Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Education, Segregation, Isolation

Stick figure illustration of person with graduation cap sitting on top of a stack of books
Mike Krings, KU News Service, The University of Kansas - February 10, 2015

Well, bravo. Seriously. Its rare to see such an unequivocal statement in favor of inclusion.

Im not knowledgeable enough to comment on the details of what these professors are proposing. I do want to note a few things:

- Its great to see full inclusion strongly endorsed without the usual caveats and reservations.

- It blew my mind a little seeing the Education of All Handicapped Children Act of 1975, (now called the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act or IDEA), described as a law to segregate kids with disabilities, as if that was its purpose. I always understood the law to have been intended to provide education to kids with disabilities that previously had no legal guarantee of it in any form. I think what they are saying here is that the law ended up increasing segregation by turning education of disabled kids into a speciality.

- Calling Special Education “a place rather than a system of supports is spot-on. That is what it has been for decades. Most schools it still treat Special Education that way. 

- Its a broken record in the disability activist community, but bears repeating … How can we still be talking about inclusion as if it’s a new idea we might, maybe be ready for, when it has been a core principle of federal Special Education law since at least the early 90’s? 

- Reading "Special Needs Parent" blogs, Im worried that segregation may be coming back into style among parents of kids with disabilities. It used to be the more apathetic or intimidated families that went along with keeping disabled kids in separate classrooms. Now we have a lot more parents choosing either homeschooling or private schools specializing in disabled kids. It seems like a rejection of public schools, and a vote of no-confidence for Special Education. Yet, the results tend to be just as segregated and isolating as Special Ed at its worst.

- Broadly speaking, I think public education in the U.S. is unfairly maligned. However, Special Education does seem to be a very special” subculture within public education, where there are plenty of great people entangled in an outdated, bureaucratized system that is defensive and resistant to change. Special Education is in reality what all of education sometimes appears to be.