Critical analysis of selected educational dilemmas

As other disciplines have being faced with perennial questions, education has its own dilemmas, which are caused by various reasons. My point of view is to critique these dilemmas from a trihedral lens, namely, politics of the curriculum, culturally responsive pedagogy and the concept of disability.

Education’s essential goals are to promote skills and to create opportunities to experience social mobility, democratic equality and social efficiency for tomorrow’s society.

Since these three paramount goals are hard to achieve by societies due to ambiguity of education as a social system, critical perspectives are essential to approach these ambiguities. Pinar and Bowers (1992) illuminates three key principles of critical pedagogy, specifically, correspondence, ideology, and hegemony. These three themes met in the idea of the curriculum designed by dominant culture as a base for the superstructure of society. It is important to not that integration of political view into the scholarship of education is an essential cornerstone for the field. Viewing curriculum as a political context may lead researchers not only to omit some key factors, such as race, gender, culture, ecological crisis issues, but also to eliminate thinking curriculum as a phenomenological context. With these concerns said, political view of curriculum had a paramount effect on researchers to examine these concerns closely and their place in the field.

Charlton (1998) raises three essential points of how we, as humanbeings view personal differences in society: We tend to ignore it, or we tend to copy it if it is dominant, or we tend to destroy it if it is subordinate (p. 25). The underlying fear of difference misguided the nations to misbehave to the world’s largest minority and different group: Clique with disabilities. Four backdrops pave the way for this social disaster, called as ‘disability dilemma’ in society, which are political economy and the world system, cultures and belief systems, false consciousness and alienation, and power and identity (Charlton, 1998). Charlton (1998) guide us to think further about hegemony (as system) and ideological dominations (as underlying ideology) of society’s perception led individuals with disabilities to conceptualize themselves false as ‘useless’. According to Pinar and Bowers (1992), the political view of educational curriculum grounds this misconception to schools’ duty as an example of social structure to create opportunities for experiences of social structure and to prepare students as adequate future workforce in order to ensure the continuum of the nation’s wellbeing. Since individuals with disabilities are ‘unable’ to serve this aim due to their ‘incapabilities’, it is a logical stand for some groups to accept them as ‘fag-end’ of society for centuries. They are marginalized from workforce, from social interactions, and are placed in a ‘pity’ dungeon. Various cultures and belief systems support this this false step. This issue results with misleading of society to internalize this notion, which is the most horrendous tragedy for human existence.

Disability oppression is a creation of power sources in the world’s system. Since the whole social structure is tied to each other with economy, politics, and power in the center, disability culture is ignored and individuals with disabilities’ right of access to capitals are restrained because of social perception about their lack of capacities. When we deduct this perception into education system, we confront with the perennial questions: ‘Why do we need to educate them?’. Even the sentence construction allows us to see that we are discriminating freedom of education in human rights by separating people with disabilities form the rest of the community. This problem can be based on the inability of viewing educational system in political context. It is argued in Pinar and Bowers (1992) that critical pedagogy lacks in adjusting empowerment, student voice, and dialogue positively, which are key-terms of education process, due to its vision of school structure as ‘structure of production’.

Although its deficiencies about placing individuals with disabilities into its conceptual framework, viewing curriculum from political context infused to school structure by the hidden curriculum (Pinar & Bowers, 1992) that simply defined as values, perceptions, and believes (LeComplete, 1978). As Charlton (1998) articulates, backward attitudes are not the basis for disability oppression, contrarily; disability oppression is the base for backward attitudes. Since teachers’ believes and their teaching-styles determine hidden curriculum in a class, it is evident to say that school structure has a major role about conveying disability oppression for a long time. Additionally, one of the essential causes of ambiguity in education is uniqueness of teaching styles of teachers, which can convey a false message about disability to their cliques-students- to carry the misconception of disability to their future lives. On the contrary, it may also convey a positive message with the infusion of culturally responsive teaching into their teaching environment.

