Journal of Critical Issues in Educational Practice


panopticon, special education, California, governmentality, monitoring, surveillance


Special education laws in California function to create compliance by creating an environment of constant surveillance and monitoring from a range of perspectives. Even those who do the monitoring are themselves subject to this surveillance. This process is explained with reference to Bentham’s design of the panopticon and analyzed in relation to Foucault’s concept of governmentality. The intent here is to show how professionals’ and laypersons’ actions are governed by seeking to avoid being seen to behave incorrectly or getting caught behaving inappropriately. The governing of people’s lives is thus dispersed through professional decision-making and reporting. The intent of this article is not to single out the monitoring of special education laws for negative criticism. It is, however, the intent to open up a field of study as illustration of how governmentality functions throughout society.

Author Statement

Gail Angus graduated from the EdD program at California State University San Bernardino. She currently works at Collaborative Learning Solutions.

John Winslade is a professor in the Department of Special Education, Rehabilitation and Counseling at California State University San Bernardino.