How Many Learning Disabled Are There? The Rhetorical Power of Statistics in the Is-raeli Discourse on Learning Disabilities


The intention of this article is to problematize the current understanding of learning disabilities by scrutinizing the historical and social context in which they are embedded. The first part of the article lays out theoretical assertions from various fields: sociology of knowledge, rhetoric of science, rhetoric of statistics and historical critical discourse analysis. Integrating these constructionist approaches and through a short historical presentation of the evolution of the discourse and the various critiques that are developed from it, the article reveals the obscurity that surrounds the concept of learning disabilities. In the second part, the article examines one important idiom which forms the basis for the Israeli disabilities discourse: the statistical one which deals with the percentage of disabled persons in the population. Through an analysis of major texts of the Israeli disabilities field and interviews with professionals, it becomes clear how central statistical assertions are shaped into “scientific facts”, even when their scientific foundations are quite shaky. The article’s aim is to contribute to the development of a more complex disabilities discourse by uncovering its social, historical and cultural contexts. Another aim is to raise awareness to possible uses of statistical knowledge as a discursive and rhetorical tool.

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Katchergin, O. (2015) How Many Learning Disabled Are There? The Rhetorical Power of Statistics in the Is-raeli Discourse on Learning Disabilities. Open Journal of Social Sciences, 3, 155-166. doi: 10.4236/jss.2015.39022.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


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