describing the latter not as

    the expression of an individuals ability, but as a result of his or her interaction with a particular curriculum. We argue that it nevertheless is a discourse that constructs exclusion within inclusion and proposes the medical model practices of assessment, labelling and intervention. Donald, Lazarus and Lolwana (1997), for example, speak of an inclusive system in which appropriate facilities, resources and specialized help,

    where needed, will be available in the mainstream and the curriculum will be flexible enough to accommodate special needs. But how are these special needs assessed and how excluding are curricular adaptations? This issue is raised by Ainscow, Farrell & Tweddle (2000) who, in their study of inclusive policy development, found that assessment of children perceived to have special needs created significant

    barriers to the development of more inclusive arrangements.

    We argue that writers like Smith, Polloway, Patton & Dowdy (1998) who describe individualized education programs and, if necessary, pullout time for learners with special needs, illustrative of how excluding inclusion can be. These learners are identified, assessed and treated differently. Bèlanger (2000) describes this in/exclusion as follows:

    Despite the fact that students who experience difficulties are taught with regular students

    together under one roof, it seems that differential treatment of students occurs, thereby

    creating different tracks for different children and drawing boundaries between them

    (Mehan 1996). Schooling might be described as an institution which keeps within its

    walls people who were previously excluded from the (mainstream) schools, while

    excluding them from the inside (Bourdieu & Champagne 1993: 921).

    As do Donald et al (1997), Smith et al. (1998) describe their goal as education in the least restrictive environment, but how restrictive the environment will be, depends upon assessment gauging the degree or severity of special need. As Donald et al. (1997) state: there will always be some special needs of such

    severity, or requiring such specialized resources, that a child’s needs have to be met, wholly or partly, in a specialized setting separate from the mainstream. This is indicative of what Bèlanger (2000) calls the



cascade metaphor comprising different levels of integration. She compares this to the kaleidoscope

    approach that sees all students integrated at one level. We argue that Donald et al. (1997) and Smith et al. (1998) advocate the cascade metaphor and within this approach the word special need is a euphemism,

    behind which the intended meaning - disability, pathology, inadequacy - lurks, even if it is constituted in

    interaction with a curriculum.

Muthukrishna & Schoeman (2000), who were among those compiling the NCSNET/NCESS report Quality

    Education for All: Overcoming Barriers to Learning and Development (1997), trouble the notion of special

    education needs. They stress the need to challenge exclusionary concepts from pathology, medicine, and

    concepts related to normative assessment (Muthukrishna & Schoeman, 2000). Clough (1999) links special

    needs and normative assessment, noting that special educational needs are not noticed in a vacuum … they

    appear against a background of normal ability and performance which gives them relief. Further

    challenging the notion of special education needs, Muthukrishna and Schoeman (2000) describe this as a catch phrase for all categories of learners who do not fit into the system. It reflects an individual change

    model which has resulted in highlighting personal inadequacies in individuals rather than on challenging social inadequacies in the system (Muthukrishna and Schoeman, 2000).

Slee (2001), describes how the process of inclusive education has led to the introduction of units of study in

    special education for all teachers who must become familiar with the range of syndromes, disorders and

    defects that constitute the population of special educational needs students. He acerbically comments:

    Inclusive education is reduced to a default vocabulary for a Grays Anatomy conception of educational

    inclusion (Slee, 2001). He further points out that educating teachers in these codes formalizes exclusionary

    special educational discourses as the official knowledge of difference (Slee, 2001).

    Slee here indicates power-knowledge relations; also suggested by Armstrong, Dolinski & Wrapson (1999) who describe the process of assessment and decision-making about learners with particular or special needs as taking place within a context of claims by professional groups to an expertise based upon their rational

    application of knowledge. They further state: The representation of childrens needs in terms of particular

    forms of knowledge is essential to the legitimation of particular professional interests (Armstrong et al.

    1998: 34).

(De)constructions of the medical/special needs discourse

    Following our reading of White Paper 6 and our earlier discussion we construct the medical and special needs discourses as constituting the same objects, agents, actions and binaries and we therefore unite them. We take note of Cloughs differentiation of disability and special needs describing the latter not as the

    expression of an individuals ability, but as a result of his or her interaction with a particular curriculum

    (Bèlanger, 2000). Our reading, however, constitutes the special needs resulting from interaction with a particular curriculum as arising from both constructed differences in ability (the medical discourse) and constructed inability of the environment to accommodate those differences (the systems discourse). There remains a process of identification through assessment and labelling of those learners.

