Special educational needs: A public issue
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This article explores the contribution of sociological scholarship to understanding and analysing the notions of 'special educational needs' and 'disability' and the ways in which the two notions have been reconfigured and theorised as 'public issues' rather than 'personal troubles'. Barton's contribution is signified both in terms of his contribution to the evolution of the 'sociological imagination' - as a powerful theoretical tool for unravelling the highly political and contested nature of disability and special educational needs - and also in terms of his analysis of the emergence and development of sociological theorising in the field. The parochial obsession with deficit and medical-oriented approaches to dealing with 'difference' and 'need' have been significantly challenged through the 'sociological imagination' aimed at pointing up the highly political and complex nature of disability and 'special educational needs'. Times have changed and sociological theorising has evolved, but presumed 'personal troubles' are still not unequivocally conceptualised as being intertwined with, resting upon and emanating from 'public issues' embedded in the social, cultural and political edifice of educational, social and national communities. The 'sociological imagination' should be constantly invoked and deployed in order to expose and challenge the sophisticated ways in which individual pathology accounts and special educational imperatives re-invent themselves through more inclusive linguistic veneers.