The Epistemological Approach to Inclusion

The epistemological approach to inclusion asks three questions; what is knowledge, how do we acquire knowledge, and how do we know what we know? When these questions are attached to idea of inclusion the first is reworded to, what do we know about inclusion? This would raise a challenge that there might be an unclear perception if there is a true different of those without disabilities and those with disabilities. Inclusion would mean that there are no distinctions between the groups. If there are no differences, why is one group given accommodations and modifications while another group receives none?

This would involve a study of cultural analysis. Ontologically speaking, the groups would have to be a part of a hierarchy. Once the cultural of the group is analyzed, there would be certain differences within that group. Assigning provisions for one group and not the other would cause a larger distinction between groups to occur. So does inclusion create more differences than similarities? An ethical framework would have to be established to what is and what is not the right or wrong thing to do. Is it ethical to give a learning disadvantaged student an advantage when compared to a non-disabled student?

Reidal (2010) argues that there is a main problem in conceptualizing inclusion and that special education needs are an understanding of the differences and the disability. If the disability and the difference are only social constructs that define the issue, the entire undertaking of special education is flawed. Instead of deconstructing the idea of inclusion, the author suggests that the entire process be abolished. If a new theoretical framework is to be established, the negative effects of special education such as discrimination, stigma, and oppression must not be repeated. (Barton 1998)

In removing the three negative effects of special education, Reidal (2010) suggests a capability approach that will change the orientation of the disability. The author compares this approach to poverty. When poverty is viewed as a social and environmental inequality, it sets up a stigma and to end poverty the social barriers and discrimination toward this population is not likely to succeed. When poverty is defined in a different context and not within the boundaries of the stigma, then the redifintion will clear the path for social barriers. Therefore, change the way we define and label a disability, and the social stigma that needs inclusion will disappear.

Reindal, S. (2010). What is the purpose? Reflections on inclusion and special education from a capability perspective. European Journal of Special Needs Education, 25(1), 1-12. doi:10.1080/08856250903450806

Barton, L. 1988. The politics of special educational needs. London: Falmer Press.

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