Objects constituted

    As we read White Paper 6, we (de)constructed the following objects constituted by a medical discourse:

    ; identified disabled learners; learners with mild, moderate or severe disabilities; learners with special

    education needs; disabled learners; people with disabilities; disabled children (Department of

    Education, 2001). The White Paper constructs the relationship between these phrases as follows: …the

    learners who are most vulnerable to barriers to learning and exclusion in South Africa are those who

    have historically been termed learners with special education needs i.e. learners with disabilities and

    impairments (Department of Education, 2001: 7).

    The equation we construct is:

    learners most vulnerable to barriers to learning = learners with special education needs

    learners with special education needs = learners with disabilities and impairments



    learners most vulnerable to barriers to learning = learners with disabilities and impairments

    Are these terms synonymous? Is the term barriers to learning a cosmetic adjustment to disguise the

    medical discourse? Is this an example of what Slee (1997) termed professional resilience in blending

    dominant disabling discourses into a language of inclusion?

    We (de)construct further indecidability when the White Paper 6 specifically addresses terminology. It

    states that it no longer uses the terms learners with special education needs and learners with mild to

    severe learning difficulties because this is part of the language of the approach that sees disabilities as

    arising within the learner. It then goes on to use the terms special needs education in its title, learners

    with special needs (Department of Education, 2001: 42) and individuals with special needs

    (Department of Education, 2001: 43), contradicting its stance.

    What the White Paper attempts to do is use the term barriers to learning and development but, it

    retains internationally acceptable terms of disability and impairments when referring to learners

    whose barriers to learning and development are rooted in organic/medical causes (Department of

    Education, 2001: 12). Thus medical diagnosis = disability = barrier to learning. So some learners have

    internal barriers to learning or personal trouble and others have external barriers to learning? So

    through some process of diagnosis or assessment, it is determined whether the barriers are internal or

    external: whether the individual or the environment is labelled disabled. But does removal of external

    barriers not transform internal barriers into difference and not difficulty or barrier? Are there internal

    barriers if external barriers are removed?

; special, full-service and ordinary schools (Department of Education, 2001: 10, 15) are other objects

    formed. Learners who require low-intensive support will be accommodated in the ordinary schools,

    those who require moderate support will be in full-service schools and those who require high-thintensive support will be in special schools. The Concise Oxford Dictionary 10 edition defines

    ordinary as with no distinctive features; normal or usual (Pearsall, 1999: 1003). Special is better,

    greater, or otherwise different from what is usual; designed for or belonging to a particular person,

    place or event; used to denote education for children with particular needs (Pearsall, 1999: 1377). We

    read the constitution of ordinary and special as signifying the normal/abnormal binary, which we will

    discuss shortly. Defining the schools to which learners with low support needs go as ordinary, normal

    or usual, suggests that low need for support is the norm or alternatively that such learners are normal

    as opposed to abnormal

Agents constituted

    Agents we construct as those who do as opposed to those that are done to. The doers constituted in White Paper 6 include: the White Paper, the Ministry (of Education), I (Minister of Education), We and the policy. At other times, doers lurk behind the passive voice, as in the following statement: … indicate how learners

    with disability will be identified, assessed and incorporated into special, full-service and ordinary

    schools … (Department of Education, 2001: 10). Thus are there agents who could be called identifiers,

    assessors and incorporators ? Are these the educators? Or those with vested interests in the medical discourse, which constitutes them as experts, as those with knowledge who know the problems and the

    solutions: the doctors, the psychologists, and the special needs teachers?

Actions constituted

    We read contradictory actions - which render one another indecidable - in White Paper 6. The policy (agent), the White Paper states, will move away from segregation according to categories of disability as

    an organising principle for institutions (Department of Education, 2001: 8). We read this as constructing a

    move from the process of assessing, labelling and placing learners according to disability in settings specifically catering for those disabilities. One sentence later, the document describes the policy as placing

    emphasis on supporting learners through full-service schools that will have a bias towards particular

    disabilities (Department of Education, 2001: 8). Thus certain learners will be assessed, identified as having particular disabilities and will therefore be placed in certain full-service schools, which have a bias towards that disability. Is this not segregation according to categories of disability?



    Other actions constructed within the medical discourse are identification, assessment, interventions and placement or incorporation into ordinary, full-service or special schools based on the identification, assessment and prescribed interventions. Thus the label determines the placement - the degree of inclusion or exclusion. Learners with mild to moderate disabilities will be accommodated in the mainstream.

