18 October 2007

Further Thoughts on Inclusion

In response to a comment on Fear, Parents, and Schools.

Anonymous,

Perhaps my opening paragraph did not adequately focus in on the specific students I intended to. As I look back, and with the helpful eyes of my wife, I can see how you could interpret what I wrote as desiring to exclude all special needs students. I apologize for not being more specific, more clear with my words.

I intended to focus on students who are both highly disruptive and have some way to blame the behavior on some malady or another - or some social situation or another, for that matter.

By no means did aim to suggest or imply that all special needs, special education, physically disabled or emotionally disturbed students should be removed from classrooms without question.

I have had some wonderful experiences working with students who experience some of the above problems. They have worked hard, given their best, and I have done the same. Some solid learned was achieved both in the core subject and in the realm of life lessons.

The students I intended to place front and center in my writing are those who - for whatever reason - decide to reject their chance at an education by continually disrupting the classroom. Many times, their behavior is blamed on some mental or physiological disorder, thus making the child blameless. It’s a tricky piece of subjectivity in some cases to decide what a student should or should not be able to do or control. But many children (and I mean any child here, not just those with special needs) quickly learn what they can do without consequence and what they cannot. For students who pole vault the behavioral line repeatedly, holding them blameless for their behavior does not prepare them in any way for the outside world that awaits them after school. Additionally, allowing those students to become serial classroom disruptors is a violation of the liberty of the rest of the students in the classroom. (For more on ideas concerning liberty and equality, I highly recommend Charles Fried's Modern Liberty.)

All students are not equal. To claim that they are - and I'm not trying to be offensive - is simply delusional. Students come with a wide variety of skills, potential and stick-to-itiveness. To expect uniformity, equality, among them is hoping for the impossible. And again, I’m talking about all students.

However, without doubt, all students deserve an equal opportunity to get the best education available. Education is not, however, an entitlement in the sense that all deserve an education without condition of proper behavior or responsibility. Two of the most important lessons any student learns are how to control him or herself in a formal situation and how to bear personal responsibility for his or her actions. All students must learn these things. Those who choose not to should not be allowed to take the opportunity away from those who strive toward them.

I hope this clarifies my thoughts on the matter. Thanks.

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