Debating Special Education

By Michael Farrell

© 2010 – Routledge

136 pages

Purchasing Options:
Paperback: 9780415567282
pub: 2010-04-12
US Dollars$44.95
Hardback: 9780415567299
pub: 2010-04-12
US Dollars$150.00

e–Inspection Copy

About the Book

Debating Special Education is a provocative yet timely book examining a range of criticisms made of special education in recent years. Michael Farrell analyses several key debates in special education giving balanced critical responses to inform policy and practice for the future of special education.

The book identifies possible limitations to the current special education knowledge base and provision. Michael Farrell examines the value of labelling and classification, and asks if intelligence testing may have detrimental effects; and addresses a number of complex issues such as:

  • how practitioners work within special education; and if, sometimes, professionals may be self-serving
  • whether there is distinctive provision for different types of disabilities and disorders
  • inclusion as mainstreaming offered as an alternative to special education, and the challenges this presents.

The author's conclusion is that in responding to these challenges, special education demonstrates its continuing relevance and strength. Presenting a range of international, cross-disciplinary perspectives and debates – which are vital to an understanding of special education today, and written in Farrell's typically accessible style – this book will be relevant for teachers of special children in ordinary and special schools; those on teacher training courses and anyone whose work relates to special education.


"I hope this book will be widely read. Special education needs greater understanding, and Michael Farrell's book will do much to help people understand what special education is and why we must have it." - James M. Kauffman, Professor Emeritus of Education, University of Virginia, USA

"This is an original text addressing a much needed topic. The book may … become a seminal text in the field of special education" - Garry Hornby, Professor of Education, University of Canterbury, New Zealand

"His courage to challenge the popular interpretation of disability as a social construct is very well placed for the stage of debate we have reached in the UK, particularly the government’s "mainstreaming" agenda. A unique and a particularly valuable addition to the national SEN discussion" - Richard Aird, Headteacher, UK

Table of Contents

1. Introduction 2. Sociological criticisms 3. Rights base criticisms and contested values 4. Postmodern and related criticisms 5. Limitations of the special education knowledge base 6. The unhelpfulness of classification 7. Problems with assessment 8. Negative effects of labelling 9. Professional limitations 10. Lack of distinctive provision 11. The alternative of inclusion as mainstreaming 12. Conclusion

About the Author

Michael Farrell is an independent consultant in special education. He has published extensively in the field; his books include The Special Education Handbook, Celebrating the Special School, Key Issues in Special Education and Educating Special Children along with a number of The Effective Teacher's Guides (all published by Routledge).

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
EDUCATION / Special Education / General
EDUCATION / Educational Policy & Reform / General
EDUCATION / Professional Development
EDUCATION / Inclusive Education