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Common Interests among Parents and Educators

Before looking at potential areas of discord, let’s look at what the two sides have in common. Both educators and parents want the best possible education for the child/student with special needs. Often for the General Education teacher, this means, based on experience, sending the child out of the classroom during difficult assignments. For the Special Education teacher, this may mean having the child in a small setting for much of the day. For the parents, this may mean having the child absorb as much as possible in the general education setting with or without support. Again, each comes from his/her own experiential frame of reference and none of the approaches is without merit.

 

But when we look at educational goals and accountability, the general education setting with necessary support is where all children belong. Why? Because in Brown v. Board of Education on May 17, 1954, the U.S.  Supreme Court determined that separate was not equal when it came to race in America. Separate schools, separate curriculums, separate lives were not to be tolerated.  Since that day in 1954, equal access to education has been afforded to all Americans. Although the Supreme Court ruled, all did not go smoothly as every American knows. But in reading from Barack Obama’s “Audacity of Hope”, I came across this profound quote from Martin Luther King, Jr. “It may be true that law cannot make a man love me but it can keep him from lynching me and I think that is pretty important also.” (p 63)  And so America put into law an act which would begin the thrilling, difficult and painful process of integrating our public schools to eliminate the illusion of separate, but equal. There is a reason separate is kept separate; often it is because it is not equal.

 

“Change came through the fearless efforts of lawyers, community activists, parents, and students. Their struggle to fulfill the American dream set in motion sweeping changes in American society, and redefined the nation’s ideals.” This quote was in response to the racial desegregation but is just as accurate for the parents of students with disabilities who have paved the way, fought the big battles, so that this book can be about the nuances. To all of them we owe a great thank you. (Smithsonian website in reference to Brown v Board of education)

 

Likewise, IDEA 97 (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) was created to recommend that we encourage each student with a disability to reach his/her full potential. While I run the risk of offending Special Education teachers, I hope they will read on, because talented Special Ed teachers are the cornerstone of solid, knowledge based inclusion. While I am an unyielding proponent of all students receiving an education in the general education setting, the need for talented special education teachers to facilitate each student’s success cannot be dismissed. Without those with specialized training, we would simply be providing students with learning challenges with a seat alongside their peers. We want more; we want an education alongside their peers and that is possible!


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