The United States education landscape has evolved substantially over the past 50 years. Issues of civil rights — some of which the landmark Supreme Court case Brown v. Board of Education addressed — and the government’s role in education ushered in an era of “inclusion” in the United States’ education system. Inclusion education addresses problems with the integration of individuals who require special needs in a learning environment. The idea of including special needs children in a learning environment with “normal” students offers a number of benefits, although there are some controversies that accompany the subject.
What Is Inclusion Education?
Inclusion education operates on the basis those students who require special needs in an educational environment should have access to “mainstream” schools. The Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development contends that the United States education system segregated students who experienced learning disabilities until roughly 1800. During the 19th and 20th centuries, students with learning disabilities received an education separate from nondisabled students.
Today, students take advantage of full or partial inclusion throughout the United States in multiple school systems. Schools that offer partial inclusion allow students to participate in classrooms with nondisabled students for the majority of the day. If a student needs services that may disrupt the class, they are taken to another classroom to complete their lessons for the day. For example, if the student requires intensive speech therapy, the school sets aside another room for special needs students to complete their courses. Full inclusion means that students participate all day and classes with nondisabled students. In general, school systems attend to the needs of students who have mild or severe learning disabilities.
The Past 20 Years of Inclusion Education
Over the past 20 years, the idea of inclusion education has faced multiple challenges. Issues of assessment to determine student progress, academic training in special needs for teachers and the introduction of technology into school systems, have each influenced progress. For example, in important component for inclusive education is determining how to implement classroom management for different groups of individuals in one classroom. Furthermore, developing effective instructional design methodologies presents a challenge when trying to achieve a standard in education for each student in every classroom.
One of the major changes in inclusive education was the involvement of the federal government during the 1960s. President Kennedy’s interest in how students with learning disabilities were educated laid the foundation for governmental support. Today, associations, education administrators, parents and public school systems work to develop positive learning environments and access to effective education for learning-disabled students around the country.
What Are the Benefits of Inclusion Education?
There exist multiple arguments for the positive effects of inclusion programs. One of the most important arguments is that students who face disabilities gain significantly from the social interaction they achieve when working alongside nondisabled students. In addition, nondisabled students also gain from the social skills they develop when integrated with special education learners. For example, nondisabled students gain real-world experience in measures of empathy and teamwork. In addition, both learning-disabled and nondisabled students improve their ability to communicate in social situations and develop better attitudes toward people who may not fit in.
Controversies Surrounding the Subject
Criticism against inclusion education comes from all sides. Managing both special needs and nondisabled students in one classroom at the same time detracts from the educational experience nondisabled students receive. For example, in a classroom that offers general education, one “mainstream” teacher offers a curriculum, while the special education teacher simultaneously completes the remediation process with special needs students. The argument here is that each student group may suffer academically from distraction.
In addition, the parents of some disabled students feel that placing their child in an environment with a mixed peer group may lead to bullying or mockery. While there are controversies surrounding inclusion education, individuals and educators on both sides of the spectrum need to work together to establish the most efficient learning environment for all children.