Modern Settlements in Special Needs Education: Segregated Versus Inclusive Education

Helene Ratner

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In the history of special needs education, the distinction between human nature and its social environment has been a controversial matter. The controversy regards whether special needs are primarily caused by the child's psycho-medical body or by cultural concepts of normality and deviance. Settlements of this controversy govern whether the pupil or the educational institution becomes the main point of intervention. In Denmark, the particularities of settlements can be identified by juxtaposing the introduction of intelligence testing in the 1930s with the contemporary policy agenda of inclusion. With intelligence testing, special needs education was to service children whose needs were seen as part of their human nature. Inclusion, in turn, assumes special needs to be stigmatizing cultural labels that need to be abandoned by changing school cultures. Drawing on actor-network theory we can approach such settlements as a product of a modern division between human nature and social environment. Although both these settlements depend on a distinction between human nature and social environment, this distinction generates practical tensions for each settlement.
Original languageEnglish
JournalScience as Culture
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)193-213
Number of pages21
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • Special needs education
  • Intelligence testing
  • Inclusion
  • Actor-network theory
  • Modern settlements

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