Fewer subjects in education evoke more discussion, confusion, or apprehension than the topic of inclusion. What is inclusion What effects will inclusion have on the classroom What is the impact on teachers More importantly, are we as a nation prepared to face the challenge brought about with inclusion These are only a few of the areas that we will explore as I attempt to unravel the issues surrounding inclusion. The true essences of inclusion is based on the premise that all individuals with disabilities have a right to be included in naturally occurring settings and activities with their neighborhood peers, siblings, and friends. Moreover, supporters of inclusion believe that the heart of inclusion refers to the commitment to educate a child, to the maximum extent appropriate, in the school that the child with the disability attends. It is believed that the child will benefit from being in the classroom with normal, if you will, students. (Education World, 2000) One of the strongest arguments for inclusion has a philosophical, moral and ethical base.
This country was founded upon the ideals of freedom and equality of opportunity. Although the idea of freedom and equality for all have not yet been fully realized, we as a society are constantly struggling to achieve it for all, disabled children included. Proponents of inclusion argue that labeling and segregating a student is indeed an injustice that will affect the student for years to come. Supporters of inclusion would rather that we admit that all students have strengths and weaknesses that vary from student to student.
By making such an admission we no longer view those with disabilities as distinctively different but as students who need to strengthen some areas as it relates to education. (ERIC 1998) On the other hand, opponents of inclusion argue that special education programs are designed to meet the needs of students who need special help. Such programs are not designed to segregate or deny any student of their basic freedom of equality. In essence, it seems that we are taking steps backwards. Special education programs emerged because of the non-adaptability of regular classrooms. Very little if anything has happened to change the setting or adaptability of todays classroom; therefore, why are we to believe that children will now benefit from inclusion.
(AFT, 1996) Special education classrooms are designed and equipped to handle the diversified needs of disabled students. Teachers are trained to teach those with special needs. Public Law 142-92 comes at a time in which the educational system is already fragile. Reports such as A Nation at Risk call for raising the standards of education with in the American schools.
Opponents of inclusion argue that the school system can not handle the additional burden of educating special needs students in the classroom. (AFT, 1994) A poll conducted by the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) in West Virginia revealed that 78 percent of respondents think disabled students wont benefit from inclusion; 87 percent said other students will not benefit either. Citing numerous concerns expressed by many of its national membership, the AFT has urged a moratorium on the national rush towards full inclusion. Among the concerns is the time factor involved in educating special needs students. Furthermore, depending upon the disability, the classroom could become a hostile environment for all of the students. The report goes on to cast a suspicion that school administrative motives for pushing for inclusion is influenced by finances rather than what is best for the students.
Including all students in a regular classroom would cut the cost associated with special education by eliminating special equipment, materials, classrooms and additional personnel. (AFT 1994) Supporters argue that while it might appear to save money by lumping all of the students together, if the program is properly implemented there will be little if any financial benefit as a result of inclusion. Additionally, for inclusion to work a commitment must be made to move the needed services to the student rather than to place the child in a segregated setting. An inclusive education program would allow time weekly and in some cases daily for regular and special educators to concur. Special educators will become consultants as well as teachers. The regular classroom teacher would ultimately be held accountable for the successes and or failures of the student with special needs.
(Education World, 2000) Opponents would argue how could we hold a regular classroom teacher accountable for needs that are outside of (his or) her area of expertise. Furthermore, the idea that students will embrace and want to become peer buddies with special need students is simply an assumption with little if any research to support it. Students are very unpredictable. Teachers, parents and special needs students all have concerns with the emotional impact of inclusion. They are cautious because of the fears of mockery or ridicule by the other students. (ERIC, 1998) Nevertheless, it is believed that teachers who have low-ability students have lower expectation for the entire class.
Furthermore, the segregated programs tend to be watered down and lack individualized plans. Whereas, special education teachers have higher expectations for the students as well as special curriculum that is appropriate for special need students. The fact is, individualization is more likely to take place in a small setting than in the regular classrooms. In essence, inclusion could delay the educational progress of the whole class. (AFT 1994) Labels within themselves are not negative when properly applied. It is only as we realize a students educational level, that we can provide services to benefit the student.
