Special Education and Disability Policy in Historical and Comparative Perspective


How have nation-states, churches, and philanthropists historically responded to disability and deviance in Europe and North America? Age-old strategies of care, compensation, and rehabilitation will be contrasted with contemporary appeals to equal opportunities, rights, and participation (inclusion). Comparative studies of educational system development and disability policy reform show the extent to which these differing ideals have been reached in the Atlantic world since the mid-1800s. Special education offers a vital but neglected field to examine the trade-offs between principles of merit and equality and the resulting educational and social inequalities. Since few studies on special education have an extended historical reach or compare cross-nationally, this study will systematize the comparative dimensions of special education’s institutionalization. Funded by the Stiftung Deutsch-Amerikanische Wissenschaftsbeziehungen (SDAW) im Stifterverband für die Deutsche Wissenschaft, this project will lead to a co-authored book.

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Ausgewählte Publikationen

Richardson, John G./Powell, Justin J.W. (2011): Comparing Special Education. Origins to Contemporary Paradoxes. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.