Issues We Need to Simply Push for / Issues to be Pursued Carefully

TATEIWA Shin'ya 2010/01/19
Special Education and Multi-Knowledge Convergence
Held at Daegu University, South Korea http://jpn.daegu.ac.kr/ (Korean) Korean version / Japanese

Introduction of the speaker

My name is Shinya Tateiwa, and I work at Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto, Japan. It is a great honor for me to be invited and given a chance to speak to you all here today.

First, I would like to mention beforehand that the subject of this conference, that is, the theme of people with disabilities and education is not at all my field of study. I am completely unfamiliar with the area of special education, and would like to ask you to forgive me for my ignorance. My academic specialty is sociology. I should mention though, that I have not done much empirical research, and most of my work, especially recent work, has been done in the area of normative theory.

One of the directions of my research has been the problem of possession and distribution of goods and labor, and this resulted in such books as On Private Property and Equality of Freedom . One of my newer books is a joint work called Repairing the Tax.

Another area of research, an area, which, I believe, has a deeply rooted connection with the theme of this conference, is the area of bioethics. My recent books in this field include Good Death (?) and Sole Life. Last year in November I was invited to a symposium related to this theme that was held in the National Assembly Member's Building, Seoul. And all of this work was is some way or other connected to the difference and segregation between the dis-ability and ability. Another book in a more descriptive vein is another joint work, Ars Vivendi: Sociology of Diabled People Who Left Home and Institution, the first edition of which was published in 1990. It was an attempt to look into the history and significance of independent living movement in Japan. I am told that preparations for publication of the Korean translation of the enlarged and revised edition are already on their way. Another book published in 2004 was ALS: Immovable Body and Breathing Machine. This book is an attempt to describe the feelings, actions and everyday lives of people with ALS, probably the severest disability of all, by quoting texts written by them, and to look into the manifold problems they face.

Actions, which are self-evidently necessary

While conducting my research in these areas, I also work as a professor at the Ritsumeikan's Graduate School of Core Ethics and Frontier Sciences.

Also, I serve as a program leader of a Global COE (Center Of Excellence) Program under the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology of Japan. We were selected by the Ministry to receive funding and named our program Ars Vivendi: Forms of Human Life and Survival.

In our graduate course we currently have a large number of people with disabilities and people with close connection with those with disabilities. For example, we have six graduate students with visual impairments and three students using wheelchairs.

And one of the important issues we are advocating in our center is that people with disabilities or illnesses can become one of the driving forces of the research, and our center shows an example of a framework that enables them in that respect. One of the successes of this undertaking was the publication of Techniques of Support for Students with Visual Disabilities. This text is now also available in Korean (booklet and website) and (in part) in English (website only)

Through this effort we cannot but be involved in the issue of education for people with disabilities and research by them. And I, for one, strongly believe that since it is unquestionably a necessity, it has to be promoted with any and all sciences providing the conceptual basis. In this context, though it does not only concern the aspects of education and research, we have started a research program entitled Communication with Bodies that Differ: Ideas and Systems of Real Practical Use, which focuses on people who have difficulty communicating because of physical disabilities or visual or hearing impairments.

The subject of today's symposium is the interdisciplinary approach, and our research also received funding in the category of Research in New Areas of Science (with research task proposed) by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, and many researchers, especially young researchers, are participating in it from every field of the humanities and social sciences, such as philosophy, sociology, and economics. Although naturally the role of science and technology is sometimes deterministically important in this area, no researchers from the fields of natural science participate in our program. Naturally, we fully understand the importance of such research and development, but our aim is to think about how technology shall be used, to examine its institutional framework and the social aspects of its existence, trying to come up with propositions regarding the paths it shall take in the future, and for that reason we treat technology as premise and do not try to engage in its particulars too much. For example, one issue we are examining is the current state of efforts to create systems to provide text data for books and other written materials that can be used with a computer to allow people with visual impairments to hear text read aloud or to increase the size of printed text. We are examining the progress of attempts to resolve problems related to copyright in this area.

However, forgive me for a repetition, what has to be done has to be done, and it does not really matter what the science used to push for the issue is called. And Ars Vivendi - the name we used to describe our own activities - was chosen with an idea to inquire into and think about what is necessary for people to survive.