Ladson Billings highlighted the deficiency of implementation of students’ cultural artifacts into the education system (1995). According to her (1995), there is a no balance between school and community culture, and home culture, which led students to accept what is dominant, generally the school/community culture. ‘Pretending acceptance of another culture’ is one of the biggest obstacles in front of school structure’s ultimate goal-social reform. Thus Ladson Billings (1995) highlighted the importance of infusing cultural background of students into education, in order to create a shared culture in the classroom, in which students are not alienated. Culturally relevant teaching is a response to the deficiency in political view of the curriculum. While Pinar and Bowers (1992) indicated that curriculum conceptualized as an ideological mystification in politics of the curriculum and dominant culture defines the ideology, Charlton (1998) based disability oppression onto this issue of ‘ignorance and/or destruction’ of disability culture due to its’ being as insubstantial comparing to dominant culture. Hence, Ladson Billing (1995) underlined that the discrepancy between student and teacher race, ethnicity, gender, and cultural characteristics can be decreased by application of culturally relevant pedagogy into education. There won’t be a pressure of dominant culture any more if culturally relevant pedagogy is applied to curriculum because all stakeholders including the teacher and all students will take part in their culture.

As a person who believes social reform, I acknowledged that it is hard to success in social reform via schools and educational systems. Because history guides us about external sources such as politics, economic, and power balances both locally and internationally are more effective than what we teach in schools for democratic change, social mobility and social efficiency in future society, I don’t have utopic expectancies from education system. Especially when we consider special education in political context and contrarily in culturally relevant pedagogy, we face with two major dilemmas regarding ‘disability’ concept in education, which were evident for decades and will be present in the near future.

The first obstacle is the social perception of disability. The perception of societies about individuals with disabilities starts with emotion of ‘pity’ and prejudice about their capabilities in life. Then, these emotions and prejudices lead societies’ actions to form false towards people with disabilities, which create a false self-consciousness and alienation for them. This situation is significant evidence about Charlton’s (1998) claim about society’s response to human differences (either ignoring, copying, or destroying). As the political view of curriculum underlines the power of dominant culture on education systems, it is hard to change the misconception of disability in culture because of the general tendency of ignorance or destruction of a difference to eliminate the differences in society. This is also accurate in teaching environment interactions. Although inclusive education is a worldwide trend in education nowadays, it is not effective as it is expected. Since there is no change in social perception of people with disabilities about labeling them with their ‘incapable areas’ rather than their strengths or capabilities, inclusive education will stay as ‘physical attendance’ into teaching environment, which is a good fit only for a symbolic change in society.

The second obstacle is the strong organization and continuity of the world power system. It is easier to feel pity and engage in symbolic actions for the majority of society due to their unwillingness about making changes in their lives regarding economic and power factors. Individuals with disabilities, especially in third world countries, experience poverty and powerlessness, which are major elements of their isolation from actual social, economic, etc. capitals. It is hard to determine the ones who are stakeholders in hegemony of the world power system, who generally hold economic and politic power. Even application of culturally responsive pedagogy into our teaching environment to create a bridge between school and community in order to revise our perception of ‘disability’ will hardly make a change due to hardship of changing ‘believes, and values’, and the little possibility of being organized to protest hegemony.

After all being said, the concept of disability takes the bad perspective towards it with the good in the scholarship of education. The good determines the end of previous social actions towards disability such as eugenics movement, sterilization, and institutionalization of individuals with disability because of society’s primitive fear from human differences, and being discussed and gaining recognition in the field as a major component of society. However, bad side of the disability concept is that although we state dilemmas, and ways to solve them, it is close to impossible in the current world power system to provide equality to individuals with disabilities, because it destroys hegemony of stakeholders. Lastly, I share concerns of some scholar who believe critical pedagogy’s ‘utopian goals’ cannot be attainable in this world order (Pinar and Bowers, 1998).


Charlton, J. I. (1998). The dimensions of disability oppression: An overview. In J. Charlton, Nothing about Us without Us (pp. 21–36). Berkeley: University of California Press.

Ladson Billings, G. (1995). Toward a theory of culturally relevant pedagogy. American Educational Research Journal, 32(2), 465–491.

LeCompte, M. (1978). Learning to work: The hidden curriculum of the classroom. Anthropology & Education Quarterly, 9(1), 22–37.

Pinar, W. F. & Bowers, C. A. (1992). Politics of curriculum: Origins, controversies, and significance of critical perspectives. Review of Research in Education, 18, 163–190.

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