Legitimation by affliction

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Transcending and overshadowing all forms of knowledge in the political process is a kind of knowledge we call “moral knowledge”.

“We are having many talks with the teachers´ associations, we are in permanent contact with the association of special needs teachers, also in permanent contact with the parents. The third level is that of personal experience, when you know someone from your circle of acquaintances or your governmental district, then, of course, this is a personal experience not at all insignificant, because this is a very personal story, when you have somebody in your family with a disabled child, then it is a very personal issue. That leaves an impression on you, when you see that not everything is going the way it should be” (I11: 88-93).

This criterion of personal experience or affliction obviously can include very different knowledge elements ranging from professional competence to subjective and singular experiences. In contrast to scientific policy advice, such a “symbolic representation” based on the reflection of the “professional or social attributes of a certain population group” creates an aura of legitimacy which, “however, is neither founded on rational knowledge nor on representation of interests with regards to content” (Brown & al., 2006, 31), yet this claim to knowledge from a “normative status” might suffice to be heard as a legitimate speaker for a certain topic. But personal experience is only one way to create such a “normative status” to make believable knowledge claims. Transcending and overshadowing all forms of knowledge in the political process is a kind of knowledge we call “moral knowledge”. By the seemingly intransparent terminology of „moral knowledge” we mean something not at all that obscure, when we remind ourselves of how we understand knowledge in this context: it represents a fixed and - until further notice - unquestionable coordinate from which further (communicative) action can start off. There are few if no other social elements of knowledge as commonly accepted and effective in this function as moral knowledge is. There is no knowledge whose political usability cannot be negated or neutralized when it is considered immoral, just as there is no knowledge that does not gain a bigger political weight if it is considered the „right thing to do” by moral standards. Moral knowledge is obviously not delivered by scientists or experts, nor is it ever „new” or topic-specific knowledge, but it is nonetheless mobilised frequently and to be taken into consideration when making political decisions that attract great public attention and are supposed to achieve acceptance. Moral knowledge is sometimes readily combined with self-stylizations from the respective party-programme, e.g as a "democratic” or "social” etc. party, but just as often can eradiate a believability and importance of its own.

"So, as long as we don´t dissolve this `equality of learning goals´ and say: `listen, we don´t get anything from giving this child D´s and F´s as grades...´ [I1: But doesn´t the Law order the teachers to do this?] Yes, but one has to try and create an equal situation, you know, integration doesn´t mean just to squeeze a child in somewhere, integration means to take equals seriously and being equal to others in the limits of one´s own possibilities. That means, if nineteen children get grades, and one doesn´t, what do you think how that one child feels? Like a leper, not of the same value, this is shaming, and nothing more” (I9: 186-195).

While the opposition parties obviously apply moral knowledge elements that favour equality and integration, the majority party CSU cannot afford the lack of making moral claims of their own, representing the continuation of separated special needs and general schools as a means to secure individual assistance and as a “protection zone” for the special needs children from often harsh social situations and high demands in general schools.

"[..] To simply send a child in there and say: `Break a leg´ [laughs], that´s too little. The disabled children are supposed to get something out of this, and in this age spectrum, where it sometimes gets really ugly, when the children are entering puberty, that´s when children can be unbelievably cruel, you know, that´s not the love ideal of Walt Disney, that´s pretty harsh what the children are doing to each other then. [..] So, these were the considerations, and we said: `We cannot allow everything, the final decision [about the choice of school] cannot be with the parents. That´s not so easy to tell the concerned parents, that´s hard“ (I20: 861-870).

These moral claims allow the speaker to justify or criticise all kinds of derivations made from them. They are a resource to morally “charge” or transform pieces of mere information or subjective experience into plausible, common and relevant knowledge, i.e. a fixed coordinate for further action instead of just blurry feelings or singular events. The knowledge produced hereby is not to be underestimated in its effect, as its generality supports its impact in fractional or parliamentary debates, as well as in explanatory and legitimatory communications with the public and, maybe not even least, in the conviction and fervour of the decision-maker him- or herself while pursuing the political goal.

NASSEHI A., VON DER HAGEN-DEMSZKY A. & MAYR K. (2009), The Amendment of the Bavarian Education Law in 2003: A Long Way towards Inclusion, Report, 19.

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