And what is known as Disability Studies in its large part is a practical undertaking, a science oriented at social reforms. It is also an undertaking mainly driven forth by people with disabilities, who point out various difficulties they have to face in the areas of education and research and suggest points that need to be improved. Japan Society for Disability Studies was founded in 2003, and I have been also doing my humble share participating in its activities as one of its members and a director. Last year The 6th Annual Convention of Japan Society of Disability Studies was held at Ritsumeikan University, and one of the symposia "Talking about Support of Students with Disabilities in Higher Education" was essentially organized by our graduate students. Many things had been said about the support for students with physical disabilities and with hearing/visual impairments, some points had already been implemented, so university students with internal, mental, or developmental disabilities were invited to offer their presentations.

However, it was not always peaceful

Thus, our objective - to pave the way and promote education of and research by people with disabilities further - is very clear, its justifiability is unquestionable, and a large part of our activities can and shall be pursued on a simple basis that every means that can be used shall be, everything that can be done should.

Yet in one aspect the dispute has not yet been resolved, and there is still room and need for careful thought. As you probably have already guessed, this aspect is the dispute regarding integrated education on one hand and special education on the other. I believe it is worth describing to you what has happened around this issue in the past 40 years in Japan. The time available is just as limited as my knowledge on the matter, so my narrative shall be very brief, but let me try nevertheless to look back upon its history in Japan.

Although schools for visually impaired and school for the deaf and dumb became a part of compulsory education comparatively early after the Second World War, the period when school for children with physical or mental disabilities were not included in the framework of compulsory education was quite long. In this context there were some children with disabilities who went to study at regular schools and attended regular classes, and some who attended classes for the disabled established at regular schools, but for those whose disability was on the more severe end of the continuum there was a period when they could not attend school at all, being "temporary exempted from enrollment at school" or "exempted from enrollment at school" completely. Among the leaders of the disabled movement, who were born in the period from the 1930s to the 1940s, that is, people I personally know, there are quite a few who did not (could not) go to school and so had to learn to read and write themselves 01.

It was so for quite a long time until from 1971 to 1973 a plan to create schools for children with physical or mental disabilities was announced, and the date of enforcement of incorporation of special education schools within the framework of compulsory education was set at April 1, 1979. To put it concretely, the parties involved and persons concerned were divided into two camps: those who essentially agreed with the plan of 1979 of making Special Education Schools compulsory, and those who essentially disagreed with it. In other words, there were people who perceived it as a step forward for the education of physically and mentally disabled children on the one side, and people who saw it as merely one more brick in the wall of segregation of children and adults with disabilities from the society, and kept criticizing it, strongly demanding for inclusion of those with disabilities into regular schools and classes. This confrontation was in part between the government that was pushing for inclusion of special education schools in the framework of compulsory education on the one side, and those opposing it on the other, but there was a confrontation among people with disabilities and those related to them at the same time.

Small time "politics" get involved

Partly it was due to "political" circumstances peculiar to Japan. I believe that this issue is rarely mentioned in scientific conferences, so I would like to say a few words on the matter. In Japan, as in many countries and regions around the world, there was a period of some years starting from the second half of the 1960s, when a fairly intense social movement raged mainly at universities all over the country. This movement was called "University Struggle" or "University Dispute", and was mainly concerned with the issue of the Vietnam War, and also the systems of management, research, and education employed at universities. This movement was led by several factions collectively called the "New Left" on the one side and the "United Protest Movement" on the other. These groups were quite diverse with no real unity among them, and intense internal conflicts were quite common, which is one of the factors that eventually led to the decline of the movement, but one thing they had in common, and that is the hostile feelings they all had against the Japan Communist Party. For that reason, conflict between these groups and the Japan Communist Party and student organizations related to it was inevitable. Partly the conflict was revolving around such issues as understanding of the relationship between Japan and the U.S., or understanding of imperialism, but also in such areas as science, education, medical care, and welfare, the New Leftists were more skeptical and more critical about the conventional science, regarding "reforms" advocated for by the other side as too lax, often clamoring for nothing less than "demolition" of the present system. Also, they voiced the need to rethink the rule of specialists (though some of them were specialists themselves) or attacked it. For some time there were groups advocating "academic reforms" in academic societies of such sciences as psychology and psychiatry, and these appeared on the same general wave.