    Learners with severe and multiple disabilities will be provided for in special schools (Department of

    Education, 2001: 24). Learners with disabilities that stem from impaired intellectual development will be

    more easily accommodated in the mainstream (Department of Education, 2001: 25). There is assessment of the mildness, moderateness or severity of the disability; whether it is seen as intellectual and more easily accommodated or more physical/medical and less easily accommodated. There is medical categorization, classification and placement. The disability is within the learner and the learner must therefore be placed in an environment that can accommodate him or her. There are some systems - ordinary schools - into which

    some learners cannot fit. Therefore, they will be moved into a system into which they can fit.

Another action constituted is that of overcoming the debilitating impact of disabilities (Department of

    Education, 2001: 10). Is it the disability that is debilitating? Or is it the formation of disability by the medical discourse? Does the disability need to be overcome? Or the way it is constituted?

Binaries constituted

    The central binary constituted by the medical discourse is that of ability-disability. Ability is defined in the thConcise Oxford Dictionary 10 edition (Pearsall, 1999: 974) as a noun: a word used to identify any of class

    of people, places or things (common noun) or to name a particular one of these (proper noun). This word

    identifies the capacity to do something; skill or talent (Pearsall, 1999: 3). The capacity to do what? Skills

    are defined as the ability to do something well; expertise or dexterity (Pearsall, 1999: 1344). The ability to

    do what well? Looking at the binary opens up possibilities.

Disability, also a noun, forms disability as a physical or mental condition that limits a persons movement,

    senses or activities; a disadvantage or handicap, specially one imposed or recognized by the law (Pearsall,

    1999: 406). Is ability therefore the capacity to move, sense and be active? Or is it an advantage imposed or recognized by the law? Is it an advantage created by constituting certain ways of moving, sensing and being active as abilities while other ways of moving, sensing and being active are (dis)abilities?

Dis- is a prefix expressing negation; denoting reversal or absence of an action or state; denoting removal,

    separation or expulsion; expressing completeness or intensification of an action (Pearsall, 1999: 406). Is

    dis-ability, negation of the abilities of those who are different? If so, who negates? Is it reversal or absence of action labelled ability or a state labelled ability? If so, who constitutes presence of the action or state? Is it removal, separation or expulsion of ability? If so, who removes, separates or expels. Or is dis-ability expressing completeness or intensification of an action labelled ability? Does ability, intensified, lie within disability?

    We argue that ability can only be understood with reference to disability: in itself it does not form meaning referring only to the capacity to do something. That thing is constituted in dis-ability as an absence. But

    absence lies within ability, which can only become when dis-ability is present to define it. We also argue that the something that can be done in ability and skill is formed by the medical discourse, which further

    constructs a process of identifying and treating those who cannot do the prescribed something. Thus this power-knowledge constructs knowers and doers, the known and done to, the subjects and objects. But these knowers only exist in relation to what is known and the doers only exist in relation to those done to.

    Another binary we (de)construct is that of normal-abnormal in the classification of schools as ordinary-special. As previously noted, ordinary constitutes objects it describes as with no distinctive features;

    normal or usual. As is ordinary, normal is an adjective or a word, which names an attribute of a noun. The attribute it defines is that of conforming to standard, usual, typical or expected (Pearsall, 1999: 971).

    Abnormal is constructed as deviating from what is normal (Pearsall, 1999: 3). Who constructs what is

    standard, usual, typical or expected? Which discourse constitutes what is standard?



Here I find Mercer’s delineation of two models of normality, cited by Skrtic (1995: 81-82), useful:

    i) the pathological model from medicine (biology) which defines normal/abnormal according to

    the presence/absence of observable biological processes: those that interfere with life are bad

    (pathology), those that enhance it are good (health);

    ii) the statistical model from psychology, which defines normal/abnormal in terms of variance

    above or below population mean and is evaluatively neutral - good or bad, is a social


    In White Paper 6 (Department of Education, 2001: 12), we read (dis)ability defined as pathology, linked to the medical model by words such as organic/medical. Thus normality is presence of ability/health/good and

    abnormality is absence of ability/pathology/bad: with ability defined as the capability to do something. But,

    as we previously noted, the statistical model may also be (de)constructed. Low support needs may be constructed as the norm or population mean, and thus schools meeting such needs are ordinary (usual or normal).

Implications for in/exclusion

    Inclusion, as constituted by the medical discourse, necessitates exclusion for those identified/assessed as having needs that cannot be met in ordinary schools. These needs, the discourse forms as rooted in

    organic/medical causes. White Paper 6 states it best, discussing how policy will indicate how learners with disability will be identified, assessed and incorporated into special, full-service and ordinary schools in an incremental manner (Department of Education, 2001: 10). It further provides clear signals about how

    current special schools will serve identified disabled learners (Department of Education, 2001: 10).

