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The History of Special Education

From Isolation to Integration

Margret A. Winzer

Publication Year: 1993

This comprehensive volume examines the facts, characters, and events that shaped this field in Western Europe, Canada, and the United States. From the first efforts to teach disabled people in early Christian and Medieval eras to such current mandates as Public Law 94-142, this study breaks new ground in assessing the development of special education as a formal discipline. The History of Special Education presents a four-part narrative that traces its emergence in fascinating detail from 16th-century Spain through the Age of Enlightenment in 17th-century France and England to 18th-century issues in Europe and North America of placement, curriculum, and early intervention. The status of teachers in the 19th century and social trends and the movement toward integration in 20th century programs are considered as well.

Published by: Gallaudet University Press

List of Tables

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p. vii-vii

List of Boxes

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p. viii-viii

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pp. xi-xiv

The way that children are trained and schooled is a crucial demonstration of the way that they are perceived and treated in a given society. Many complex threads—social, political, economic, and even religious—must interweave to create a propitious climate that respects the rights of all individuals in a certain society. Hence, the changing nature of the social climate and its manifestations ...

Part 1: Lessons of a Dark Past

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pp. 3-5

A history of special education and a history of exceptionality are not the same. One deals with educational and institutional arrangements first formally established in the eighteenth century, the other, with people who have been present in society since its beginnings. Nevertheless, the two histories are inextricably meshed, and the essential theme of both is the varying treatment afforded ...

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Chapter 1. Disability and Society before the Eighteenth Century: Dread and Despair

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pp. 6-37

The treatment the members of any society extend to the exceptional persons in their midst cannot be understood or evaluated in a vacuum. We must know, first, something about the physical and social conditions confronting all people in a society. Our exploration, then, of the fate of disabled persons in the premodern societies of the Middle East and Europe begins with an overview of ...

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Chapter 2. Education and Enlightenment: New Views and New Methods

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pp. 38-74

It was not until the middle of the eighteenth century that Britain and Europe turned to the education and training of their disabled populations. Onto the empty stage of special education stepped the pioneers—brilliant, innovative, often controversial and erratic philosphers, physicians, and pedagogues—who fashioned a new era in human history and paved the route that other educators could follow. ...

Part 2: Into the Light of a More Modern World

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pp. 77-81

Ever since the discovery of the New World by the Old, there has been a steady exchange of people, ideas, and goods. The Old World contributed culture, religion, political dissension, smallpox, scarlet fever, and gunpowder; the New World reciprocated with tobacco and perhaps syphilis ( see Zinsser, 1935). Material items were only part of the steady trade across the Atlantic; the New World ...

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Chapter 3. The Rise of Institutions, Asylums, and Public Charities

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pp. 82-120

In August 1816 the brig Mary Augusta sailed into New York harbor. On its deck stood Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet, a native of Hartford, Connecticut, and a young Frenchman, Laurent Clerc. To the teeming crowds on the New York dock, the elegant Frenchman and his bespectacled little American companion were, in all likelihood, worthy of little more than a passing glance. But the arrival of Gallaudet ...

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Chapter 4. Education for Exceptional Students in North America after 1850

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pp. 121-144

Institutional developments in special education in the latter half of the nineteenth century occurred during a period of profound social change. America may have slowly reconciled itself to industrialization and urbanization and their concomitant problems, but the country was now faced with new and greater problems engendered by mounting immigration, territorial expansion, ...

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Chapter 5. Physicians, Pedagogues, and Pupils: Defining the Institutionalized Population

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pp. 145-169

Beginning in 1817, the builders of special schools cobbled together a complex of institutions designed to accommodate the special needs of discrete groups—those traditionally labeled the deaf and dumb, the blind, the feeble-minded, and the neglected, vagrant, and delinquent. Efficiency in reform demanded institutional isolation and, throughout most of the nineteenth century, ...

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Chapter 6. More Than Three Rs: Life in Nineteenth-Century Institutions

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pp. 170-224

North American special education drew heavily on British and European experience, especially in philosophy and pedagogy developed in France in the mid-eighteenth century under the influence of Enlightenment thought (Winzer, 1986b). Underlying the philosophy of the French pioneer educators—Jacob Rodrigue Pereire, Charles Michel de I'Epee, Valentin Haiiy, Jean Marc Gaspard ...

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Chapter 7. Teaching Exceptional Students in the Nineteenth Century

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pp. 225-248

Over the course of the nineteenth century, as the public schools accommodated increasing numbers of diverse students, teachers and teaching changed. The teaching profession became one vehicle by which society could achieve not only educational but also politically determined social ends. As the school system expanded, as teacher training increased, and as teachers joined ...

Part 3: Into the New Century

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pp. 251-253

As the nineteenth century drew to a close, a host of social and political problems beset North America. The decay engendered by urbanization, industrialization, and immigration was made manifest by labor unrest and by rising rates of vagabondage, divorce, suicide, and crime. The apparent increase in deviant behavior, made more tangible by the statistical scrutiny of the tenth and ...

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Chapter 8. Measures and Mismeasures: The IQ Myth

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pp. 254-278

In 1900 psychology was a young science, determined to conquer the complexities of the human mind through the astute application of experimental science. Modern scientific psychology is often dated from the founding of Wilhelm Wundt's (1832-1920) laboratory for experimental psychology in Leipzig in 1879 (Hilgard, 1987). The development of scientific research methods in educational ...

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Chapter 9. The “Threat of the Feebleminded”

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pp. 279-312

In the early 1900s both public and professional views of disabled persons began to change. Special education lost much of its momentum in North America. Public opinion, professional dissension, and new scientific notions about heredity and environment, all shaped by the social realities of the new century, contributed to the declining support for the education of disabled persons. ...

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Chapter 10. From Isolation to Segregation: The Emergence of Special Classes

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pp. 313-336

In the institutions for deaf, blind, and, to a lesser extent, mentally retarded students, resistance to charity designations crested in the 1880s; the push was on to create new modes of operation and administration that would replace the custodial and retrogressive modes so long established in public residential institutions. During the opening decades of the twentieth century free, compulsory ...

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Chapter 11. New Categories, New Labels

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pp. 337-360

In the opening decades of the twentieth century the focus of special education changed from isolated institutional settings to segregated classrooms within the public schools. Children with mild handicapping conditions were served in the new settings, and, as the century progressed, special education expanded to embrace more children, to redesignate others, to adopt new philosophies, ...

Part 4: Segregation to Integration

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pp. 363-365

World War I changed forever the face of Europe and the world balance of power. Dozens of grand monarchies disappeared, federal states emerged, borders were redrawn) tiny countries were swallowed up, national entities subjugated. Revolutionary Russia began its march to world prominence; the League of Nations was formed to ensure that such mayhem would never again violate humanity. ...

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Chapter 12. Approaching Integration

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pp. 366-385

In the 1880s schooling, and compulsory school attendance for the handicapped or disadvantaged children were the leading subjects of theoretical discussion. By 1910 they had become imperatives. For nearly all children schooling became the social norm in the opening decades of the twentieth century. Schools sought to design programs and instruction for the average student ; ...


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pp. 386-440


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pp. 441-463

E-ISBN-13: 9781563682520
E-ISBN-10: 1563682524
Print-ISBN-13: 9781563680182
Print-ISBN-10: 1563680181

Page Count: 463
Illustrations: 25 photos
Publication Year: 1993

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Special education -- History.
  • Special education -- United States -- History.
  • People with disabilities -- Education -- United States -- History.
  • Mainstreaming in education -- History.
  • People with disabilities -- Education -- History.
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