Needless to say, in terms of national scale, both of the confronting parties of the New Left were but a small minority. However, in the areas of welfare and education, the influence exerted by the reformist political parties in general and the Japan Communist Party in particular was quite strong. Particularly in the area of welfare services and education for people with disabilities, a communist nationwide organization composed of university researchers, teachers, people engaged in welfare and medical care, and families of people with disabilities wielded considerable influence. And in 1979, during the reforms to include special education schools into the framework of compulsory education, this camp took the side of the conservative parties that were running the government at the time, embracing essentially the same views on the issue. Most probably, this move was dictated by the idea that the reform in that form could, in fact, pass, which, was given the poor state of education for people with physical and mental disabilities at the time, a step forward. Moreover, they stressed the ideas of "overall development", that was also backed up by the belief in progress of people and society that appears in some Marxist doctrines. They argued that it is good to provide environment best suited to the needs of the individuals, where highly scientific and adequate assistance of the specialists shall help them develop their abilities to the fullest.

Others, on the other hand - including those, who had already become antagonistic to this party and organizations connected to it regarding other issues, and also people who drifted away from political disputes altogether, or people who were averse to them from the start and those indifferent to political disputes - protested against the inclusion of special education schools into the framework of compulsory education, saying that it is segregation of people with disabilities from the society of the healthy, that it is nothing but discrimination. Actually, there had already been attempts to assert the right of those with disabilities to attend regular schools for some time. One case I know myself is of a person with cerebral palsy, who in 1967 at the age of 26 demanded permission to enter an elementary school of the area he lived in, and succeeded in 1970. Later, in the period around 1971 to 1972 small groups attempting to gain admission to regular schools and regular classes started to appear all around the country. Some university professors who participated in the social reform movement described above also took part in these attempts. Also a national organization of people with disabilities called "National Disabled Liberation Movement" formed in 1976 strongly objected to the inclusion. Moreover, in 1981 after the reform was passed, a new organization called "National Liaison Committee for Inclusion of Children with Disabilities in Regular Schools" was formed and connected people attempting to enter regular schools around the country. This organization is still continuing its activities.

By the way, I entered university just around that time, in 1979, and this issue was disputed at a conference of the university student council. At the time in student councils of many universities there was still an ongoing fight for the leadership, largely between the two powers mentioned above. And that is why the issue came up as one of the bills of our conference. At the time I decided to take the side of those opposing segregation, and my position essentially has not changed since then. And for that reason my presentation is somewhat biased, which I want to add to be fair to the other side.

What has been said?

So why did I tell you all this information, information about something mainly concerning just one country, something not many people of that country knew even at the time, something many have since forgotten and even more have never known? Confrontations, especially political confrontations, are often confrontations for confrontations' sake, and these quite often exhaust themselves with time. Yet sometimes such confrontations drive arguments to their limits, uncovering the deepest roots of the problems, laying them bare in their entirety and displaying the possibilities they entail - or at least they can be interpreted in this vein.

In case of this problem, many people would probably say that arguments of both of the sides are important. In other words, they would say that it is fundamentally good when there is no segregation, and that that is something we need to strive for. At the same time it is important to raise everyone's abilities - both academic and other. For that reason, what we need is to pursue both of the endeavors, trying to find the best balance between them. And I, more or less, subscribe to this view of the matter. In essence, I have no objection to it.

However, at the same time I feel that the situation is not that simple. That is, is it really so simple to have these two important aspects coexist? And how much and for what reasons should we attach importance to one or the other? These questions are still left unanswered. And thus it seems that - having understood what the opponent said - it would also make sense to try and listen to what those who "made bold" to take the most extreme position and stick to it to the end, had to say.

