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This article advances the argument that special education is expanding as part of a restructuring of the education-training system to deal with large numbers of young people who are now defined as unable or unwilling to participate in normal education. The expansion is occurring as attempts are made to change education to fit the perceived needs of a technologically-based society in which a large social group will be partially or permanently unemployed. Evidence for expansion is examined, professional interests in an expanding clientele are noted, and the dilemmas inherent in comprehensive schooling and a disappearing youth labour market are discussed. The concept of special needs is thought to have become an ideological rationalisation which obfuscates the educational, political and economic needs actually served by the expansion.
Oxford Review of Education © 1985 Taylor & Francis, Ltd.