The Ministry of Education states its support of the condemnation of segregation of persons with disabilities

    from the mainstream voiced by the National Disability Strategy (Department of Education, 2001: 10). Yet it goes on to constitute an inclusive education and training system in which learners with disabilities are

    segregated depending upon the construction of the level of their disability or support needs by those who identify and assess. Those assessed as having severe disabilities and requiring high levels of support will be excluded from ordinary and full-service schools. Those identified as having moderate disabilities and requiring moderate levels of support will be excluded from ordinary and special schools. Those diagnosed with mild disabilities and requiring low levels of support will be excluded from full-service and special schools.

    Through a process of assessing level of disability and required level of support, the child will be in-excluded. As Lloyd (2000: 140) writes: The whole issue of inclusion as entitlement is fudged. The familiar

    let out clauses are inserted and the implications of genuine inclusion as full participation are avoided.

    Another advocate of full inclusion, Slee (2001: 168), argues that Inclusive education is about all learners.

    The medical discourse constituting and constituted by White Paper 6 seems unable to constitute all learners.

    Instead there is reference to all learners, with and without disability or all learners, whether disabled or not

    (Department of Education, 2001: 11). Why make the differentiation? The term all learners embraces


Slee (2001: 171) furthermore asks the pertinent question: …in whose interests do particular forms of

    knowledge operate? The forms of knowledge constituted by the White Paper can identify, assess and test people with disabilities to determine their needs or requirements. They can recommend accommodations to meet these needs and support people with disabilities and educators. They can place people with disabilities in an environment meeting their needs. They are experts constituted by the medical discourse - doctors, psychologist and special educators - who, to use the words of Slee (2001: 167), demonstrate a remarkable

    resilience through linguistic dexterity. While they use a contemporary lexicon of inclusion, the cosmetic amendments to practices and procedures reflect assumptions about pathological defect and normality based upon a disposition of calibration and exclusion.



Voices on the margins

    We (de)construct multiple voices on the margins of the medical discourse as constituted by and constituting White Paper 6:

    ; The voice of the undisguised medical/special needs discourse - the voice of those who see an inability

    to cope in educational institutions as situated within the learner and requiring specialized intervention -

    is a voice on the margins acknowledged by the Minister of Education, Professor Kader Asmal. It is the

    voice of educators, lecturers, parents and learners who fear the challenges that may come with

    inclusion of teaching, communication, costs, stereotyping and the safety of learners. The White Paper

    addresses these concerns, Asmal writes (Department of Education, 2001: 3), in what seems like an

    attempt to soothe them. It is these voices who want segregation or exclusion not only for learners with

    severe disabilities rooted in organic/medical causes, but also for learners whose barriers to learning

    may emerge from extrinsic factors including medium of instruction or socio-economic circumstances.

    These are the voices saying that the inclusion of such learners may not meet their needs.

    Kauffman (1999) is one such voice, arguing that more children are being reared in poverty and

    conditions that produce elevated risk of disability. Yet, he points out, special needs education is

    expected to downsize as sentiment rises against the increasing number of students served by special

    education and the increasing cost of such services. He sees this as a sign of ignoring social welfare

    problems and abandoning government commitments to all but the spectacularly needy (Kauffman,

    1999: 247). Another argument against inclusion put forward by Kauffman (1999: 246) is that inclusion

    provides physical access but not instructional access [and epistemological access] for most students

    and that common space may, in some cases, present insurmountable obstacles to needed instruction.

    Concerns are also expressed by those involved in education for deaf and hard of hearing students.

    Kluwin (1999: 339) speaks of these learners experiencing inclusion as isolated individuals in a

    mainstream class. Bat-Chava (2000: 426) relates increased attendance of deaf children at hearing

    schools as limiting self-esteem … opportunities for an active social life and participation in leadership


    ; Another voice we (de)construct as silenced is that of advocates of full inclusion. Farrell (2000: 158)

    speaks of parents falling into two groups: the above-mentioned group who wants to maintain a special

    school sector and those who want full inclusion. White Paper 6 constitutes a system in which

    assessment of severity and support needs is linked to attendance at special schools. It therefore

    excludes some, even if parents, educators and learners feel their needs will be better met in a fully

    inclusive school. In White Paper 6, the criterion for inclusion seems to be the ease with which learners

    can be accommodated. For example, the document discusses including learners with impaired

    intellectual development because they require curriculum adaptation while those who require intensive

    support through medical interventions, structural adjustments to the built environment and/or assistive

    devices are less easily accommodated (Department of Education, 2001: 25) and therefore will be


