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Chapter 15 Historical and contemporary contexts, challenges, and prospects in the education of students with exceptionalities

History of Special Education

ISBN: 978-0-85724-629-5, eISBN: 978-0-85724-630-1

Publication date: 28 January 2011


It is common knowledge that people like to associate with those who behave, look, speak, and act like themselves. Anyone who does not fall in that norm is traditionally perceived, treated, and educated differently (James, 1958; Obiakor, 2008, 2009). Clearly, students with exceptionalities have been discriminated against, ostracized, labeled, and called demeaning names (e.g., stupid, imbecile, and little dummies). Today, it has become increasingly clear that differences are a part of life. Advocates of students with exceptionalities have pressed for ways to positively respond to their needs in quantifiable ways (Obiakor, Harris, & Beachum, in press). In the United States, it is impossible to divorce the education of these students from the Civil Rights Movement and the subsequent events that followed. To a great extent, the education of these students has been historically influenced by social developments and court decisions in the 1950s and 1960s. For example, the landmark Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (1954) case was a civil rights case that declared separate education as unequal education and unconstitutional (Obiakor, 2009). This was significant because it had the goal of ending racial segregation in schools. Logically, this opened doors of advocacy for students with exceptionalities. The ruling of this case became a catalyst that prompted parents and professionals to lobby for equitable education for their students.


Obiakor, F.E. (2011), "Chapter 15 Historical and contemporary contexts, challenges, and prospects in the education of students with exceptionalities", Rotatori, A.F., Obiakor, F.E. and Bakken, J.P. (Ed.) History of Special Education (Advances in Special Education, Vol. 21), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 363-378.



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