A large number of books on this issue has been published in Japan since the second half of the 1970s (you can find a list with a part of them, as well as chronological tables and some other information on our website, though, regrettably, at present it is only available in Japanese). Also there is a journal "Welfare Labor Quarterly", which was launched in 1978 mainly due to the inclusion of special education schools into the framework of compulsory education and its countermovement, and it continues featuring this problem once every year. There are many bulletins and other texts published on the matter. The problem is what is being said there.

One slogan often appearing there is "Local School for Every Child". There is also abundance of the phrase "studying together". Another set of words used is kyosei and kyoiku (living together / studying together), making use of the fact that in Japanese the character for "education" and that for "togetherness" are pronounced the same. The argument given there is that a school should be seen not merely as a place to study, yet, more importantly, as one of the spaces defining our lives, and that rather than pursuing the best possible conditions for study and increasing abilities, it is more important for a child with disability to meet and live together with children without disabilities.

Also, books with such titles as Anti-development Theory (1977), Myth of Intellect (1980), "Early Diagnosis and Treatment" as a Problem(1987), and Treatment as a Fantasy (1988) are published and presented as written or compiled by psychology researchers, academic societies and medical practitioners. As adversaries of their argument these texts largely draw quotes from theories of scholars of the "supporting faction" I described above - many of whom were also the leading members of academic societies of special education or welfare services for the handicapped - subjecting them to intensely close examination and severe criticism.

And two books with the subheading "High School even for those with Zero Points!" were published in 1986 and 1989. Both were written by parents of children with disabilities. Gradually it becomes possible for people with disabilities to attend regular schools. The number of people attending elementary or junior high sections of special education schools as well as those attending ordinary elementary and junior high schools is also increasing. And this is the context, in which the demand is made for people with disabilities to have the right to attend high schools, even if they have no points in their entrance examinations. The argument here is not that this or other child can or will be able to study if appropriate support is given. The argument is that children should be allowed to go to high school, even if they cannot and will not be able to study.

Connection with Disability Studies

As far as I know, among people participating in the Society for Disability Studies and other academic societies - although some were involved in the movement more and some less, so there is definitely a difference in the strength of feeling of involvement, and also there are some among the members, who are almost completely ignorant of the facts and arguments I have described earlier - but, be it as it may, there is a large number of people who support the side proclaiming "kyosei and kyoiku". A book truly representative of this trend is a voluminous work entitled Paradigm Change in the Education of Children with Physical and Mental Disabilities: A Theoretical Step towards Integrated Education (1994) by Masatsugu Hori, who among his other duties, serves as a director of the Society.

From my point of view, disability studies both in Britain and in the U.S. - probably especially in Britain - in its evolvement was primarily closely tied to the social activism of people with disabilities, and its relationship with movements against discrimination and segregation has always been very strong. It has thus always counterpoised integration to segregation. Following this stance, it naturally opposes division of the educational space. That aside, as you probably know, there is a separate discussion and arguments regarding people with disabilities who can be viewed as a linguistic and/or cultural minority, such as those with hearing impairments, for whom special schools serve both as places of learning and also spaces important to establish and sustain the community.

The arguments here are centered on the critique of the specialists rule, demanding such schools to be run with persons with disabilities as the highest authority. Previously the activities - not only of organizations of the faction that supported inclusion mentioned above but also of other associations of people with disabilities - were mainly driven forth by the families, especially parents of those with disabilities and specialists in the fields of medicine, welfare, or education. Social activism and organizations centering on or run by the people with disabilities themselves began to appear after the 1970s. Organizations such as the National Disabled Liberation Movement mentioned above and also Aoi Shiba no Kai, which is a group of people with cerebral palsy, are some of the examples. It is worth mentioning that in the camp opposing the inclusion there was a large number of people without disabilities such as educators or doctors, but they also made sure to ask the opinion of the disabled beforehand about any issues concerning the latter.

And at the very core of both the movement by people with disabilities and disability studies lays a claim that we should not treat their problem as a problem of an individual or his or her body (naturally including the mental faculties) but that we should treat it as a social construct from start to finish. There is a commonly shared view here that in a society that attaches value to "being able", a society where being able does in fact work to the advantage to the people, life is difficult for those having "disability" - a "disabling" trait. In essence, the argument goes as follows: if one cannot do something herself, there is no sense in wasting her effort in trying to do it alone. Instead, she should use any and all means available to change the surroundings, be it reconstruction of her living environment, using the opportunities available to her or asking for help from others. And in that sense their views are closer to kyosei and kyoiku (living together / studying together) camp.