    ; Other voices we (de)construct in the margins are those of people with organic/medical impairments

    who define themselves as able, but society’s responses as disabling. These are the voices expressed by

    organisations such as the British Council of Disabled People and Disabled People International. They

    distinguish between impairment as lacking part of a limb, organ or mechanism of the body and

    disability as the disadvantage imposed by society’s reactions (Sebba & Sachdev, 1997: 12). They are

    the voices silenced by the White Papers construction of the debilitating impact of those disabilities

    (Department of Eduation, 2001: 10) and by its reference to disability and impairments when referring

    specifically to those learners whose barriers to learning and development are rooted in organic/medical

    causes (Department of Education, 2001: 12).

    ; Linked to this are the voices of social constructionist writers such as Biklen (2000). These voices

    constitute disability as a construction in a particular social, historical, cultural and economic context in

    which certain appearances and ways of looking, acting and being are valued as abilities while others



    are devalued or constructed as disabilities. These voices are alluded to in references to discrimination,

    fear, anxieties, stereotyping and attitudes (Department of Education, 2001). An example of a

    (re)construction of ability in terms of different values is the book Expecting Adam by Martha Beck in

    which she credits her child, Adam, born with Down Syndrome, for transforming her on a metaphysical

    level. She writes: He has taught me to look at things in themselves, not at the value a brutal and often

    senseless world assigns to them … he is no less beautiful for being called ugly, no less wise for

    appearing dull, no less precious for being seen as worthless (Beck, 1999: 317).

    ; We also (de)construct materialist critical voices on the fringes: questioning the reproduction of power

    relations constituted in policies constituted by discourses in which certain people are identified,

    assessed and placed in certain contexts by other people who hold values representative of the dominant

    culture. Placement in those segregated contexts because of the label ensures continuing segregation,

    devaluation and oppression. This voice is present in the text in Kader Asmal’s words: Race and

    exclusion were the decadent and immoral factors that determined the place of our innocent and

    vulnerable children (Department of Education, 2001: 4). It is a voice, we read as associated with the

    apartheid policy in the White Paper, but one which does not reflexively address reproductions of

    dominance and inequality in its own policy.

Concluding reflections

    White Paper 6 speaks of full inclusion - When schools are fully inclusive, a situation should ensue that on

    the average, a schools population will comprise no more than a small percentage of individuals with special education needs (Department of Education, 2001: 39). Yet it defines its long-term goals as forming 380 special schools/resource centres and 500 full-service schools (Department of Education, 2001: 43). Learners with moderate to severe and multiple disabilities or with moderate to high support needs will be educated in these institutions. This appears to be a contradiction in terms.

Moreover, White Paper 6 explicitly mentions a move away from the terms special education needs - which

    is part of the language approach that sees learning disabilities within the learner - favouring the term

    barriers to learning and development (Department of Education, 2001: 12). Yet in the sentence cited above

    it once again refers to individuals with special education needs as it does in the following statement: ….

    policy proposals described in this White Paper are aimed at developing an inclusive education and training system that will ensure that educational provision for learners with special needs is largely integrated over time into what are currently considered to be ordinary schools (Department of Education, 2001: 36).

    The word ordinary is sometimes placed in quotation marks (as above), yet in other parts of the document the term is used without any indication of questioning its usage and connotations (Department of Education, 2001: 10, 15). As readers, we are left with a feeling of so what’s changed as regards the construction and

    inclusion of learners with disability. Perhaps poststructuralist theory is helpful here in reminding us that we and in this instance, the authors of White Paper 6 are not able to get outside a cultural discourse or practice to describe its rules and norms (Gough 2000:62). As Culler (1990:4) writes:

    Any analysis of, say, the political forces in a society cannot situate itself outside of the

    realm of political forces; it is necessarily caught up in the processes, affected by the

    forces it is describing, and itself involves a political move or stance. So that one way to

    study the political forces at work would be to analyse the analysts own stance and

    investigate how his or her analytical discourse is worked by the forces it is analysing.

    That is the post-structuralist move.

    We have demonstrated in this article the kind of skepticism Culler (1990) refers to and conclude that authors of White Paper 6 have not been able to situate themselves outside of functionalist discourses such as the medical/special needs discourse. Also, from our reading of White Paper 6 it is evident that there is no inclusion without exclusion efforts to include invariably excludes.


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