Discrimination has been an issue ever since the social and political revolutions of the 18th century, particularly regarding age, gender, race and disabilities. People have been deemed not worthy for falling under a category of which an employer so ignorantly chooses to judge and dismiss an individual based on one characteristic before learning about other more personable characteristics. There is still a continuing struggle for individuals with disabilities to attain inclusion, though just as women and minorities overcame odds and attained fairer treatment, great progress has been made for those with disabilities.
A person with disabilities living in America in the 1920's most likely where taken out of their homes with no input by the parents or later by them personally, to spend a lifetime in a state institution; or even worse, they would have just been left to starve to death. Up until the 1970's individuals with disabilities were sterilized. However, the 1960's did show great progress, by 1966, over 127,000 school-age children were enrolled in institutions, an increase of over 40,000 since 1958 (Martin, 1968, p. 494). In Nazi-raided Europe, individuals with disabilities were either sterilized or murdered by the Nazis. Considering the horrible mistreatment of these individuals, these past few decades have shown great progress, enabling them to be more of a functioning part of this society, and furthermore, bring something different and new to it (Jaeger, 2005, p. 2-3).
In 1963, Romaine Mackie found that 1,570,370 children were enrolled in public school special education programs. Of those, 456,145, about 29% received instruction in a full-time special class or special day school; 986,509, almost 63%, spent part of their school day in a special program and part in regular classes (1965, p. 79). The idea of inclusion started as a way to ensure that students with disabilities would receive the same education as those without disabilities. It has now spread outside of the classroom to an inclusion in society. The Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) was passed in 1975.
The first source is statute law, which is ratified by legislatures-in the case of special education, the IDEA. The second source of law is case law (judge-made). There are varying definitions of what constitutes conformity with the least restrictive environment mandate and the concepts of mainstreaming and inclusion. The concept of the least restrictive environment refers to the IDEA's authorization that children with disabilities be educated to the maximum extent appropriate with non-disabled children. Inclusion contemplates the placement of students with disabilities into regular classroom with non-disabled students as a right. Mainstreaming implies that the child will be educated with non-disabled peers when appropriate, but not necessarily exclusively in general education. In an attempt to define mainstreaming, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals stated: Under the IDEA, mainstreaming is a policy to be pursued so long as it is consistent with the Act's primary goal of providing disabled students with an appropriate education.
Is inclusion something that most parents of disabled students really want? Yes. Is this bothersome to some parents with non-disabled students? Yes. The parents of disabled students want their child to be treated just as other children and to allow that child to utilize him/herself to his/her maximum potential. Certain disabilities do not at all, or minimally, interfere with an individuals ability to learn. What will defer a student is "being different" from everyone else in their class, however, yes, they are different, but ft hey are able to overcome that as they are growing up in school; they can build enough confidence, knowledge and ability to really make something of themselves in the "real world". Education is so essential to shaping non-disabled person becomes, and disabled individuals deserve those same opportunities.
It is of course important to consider the teacher. Certain disabled students placed in a regular classroom may require extra attention from the teachers. As long as it is set to a minimum, a good teacher knows that many students require a little extra attention depending on their learning speed and personal issues (example, individuals who don't care or act up because of problems at home.) It is important that parents and teachers communicate with each other, but most specifically parents of disabled students.
General education teachers are usually specialists in curriculum, special education teachers are usually specialists in unique learning and behavior needs of all students. Combining both is the perfect treatment for a disabled student to really be educated and given the opportunity to succeed. Feeling like a part of a regular classroom can boost a disabled individuals confidence (Jaeger, 2005, p. 8). They may want to begin participating in sports, realize new interests they would have never been exposed to had they not been in the class, and learn about how diverse people outside of the special classroom are. Learning about other peoples characters and tendencies is an extremely important aspect of being able to communicate well both throughout education and in life after.
One major unfortunate problem is: kids are cruel. Peers make fun of other peers for being "dorky", "fat", "skinny", "smart", "poor", "rich", any reason possible, and the reasons change as students grow older. Disabled students are easy targets and for them, constant insults and teasing can be extremely damaging. Not everyone has a tough exterior, and most people can be broken down by others words. In high school, a disabled individual who was "buddies" with a non-disabled kid broke out into a huge fit and started to hit the non-disabled kid when he realized the other kid was not his friend, but was rather making fun of him. Then after, he had to tolerate students all around him pretending to be scared, but really insulting him more. And of course he probably dealt with lectures from both his regular and special teachers, and his parents (Beattie, 2006, p. 4-8).
Parents of students who are non-disabled may not like the idea of their child being in a class with a disabled student because they may have worry that the teacher will pay special attention to the disabled child and spend less work with the regular children (Franklin, 1994, p. 62). It is probably most worrisome for a parent with a child who shows no interest in school or has a learning disability themselves like ADHD. Parents of students with learning disabilities probably don't consider their children "disabled" but do expect that they receive extra attention from their teacher.
Parents of children with disabilities too may not entirely be thrilled with inclusion, especially depending on the severity of ones disability and that persons individual character. Not every school has the best inclusion system in which they give the child extra attention, sometimes special teacher, to stay with that student throughout the day. And not every school has the best school system that the parent may not find it worthy. So then the parent has to look for a better school and possibly even move to a better school district for their child and end up having to pay a large portion of money to educate their child starting even at a young age. If education is free for non-disabled students, shouldn't it be free for disabled students too? Just because they require more attention, shouldn't the government still fund them? When these questions start to arrise and parent has to realize that even inclusion does not make their child average, they may prefer that there are just special classes for their child with added curriculum to rid all of the worries in simply trying to educate their child (Beattie, 2006, p. 12-14).
One final downfall with inclusion is that certain disabled students may do everything right, be confident, do well, engage in other activities, and gain everything positive from it. However, what is even crueler than kids is the "real world". Despite that every application filled out by an individual states that place will not discriminate against disability among other things, most people do have an idea in their mind of who they want for the job, and it almost always is not someone who is disabled. Teachers are givers, it is easy for them to accept giving a little more to a child. In the professional world, most people do not want to have to give someone special attention, time and instruction (Franklin, 1994, p. 52-53).
What it really comes down to is the individual personality. I think that inclusion works great for some, but can be more stressful for others, which is why it is good that not just every disabled student is included, but it is dependent on their disability. I do think that inclusion is necessary though, just so that people with disability are given a fair opportunity to become who they want to be. Everyone deserves that, and just like non-disabled students, not everyone is fit out for education, and not everyone is fit out to become something significant in this world, but it is the opportunity that matters.
Jaeger, Paul T. Understanding Disability: Inclusion, Access, Diversity, and Civil Rights. (Praeger Publishers, 2005): 1-12
Edwin W. Martin, Jr., "Breakthrough for the Handicapped: Legislative History," Exceptional Children 34 (March 1968): 494-95.
Romaine Mackie, "Spotlighting Advances in Special Education," Exceptional Children 32 (October 1965): 77-81
Beattie, John, Making Inclusion Work, Sage Publications Ltd. (2006): 1-14
Franklin, Barry, From Backwardness to "At-Risk": Childhood Learning Difficulties and the Contradictions of School Reform (SUNY Press, 1994): 49-77