Exclusion and the Problem of “Special Needs” Education

Most American children grew up familiar with the idea of a “special needs” class in their school. In such classes, children with disabilities are excluded from education with their peers, their needs managed by specially trained educators. This exclusion functions to keep children with disabilities away from their peers’ education, and it could be argued that the idea of the “special needs” class is not meant to give children with disabilities an education, but to isolate them so as to not distract other children from their education. This is an untenable paradigm if education is going to be used as a vehicle for development. This is perhaps more fundamental to creating inclusive education programs in the United States than promoting inclusive technologies and curricula. The entire paradigm of the school as a factory floor, promoting obedience to authority and a carefully managed system, cannot address the differing and more intensive demands of children with disabilities; achieving inclusive education in the United States must involve a fundamental shift in how education is viewed and designed.

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