Special education advocates contend that some educational programming in regular classrooms is totally inappropriate for some special needs students. Therefore, the programs would have to be watered down in order to meet the needs of the special needs child. In this case, the needs of the normal students will be neglected. Inclusion does not seem to make sense in light of the call for higher academic achievement for all students says William Tortilla, President of the Florida Education Association United. (ERIC, 1998) A call for inclusion comes at a time in which we are testing more, not less. We are holding teachers accountable and implementing curriculum that leaves little room in some case for manipulation.
Presently the barrage of competency test, achievement test and so forth seems to be overwhelming even the most flexible teacher. Tornillio goes on to argue, teachers are required to direct inordinate attention to a few, thereby decreasing the amount of time and energy directed toward the rest of the class. Indeed the range of abilities is just too great for one teacher to adequately teach. Consequently, the mandates for greater academic accountability and achievement are unable to be met. (Education World, 2000) Proponents argue that teachers can overcome the burden of inclusion by using team teaching, mastery learning, assessing learning styles and other individualized and adaptive learning approaches. These are tools that are not limited to the special need teachers, but are good practices to be exercised by all teachers.
For inclusion to work, educational practices must be child-centered. Teachers will have to find where each student is academically, socially, culturally and determine how best to facilitate learning. Long gone are the days where the teacher can just learn a childs name, medical condition and a few limiting factors for that child. Instead, we expect the teacher to be a sort of 2 nd parent who knows everything about the student. (ERIC, 1998) In conclusion, those against inclusion would not argue that the present special education program is problematic to say the least; however, regular classrooms are presently fighting their own battles.
The main concern on all sides of the argument should be what is best for all of the students, special needs and normal students alike. We can not afford to view inclusion as a simple reconfiguration of special education services. Inclusion would involve a complete overhaul of the entire education system at its core level where our frontline teachers are already struggling. The relationship with special educators, regular classroom teachers, parents and students will change significantly. Learning will indeed need to be individualized to meet the needs of all students.
Personally, I do not believe that we are prepared for the challenge of integrating all students. The educational and social benefits expected to be obtained from inclusion are amicable but unrealistic. Presently, children with glasses, short hair and or suffer from obesity are ridiculed. I am not sure if a student with a severe disability could handle the additional emotional pressure associated with a regular classroom setting.
The worlds educational system is the yardstick that many use to evaluate the quality of Americas schools. If we are to proceed with inclusion, I suggest the proponents of it find a nation that has implemented inclusion successfully and study their lessons learned to prevent us from making the same mistakes. Our childrens future depend on us getting it right the first time. Lets not produce a generation of young adults that will not be able to compete in this global high-tech society. As educators, we have a responsibility to educate all students. The means of achieving this goal can be reached through several different avenues.
However, at this time, we are struggling to stabilize as well as raise the standards of education as a whole. I believe that the special education system needs to be changed in order to become stronger and meet the challenge of educating those with special needs; but should not be demolished in order to implement inclusion. If a house requires a major renovation, it is not necessary to level every wall. web American Federation of Teachers, AFLCIO - 555 New Jersey Avenue, NW - Washington, DC 20001 Copyright by the American Federation of Teachers, AFLCIO. All rights reserved. Photographs and illustrations, as well as text, cannot be used without permission from the AFT.
Resolution on Inclusion of Students with Disabilities AFT: About AFT: Resolutions: Inclusion of Students with Disabilities AFT Home > About AFT A Proud Tradition A Diverse Union of Workers An Innovative Union A Commitment to Quality An Issues-Driven Union A Tradition of Social Justice AFT... web - size 16. 2 K Inclusion Can Hurt Everyone by AFT President Albert Shanker April 21, 1996 web American Federation of Teachers, AFLCIO - 555 New Jersey Ave, NW - Washington, DC 20001 Copyright by the American Federation of Teachers, AFLCIO. All rights reserved. Photographs and illustrations, as well as text, cannot be used without permission from the AFT.
AFT: Where We Stand: April 21, 1996: Inclusion Can Hurt Everyone AFT Home > Where We Stand 1999 1998 1997 1996 1995 1994 1993 Inclusion Can Hurt Everyone by AFT President Albert Shanker April 21, 1996 Today's guest columnist is Romy Willie, an... web - size 11. 3 K.