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Susan M. Schweik, The Ugly Laws: Disability in Public. New York and London: New York University Press, 2009.

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9 Why Is There Learning Disabilities? A Critical Analysis ofthe Birth ofthe Field in Its Social Context Christine E. Sleeter Abstract This chapter presents an interpretation of why the category of learning disabilities emerged, that differs from interpretations that currently prevail. It argues that the category was created in response to social conditions during the late 1950s and early 1960s which brought about changes in schools that were detrimental to children whose achievement was relatively low. The category was created by white middle class parents in an effort to differentiate their children from low-achieving low-income and minority children. The category offered their children a degree of protection from probable consequences of low achievement because it upheld their intellectual nor­ malcy and the normalcy of their home backgrounds, and it suggested hope for a cure and for their ability eventually to attain higher status occupations than other low achievers. Many school structures are built around accepted categories for children. Categories such as first graders, gifted children, slow children, and learning disabled children all presume to designate 'real' commonalities among children, and form bases on which children are grouped and taught. As educators, we tend to take for granted that these categories accurately reflect differences among children, and 210 Why Is There Learning Disabilities? that their use enables children to be taught better. After all, many of these categories were discovered and researched by 'experts', so they must have validity. But in accepting commonly-used categories for children, we also tacitly accept an ideology about what schools are for, what society should be like, and what the 'normal' person should be like. Far from being objective fact, ideology rests on values and assumptions that cannot be proven, and that serve some people better than others. This chapter illustrates the hidden ideology in 'sc

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