The dilemma of difference: Enriching the disproportionality discourse with theory and context

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A critical aspect underlying the disproportionate representation debate is the dilemma of human difference. I briefly describe this dilemma and analyze three unstated assumptions about difference that permeate disproportionality discussions. I also make two critical recommendations. First, we must strengthen the theoretical sophistication of the debate in two ways, by bringing philosophical and ethical perspectives to the analyses and by increasing the breadth of the theoretical paradigms used in inquiry efforts. Second, I recommend that we bring context to our research endeavors by acknowledging that issues related to ethnicity, race, and language background are highly contentious in our society. We must also contextualize research by including the perspectives of investigators and of ethnic minority students. This will allow us to become aware of the culturally situated meanings that we bring to our research endeavors and to appreciate the complexity in the lives of the people who participate in our investigations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)32-36
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Special Education
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 1998


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Rehabilitation

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