Beyond Able-Minded Citizenship: Embracing Intellectual Ability Differences in Democratic Education
Ashley Taylor

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Dissertation Fellowship

Award Year



Syracuse University

Primary Discipline

Within philosophical literature on democratic education, philosophers of education embrace the existence of cultural, religious, racial, gender, and other social differences as important to a thriving democracy. However, they frequently ignore or sideline the potential significance of ability differences, especially those associated with intellect and reasoning ability. There is therefore an unchallenged assumption that those who experience significant difficulties in reasoning are unable to perform the tasks of citizenship. My dissertation investigates this assumption by asking whether students? assessed intellectual disabilities ought to disqualify them from participating in education aimed at the development of democratic knowledge and skills. Current models of democratic education are ill equipped to answer this question. Drawing on interdisciplinary literature from inclusive education, disability studies, and philosophy, I consider how the recognition of existent intellectual ability differences alters our philosophical theorizing about democratic education and suggests the need for alternative frameworks of democratic participation and the education that supports it. This places demands on our educational policy, schooling practices and teacher education because it suggests the need to examine curricula, teaching practice, school-community partnerships and, importantly, ideas about how civic knowledge is acquired and put into practice in light of varying abilities. Answering the question of whether individuals with intellectual disabilities are owed an education that prepares them to participate in democratic citizenship not only concerns the extent to which we embrace differences of ability within education in general, but also hinges on whether we regard individuals with intellectual disabilities as members of the political community.
About Ashley Taylor

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