Perhaps the largest and most pervasive issue in special education, as well as my own journey in education, is special education’s relationship to general education. Background has shown that this has never been an easy very clear cut relationship between the two. There has been a lot of giving and taking or maybe I should say pulling and pushing when it comes to educational policy, and the academic practices and services of schooling and special education by the individual educators who deliver those solutions on both sides of the isle, with this problem.
Over the last 20+ years I have been to both sides of education. I have seen and felt what it was like to become a regular main stream educator dealing with special education policy, special education students and their specialized instructors. I have also been on the special training side trying to get regular education instructors to work more effectively with my unique education students through modifying their particular instruction and materials and possessing a little more patience and empathy.
Furthermore, I have been a mainstream regular education and learning teacher who taught regular education and learning inclusion classes trying to figure out how to best work with some new special education teacher in my class and his or her special education students too. And, in contrast, I have been a special education inclusion teacher intruding on the area of some regular education instructors with my special education students and the modifications I thought these teachers should implement. I can tell you first-hand that none of this give and take between special education and regular education has been easy. Nor should i see this pushing and tugging becoming easy anytime soon.
So , what is special education? And what makes it so special and yet so complex and controversial sometimes? Well, special training, as its name suggests, is a specific branch of education. It claims its lineage to such people as Jean-Marc-Gaspard Itard (1775-1838), problems who “tamed” the “wild young man of Aveyron, ” and Anne Sullivan Macy (1866-1936), the teacher who “worked miracles” with Helen Keller.
Special educators teach learners who have physical, cognitive, language, understanding, sensory, and/or emotional abilities that will deviate from those of the general populace. Special educators provide instruction particularly tailored to meet individualized needs. These teachers basically make education a lot more available and accessible to learners who otherwise would have limited entry to education due to whatever disability they may be struggling with.
It’s not just the teachers even though who play a role in the history of particular education in this country. Physicians and clergy, including Itard- mentioned above, Edouard O. Seguin (1812-1880), Samuel Gridley Howe (1801-1876), and Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet (1787-1851), wanted to ameliorate the neglectful, often abusive treatment of people with disabilities. Sadly, education in this nation was, more often than not, very neglectful plus abusive when dealing with students that are different somehow.
There is even a wealthy literature in our nation that identifies the treatment provided to individuals with afflictions in the 1800s and early 1900s. Sadly, in these stories, as well as within the real world, the segment of our inhabitants with disabilities were often limited in jails and almshouses without having decent food, clothing, personal cleanliness, and exercise.
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For an example of this particular different treatment in our literature one needs to look no further than Tiny Tim in Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol (1843). In addition , many times people with disabilities were often portrayed since villains, such as in the book Captain Hook in J. M. Barrie’s “Peter Pan” in 1911.
The prevailing view of the authors of this period of time was that one should submit to misfortunes, both as a form of obedience to God’s will, and because these appearing misfortunes are ultimately intended for a person’s own good. Progress for our individuals with disabilities was hard to come by at this time with this particular way of thinking permeating our society, books and thinking.
So , what was culture to do about these people of misfortune? Well, during much of the 19th century, and early in the twentieth, professionals believed individuals with disabilities were best treated in residential amenities in rural environments. An out of sight out of mind kind of thing, in case you will…
However , by the end of the nineteenth century the size of these institutions experienced increased so dramatically that the goal of rehabilitation for people with disabilities simply wasn’t working. Institutions became musical instruments for permanent segregation.
I have several experience with these segregation policies of education. Some of it is good plus some of it is not so good. You see, I have been a self-contained teacher on and off throughout the years in multiple environments within self-contained classrooms in public high universities, middle schools and elementary colleges. I have also taught in several special education behavioral self-contained universities that totally separated these bothered students with disabilities in handling their behavior from their mainstream peers by putting them in completely different buildings that were sometimes even in different towns from their homes, friends plus peers.
Over the years many special education and learning professionals became critics of these establishments mentioned above that separated and segregated our children with disabilities from their colleagues. Irvine Howe was one of the first in order to advocate taking our youth out of these huge institutions and to place out residents into families. Unfortunately this practice became a logistical and pragmatic problem and it had taken a long time before it could become a viable alternative to institutionalization for our students along with disabilities.
Now on the positive aspect, you might be interested in knowing however that in 1817 the first special education and learning school in the United States, the American Asylum for the Education and Instruction of the Deaf and Dumb (now called the American School for the Deaf), has been established in Hartford, Connecticut, simply by Gallaudet. That school is still there nowadays and is one of the top schools in the land for students with auditory disabilities. A true success story!
However , as you can already imagine, the lasting success of the American School for the Deaf was the exception and not the rule during this time period. And to add to this, in the late nineteenth century, social Darwinism replaced environmentalism as the primary causal explanation for those individuals with disabilities who else deviated from those of the general human population.
Sadly, Darwinism opened the door towards the eugenics movement of the early twentieth century. This then led to even further segregation and even sterilization of individuals with disabilities such as mental retardation. Sounds like something Hitler was doing in Germany also being done here in our own country, to our own people, by our own people. Type of scary and inhumane, wouldn’t you agree?
Today, this kind of treatment is actually unacceptable. And in the early part of the 20th Century it was also unacceptable to some of the adults, especially the parents of such disabled children. Thus, concerned plus angry parents formed advocacy organizations to help bring the educational needs of children with disabilities into the public vision. The public had to see firsthand how wrong this eugenics plus sterilization movement was for our students that were different if it was ever going to be stopped.
