Studies in Philosophy and Education

, Volume 37, Issue 3, pp 265–285 | Cite as

The Logic of Deferral: Educational Aims and Intellectual Disability

  • Ashley Taylor


The educational aims described by educational philosophers rarely embrace the full range of differences in intellectual ability, adaptive behavior, or communication that children exhibit. Because envisioned educational aims have significant consequences for how educational practices, pedagogy, and curricula are conceptualized, the failure to acknowledge and embrace differences in ability leaves open the question of the extent to which students with intellectual disabilities are subject to the same aims as their “typically-developing” peers. In articulating and defending valued aims of education, educational philosophers tacitly or expressly concede that particular aims will be ill suited to many children with intellectual disabilities, and that separate aims will therefore apply to them. This paper evaluates the philosophical reasoning behind this conclusion that some people, by necessity, must be governed by separate educational aims, to be decided separately and secondarily. The author calls this the “deferral stance.” First, the paper outlines concerns about a particular ability-biased social and epistemic context in which theorizing about educational aims takes place. The author then examines assumptions that underpin the logic of deferral, arguing that the logic proves flawed when subjected to conceptual and empirical scrutiny. The paper concludes by outlining an inclusive approach—the affirmative stance—to theorizing about educational aims that resists the logic of exclusion and deferral.


Educational aims Intellectual disability Educational equality Epistemic justice Inclusive education 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Colgate UniversityHamiltonUSA

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