Thursday, April 26, 2012

Devil's Advocate: Separate But Equal: Mainstreaming

This is Mom's Devil's Advocate paper referenced in her 1994 class paper proposal. It's interesting because the requirement of the paper is to take the opposite position of a topic that was very important to Mom. 

I'm not sure if it was intentional or not, but a tip off to Mom's heart not being in this opposite position is her title, "Separate But Equal," a title that itself has some pretty bad connotations.

The photo is of Mom's 6th grade class, in her hometown school. Mom appears to be circled, second row up, far right.

Disabled children have their special schools. They have their special teachers who are trained to work with them. These special teachers are educated in all facets of working with disabled students. Most of these students wouldn't be able to survive in 'real' school. So what is the big problem? What is this Mainstreaming anyway?

Mainstreaming began with the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, commonly referred to as Section 504; but it wasn't until 1977 that it became a common practice in the Iowa City School District as a means to place a disabled student in a regular classroom. Most of these students are able to manage in this classroom setting, with minimal assistance from others. Full mainstreaming, or inclusion, means that all disabled students are placed in the classroom and a special education teacher will stop into the classroom and attend to the child's needs. The goal is to place these children in the Least Restrictive Environment, or LRE.

According to Albert Shanker, President of the American Federation of Teachers, "Inclusion is Ideology. As a result of this LRE, there are a lot of "medically fragile" children being placed in these classrooms with little or no training in the care of any of these types of disabilities. Just one of these students could use one-on-one care and attention. Then what happens to the rest of the class? How much do they lose from the teacher's attention? Now, given the scenario of a severe behavior problem child, how do you handle the child who kicks and scratches the other children? Or a child who moans or cries all during the class. How much education are they getting? How much education are the other children getting? Unless there is someone in the classroom all the time for that student, that teacher cannot fulfill her duty to the other students.

"Schools are to be performing three basic functions," according to Mr. Shanker, "which are: imparting knowledge and skills; preparing students for the working world; and helping them become good citizens and develop socially. Those demanding full inclusion are only interested in socialization." This is not why taxpayers support the schools. Do you really want the subject your child to this kind of education?

The experts say that the disabled child will perform his/her maximum when they are able to copy for a normal child. Isn't the reverse also true that if the normal child is around the disabled child, will they not copy a little retarded, or worse yet, imitate the child unwittingly or cruelly intentionally.

The 'real' school has stairs and long hallways. They have books to carry and tests to study for. In order for the disabled student to survive in this environment, there has to be some changes made - some very expensive changes. Maybe this is a case of only the strong will survive.

Who should foot the bill for all these changes, and why should we subject our children to this? They have to sit side by side with this disabled student, some of them very severely disabled. Why should we slow down the progress of the rest of the class because of one slow student.

Let's take a look at how expensive this could be. We have a school building built in the sixties. There are two stories. Water fountains are high, restrooms are small in order to accommodate many stalls. Children, even small children in grade schools, must move from room to room between classes. By law, everyone must attend Physical Education class of some sort.

Now, you have a child in a wheelchair - A very bright child. By following her brothers and sisters she has already learned to read. It would be much better for you to send the child to a special school. There, she could get all the individual help she needs. There are therapists there who can aid in your child's physical development. She won't be embarrassed to run her wheelchair down the hall as there will be lots of kids there who are "different."

Federal Law, The Americans With Disabilities Act, effective in 1992, now, that all public buildings, including schools, must accommodate these children. Here is a price tag on just some remodeling that has to be done to the existing building. An elevator would have to be installed. This could cost somewhere between 20 and 50 thousand dollars. The water fountains, telephone booths will need to be lowered. This cost would vary with the institution. If the school is very old, the doorways may need to be widened, both to the classrooms and to the restrooms. The restrooms themselves will need a total remodeling job. Many of them have real small stalls to make room for as many stalls as possible. Now there will have to be at least one big one with a railing grab bar. The sinks will need some attention, along with the paper towel racks, etc. The list goes on.

If the child is severely disabled, an attendant will need to be hired by the school district to aid this child. The teacher, however, will still be the central figure in this. Many of the teachers are not equipped educationally for this type of student, much less be able to handle the other students in relationship to the severely disabled child. These teachers are still from the era when these types of children were hidden so they are not emotionally able to help.

The advantages to keeping the severely disabled separate but equal are many. The children will be able to learn at their own pace, with all the special equipment they need. As a result, they will not slow down the learning of the other students. It is really hard for the normal student to relate to the severely disabled student. They feel uncomfortable and do not know what to say or do to that student. The disabled student also feels this uncomfortableness and doesn't know how to handle it. All the expense is centered on one area. One classroom which can be located on the ground level and with one bathroom. If the cafeteria is out of reach, then the meals can be brought in. All very compact. Then all that money can be used on other things.

In summary, we need more data before full inclusion is forced to be adopted everywhere.

Connie, Feb. 20, 1994

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