What should we question them / my personal opinion

However, the common view regarding the spaces society establishes for the purpose of education is very different. For example, Sayo Kitamura, who has taught for a long time at elementary and junior high schools, who is also actively involved in the "National Liaison Committee for Inclusion of Children with Disabilities in Regular Schools" and has written and edited many books, has once asked: if it is just for a person with visual impairment to take an examination using Braille points, why can't a person with mental disability take an examination using someone else's head to aid him? (I also quoted this episode in my book On Private Property). Of course, since the purpose of examination is to measure mental faculties of the person taking it, borrowing others' mental faculties would completely defy the purpose. Still, having answered this question, we are faced with yet another: why is it that we need to have our abilities measured in such a way, why does it lead to us being accepted or rejected, and should we be content with this state of affairs?

I believe that the existence of this long strife between two camps in Japan, camps that both in their views and claims were critical of the system, but of which one was advocating for development and education (in what they called the "right" sense of the words), while the other, though admitting the earnestness and good intentions of their opponents, remained skeptical, gives us many clues (though, as I see it, not answers) to such questions as how to conceive ability, dis-ability (as a state of not having ability), and the actions aiming at increase of such ability.

And now let me give you my very personal view of the matter. I am afraid that as the time available to me is limited, I will not be able to give you the whole story. Yet I think that I should try to at least quickly go through some of my views, omitting my grounds for holding them.

1) Our society is in fact functioning so that one benefits by being able. Consequently, one benefits by becoming able. However, there are no fundamental justifications for it.

2) It is both necessary and good for the society when one becomes able. However, if we look into the problem setting the present condition of the society stated in 1) aside, for an individual - contrary to what we tend to believe - to become able is not always or necessarily good. And, especially if we do in fact agree that it is good for an individual to become able, we need to look very carefully into at what price she become able and weigh the merits against the losses02.

3) To learn from experience (and not as a mere knowledge) that our society is made up of very diverse people is sometimes more important than learning anything else. There can be no unconditional and absolute right to choose who one studies with (and who one does not study with). And, in that sense, the argument driven forth by "kyosei and kyoiku" camp is quite reasonable.

4) A state of affairs where education and also education that is tailored to individual needs is not denied shall be established, maintained in effective state and actively promoted. Yet it shall only be promoted on the firm basis of the three points above.

However, the system called education has in certain aspects functioned as a system that blinds us to the arguments stated in 1) and 2). Moreover, those whose presence complicated the matters for the system for a misplaced reason that "it is for their own good" were kept away from the system elsewhere, which contradicts the argument stated in 3). And we at the very least should be more conscious of this fact.


01 It seems that regarding this point the situation varies by country. For example, in the U.S., the movement was started by Ed Roberts who was a student in University of California, Berkeley, and it evolved mainly in universities. In South Korea, the movement was started by people with slight polio - by the way, Ed Roberts also had polio, though his disability was quite severe - who went to universities and incorporated the arguments and methods of the student movement of the time. As for Japan, it is only after the 1980s that college-educated activists started to account for a certain part of the movement in Japan. As far as I see it, normally those with slight disabilities often try to blend in the society ruled by the majority (and often are successful) and for that reason they rarely appear at the foreground of the movements, but in South Korea people with slight disabilities took a stand at the forefront of the battle in a situation when it was difficult for those with more severe disabilities to take part in social activism on the one hand, and the student movement enjoyed large influence in the society on the other, by acquiring the force and the ideas from the general student movement of the time.

02 Refer to author's article "Is it really better when you aren't disabled? (1)" in "The Claim of Disability Studies" edited by Jun Ishikawa and Tomoaki Kuramoto, Akashi Shoten, 2002, regarding this issue.

cf. Daegu University


Translation by OKAMOTO Yura
Proofread by KATAOKA Minoru
UP:February 4, 2011@REV: 20170430
Disability Studies@ Shinya Tateiwa
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