Sunday, 19 February 2012

Inclusion Watering Down Our Education System??

Water
From Flickr By I.F.R-72

So I am reading minutes from a teacher meeting this past week and what to my astonishment did I read? I read an entire section on Inclusion. At first I was excited to think that teachers were collaborating to think of ideas to help include students with exceptionalities in their classrooms. I mean, what better time to share ideas about what works and what doesn't work and to brainstorm better ways to include our young students. However, after a brief read I was to be very disappointed. . .
There were no ideas about inclusion, but instead many reasons listed why it won't really work or isn't working
1. teachers want more educational assistants to "deal" with these students because they just don't have the time.
2. there just isn't enough money for "stuff" to keep "these students" busy.
and finally, the topping on the cake. . .
3. Inclusion is watering down the education of the other students.

I almost threw up my lunch reading this. To have these words spoken in our building and to actually feel so bold as to record them and turn them in to the principal. I have not been able to get this off my mind.

I wonder if they could say these words to the parents of these children? Are they so arrogant to believe that only the children who fit their definition of "normal" should be in the classroom?

Gordon L Porter
writes,
What is inclusive education? Inclusive education means, simply, that all students, including those with disabilities and other special needs, are educated in regular classrooms with their age peers in their community schools. Students with disabilities go to the same schools as their brothers and sisters, are provided with access to the same learning opportunities as other children, and are engaged in
both the academic and social activities of the classroom. In inclusive schools, support is directed to both the students and their teachers so they can accomplish relevant individual goals. When this movement started, the word most commonly used was “integration”, but for many, integration implied a less bold vision, limited to the presence of the child in the classroom. Today we understand inclusion to be about how we create environments in which all students can be successful, regardless of ability. Why is this a critical and controversial issue?
It’s an issue because it takes serious effort to change the status quo. Until fifty years ago, education was considered a privilege for the few and for those who learned easily. Many Canadian children failed to benefit from public education, and children with disabilities benefited even less than most. We developed segregated special education programs to address this gap. In some provinces, these programs were very large and well funded, and they became accepted as the way to do things. The demand to include all children in regular schools and classrooms developed in the early 1980s. In Canada, this push for reform was supported by the equality provisions of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which came into force in 1985. Since then the push for integration, and later inclusion, has become an on-going element of educational politics in Canada. The controversy is fueled in part by a strong feeling among both the public and educators that students with some types of disabilities will not benefit from what happens in a regular classroom, particularly in the higher grades where differences in student ability become more
noticeable. This belief is partly caused by a lack of understanding about inclusive education and the ways in which students with varying abilities can be successfully taught in the same environment. It may also reflect the inherent belief – indeed the fear – that inclusion will water down or weaken overall educational outcomes We also need to acknowledge that there is still some devaluing of people with disabilities (particularly cognitive disabilities).

As a society, we still believe that people with special needs are to be pitied because their lives are not "normal." Educators still use the term "normal" or "handicapped" when describing the different students in the classroom.

When discussing traditional special education, the Nevada Partnership for Inclusive Education writes:
Why isn’t inclusive education the norm in our schools?
Many years ago, special classes were created for students with special needs. Special educators felt that if they could just teach these students separately, in smaller groups, they could help them to catch up. However, the reality is that students in segregated special education classes have fallen further and further behind. Over time, we have learned that inclusive education is a better way to help all students succeed.

Scream - Day 29, Year 2
From Flickr by purplemattfish

How to get this message across to all staff? I thought we had had so many discussions around inclusion in our building? I am saddened and angered by these words. I do know that some of my staff have embraced all students as valued in the class and I hope that this message will spill over to other classrooms where the climate for students with significant needs is chilly to say the least. Other than discussion and professional reading, I am not sure of my next steps. Any ideas for me?

2 comments:

  1. Have you seen the movie "Including Samuel?" It is quite moving and a very heartfelt movie about a child who was included because his family kept trying and the school system kept trying. Maybe show that movie in a Professional learning community meeting to stimulate discussion on the other side of why inclusion is so beautiful. Thanks for posting your story. It is unfortunately our story too, and even worse because the child in our life has autism and behaviors, so even more so they do not want him in their building, but in a segregated autism school with nonverbal peers (he is verbal and social). We have no choice now but to pull him out and try to homeschool. We have been battling school districts for 6 years now and it is not only getting very tiring, but it isn't helping the child.

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    1. I have seen Including Samuel. I loved it however, it is quite pricey to buy. I need to somehow find a person who owns it and will share. I am currently reading Carly's Voice and may make it required reading for some teachers.
      brenda

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