Modern and postmodern versions of hope as they apply to services for persons labeled as having mental retardation were examined. Proponents of modernism construct hope as relying on an ever-improving science to accurately comprehend mental retardation and other disabilities and the effectiveness of professional interventions. This myth of scientific progress is traced in various forms through American intellectual history to the development of special education as interventionist social science. Advocates of postmodernism cast doubt upon the grand narrative of modernism and critique modern social science as perpetuating stigmatized “mentally retarded” identities through the exercise of power. A rhetorical analysis of the current controversy over facilitated communication demonstrates the utilization of the language of modern science for its power effects in special education discourse.

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