Slowly, grassroots organizations made progress that even led to some states creating laws to protect their citizens with afflictions. For example , in 1930, in Peoria, Illinois, the first white cane ordinance gave individuals with blindness the right-of-way when crossing the street. This was a start, and other states did eventually follow suit. In time, this local grassroots’ movement and states’ motion led to enough pressure on our selected officials for something to be accomplished on the national level for our people with disabilities.
In 1961, President John F. Kennedy created the President’s Panel on Mental Retardation. And in 1965, Lyndon B. Johnson authorized the Elementary and Secondary Education and learning Act, which provided funding regarding primary education, and is seen by advocacy groups as expanding access to public education for children along with disabilities.
When one thinks about Kennedy’s and Johnson’s record on municipal rights, then it probably isn’t this kind of surprise finding out that these two presidents also spearheaded this national movement for our people with disabilities.
This federal movement led to section 504 from the 1973 Rehabilitation Act. This guarantees civil rights for the disabled within the context of federally funded institutions or any program or activity getting Federal financial assistance. All these years later as an educator, I personally cope with 504 cases every single day.
In 1975 Congress enacted Public Law 94-142, the Education for All Handicapped Children Take action (EHA), which establishes a right to public education for all children irrespective of disability. This was another good thing mainly because prior to federal legislation, parents had to mostly educate their children at home or pay for expensive private education.
The movement kept growing. In the 1982 the case of the Board of Education of the Hendrick Hudson Central College District v. Rowley, the Oughout. S. Supreme Court clarified the level of services to be afforded students along with special needs. The Court ruled that special education services need only provide some “educational benefit” in order to students. Public schools were not necessary to maximize the educational progress associated with students with disabilities.
Today, this ruling may not seem like a victory, and as a matter of fact, this same question is once again circulating through the courts today in 2017. Nevertheless , given the time period it was made in, it was a victory because it said specific education students could not pass through the school system without learning everything. They had to learn something. If 1 knows and understands how the laws work in this country, then one knows the laws always progress by means of tiny little increments that add up to progress over time. This ruling was obviously a victory for special education learners because it added one more rung on to the crusade.
In the 1980s the standard Education Initiative (REI) came into being. It was an attempt to return responsibility for the schooling of students with disabilities to neighborhood schools and regular classroom teachers. I am very familiar with Normal Education Initiative because I invested four years as an REI teacher in the late 1990s and earlier 2000s. At this time I was certified as both a special education teacher plus a regular education teacher and has been working in both capacities in a duel role as an REI teacher; because that’s what was required of the position.
The 1990s saw a big enhance for our special education students. 1990 birthed the Individuals with Disabilities Education and learning Act (IDEA). This was, and is, the cornerstone of the concept of a free plus appropriate public education (FAPE) for many of our students. To ensure FAPE, the law mandated that each student receiving special education services must also receive an Individualized Education Program (IEP).
The Americans with Disabilities Act associated with 1990 reached beyond just the open public schools. And Title 3 associated with IDEA prohibited disability-based discrimination in different place of public accommodation. Full plus equal enjoyment of the goods, providers, facilities, or accommodations in public places had been expected. And of course public accommodations also included most places of schooling.
Also, in the 1990s the full addition movement gained a lot of momentum. This particular called for educating all students along with disabilities in the regular classroom. I am also very familiar with this aspect of training as well, as I have also been an inclusion teacher from time to time over my career as an educator on both sides of the isle as a regular education teacher and a special education teacher.
Today on to President Bush and his academic reform with his No Child Left Behind law that replaced President Johnson’s Elementary and Secondary Education Action (ESEA). The NCLB Act of 2001 stated that special education should continue to focus on producing results and along with this came a sharp increase in accountability for educators.
Now, this particular NCLB Act was good and bad. Of course we all want to see results for all of our students, and it’s just common sense that accountability helps this sort of thing occur. Where this kind of went crazy is that the NCLB demanded a host of new pleasures, but did not provide the funds or support to achieve these new goals.
Furthermore, teachers began feeling compressed and threatened more and more by the new movement of big business plus corporate education moving in and taking over education. People with no educational history now found themselves influencing training policy and gaining access to a lot of the educational funds.
This accountability craze stemmed by excessive standardized tests ran rapid and of course ran downstream from a host of well-connected elite Trump-like figures saying to their decrease echelon educational counterparts, “You’re fired! ” This environment of trying to stay off of the radar in order to keep a person’s job, and beating our kids within the head with testing strategies, wasn’t good for our educators. It wasn’t good for our students. And it certainly wasn’t good for our more susceptible special education students.
Some good did come from this era though. For instance , the updated Individuals with Disabilities with Education Act of 2004 (IDEA) happened. This further required schools to supply individualized or special education to get children with qualifying disabilities. Under the IDEA, states who accept open public funds for education must supply special education to qualifying children with disabilities. Like I stated earlier, the law is a long slower process of tiny little steps accumulated to progress made over time.
Finally, within 2015 President Obama’s Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) replaced President Bush’s NCLB, which had changed President Johnson’s ESEA. Under Obama’s new ESSA schools were today allowed to back off on some of the screening. Hopefully, the standardized testing craze has been put in check. However , only time will tell. ESSA also returned to more local manage. You know, the kind of control our forefathers intended.