The United States Essay
The United States
The special education department consists of twenty-five staff, including ten paraprofessional support staff and teachers in the categories of gifted education, hearing impairment, learning disabilities, behavior disorders, cognitive impairment (severe mental handicaps, trainable mental handicaps, and educable mental handicaps), and one inclusion specialist. These categories are broadly similar across the United States.
Students included in general education classrooms across the Longview district include those with behavioral disorders, and those with learning, physical, and other cognitive disabilities; although procedures to standardize inclusion district-wide have yet to be implemented. This research was designed as a blend of participant observation and collaborative inquiry which simultaneously evaluated, supported and promoted inclusion efforts in Longview Public Schools.
It was funded by a five year systems-change project awarded to the state department of education. The research elaborates methodological adaptations that cast the researcher as a “creative mediator” (Ware 1996). Data were collected during the 1994-95 school year in five schools as they explored an evolutionary approach to inclusion. These included informal interviews, observations, video-taped performances and interviews, and analysis of a variety of relevant documents such as memos, lesson plans, meeting notes, scripts, and newspaper clippings.
Observations were conducted in several classrooms during twelve weeks of the fall semester as classroom teachers, special education teachers, and para-professional staff worked in a variety of combinations to support inclusion. Teachers and students were interviewed at each site. Early conversations with Longview special education administrators yielded support for a research agenda that was more open-ended than generally afforded to traditional evaluation.
The intention was to focus on inclusion activity underway in schools, and for the researcher to offer guidance and assistance with those activities rather than to generate new agendas outside the schools’ activity. In addition to the interviews, the researcher also observed in both academic and elective study classrooms in which IEP students were included. The researcher, given her attendance at inclusion meetings across the district, was able to provide information from all sites as appropriate and pose questions that otherwise might not be raised.
The researcher was also a member of the district’s Special Education Advisory Council and the Superintendent’s Inclusion Action Team. Presented here is a case-study of theater arts activities at Marge Piercy High. The case-study is written as a narrative in three parts: the class, the parody, and the dialogue. It is a story about inclusion, involved with the creation of “dramatic or hermeneutic unity, and not merely with recording all the events that happened over a period of time”. Results Linda Ware’s study is primarily about an ‘issues theatre’ class in a high school in the USA which includes severely disabled students.
The focus is on disability, although the theoretical section of the study and the voices of the students in the drama class suggest that inclusion is to be understood more broadly. Linda Ware tells us that the central theme explored in the study is to do with ‘presumed membership in society’ and how this is used by teachers ‘to promote inclusion’ in classrooms. We are also told that the classroom is the smallest unit for ‘creating change’ (p. 26). We are provided with a schema of approaches to inclusion as evolutionary, pilot, phased-in or top-down radical reform, and community-wide conversion.
In Longview as a whole there seems to be an attempt at the third form, with hopes for community-wide conversion. Linda appears to conceive of inclusion as primarily about disabled students. The conduct of the class permits us to see inclusion as concerned with participation for all. However, it is the students, albeit reported by the author, who assert this most clearly: ‘they insisted inclusion applied to everybody and not just to people with disabilities’. They also make a clear link between inclusion and exclusion, and see the latter as the means to understand the former. Discussion
In her lecture and speech of acceptance upon the award of the Nobel Prize for Literature, the American poet and writer Toni Morrison stated: “Narrative has never been merely entertainment for me. It is, I believe, one of the principal ways in which we absorb knowledge” (Morrison 1993). It is with the same regard for narrative that this research is presented as story-describing events in one class over the course of a fifteen-week semester as its members confronted inclusion. The age-old, but previously unaddressed, questions about mainstreaming were confronted daily in the course of instruction, activity, and interactions.
When probed by the researcher, the students articulated greater understandings about disability and offered new interpretations on inclusion that incorporated this new knowledge. The case-study describes how the students attributed thinking to special needs students, noted his individuality, viewed their interactions with them as reciprocal, and ultimately defined a social place for them as friends. It is important to consider this research in the context of classrooms where the goal is for a student’s disability to become secondary to the student’s humanness.
Moreover, it is suggested here that the very kinds of learning activities and class structure the teachers created enabled the students to come to know and understand special needs students, and themselves, a little better. The purpose of all of interventions, programs, indeed schooling in general, is to enable all students to actively participate in their communities so that others care enough about what happens to them to look for ways to include them as part of that community. This case-study describes how one teacher approached inclusion, not only special needs students, but for all of her students.
Hers was not a conventional intervention, but it was successful beyond her own expectations. Conclusion Perhaps the greatest change in thinking in special educational needs circles in the 1990s was growing recognition that it is inclusion, not integration, which is our aim. Where once it seemed appropriate to argue for helping learners to change their behavior or to accept inadequate support in order to be integrated, we now, quite rightly, expect that they will be included in the mainstream wherever possible. This will not be possible in many educational settings without considerable political will and increased resources.
Governments have agreed across international boundaries that inclusion is the way forward for the education of young people with special educational needs. The special school – or inclusive education resource centre – has an important and secure future. Inclusion in the USA should be viewed as a social movement, connected to a history of reforms about racial discrimination and the de-institutionalization of psychiatric institutions that preceded legislation about ‘handicapped children’ and disabled people in the 1970s. .
Subject: United States,
University/College: University of California
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 22 May 2017
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