Who Benefits from Special Education? Remediating (Fixing) Other People's Children

Who Benefits from Special Education? Remediating (Fixing) Other People's Children

Who Benefits from Special Education? Remediating (Fixing) Other People's Children

Who Benefits from Special Education? Remediating (Fixing) Other People's Children

Synopsis

Who Benefits From Special Education?: Remediating (Fixing) Other People's Children addresses the negative consequences of labeling and separating education for students with "disabilities," the cultural biases inherent in the way that we view children's learning difficulties, the social construction of disability, the commercialization of special education, and related issues.
The theme that unifies the chapters is that tension exists between professional ideology and practice, and the wishes and expectations of the recipients of professional practice--children, adolescents, and adults with disabilities and their families. These voices have rarely taken center stage in formulating important decisions about the quality and characteristics of appropriate practice. The dominant view in the field of special education has been that disability is a problem in certain children, rather than an artifact that results from the general structure of schooling; it does not take into consideration the voices of people with disabilities, their families, or their teachers. Offering an alternative perspective, this book deconstructs mainstream special education ideologies and highlights the personal perspectives of students, families, and front-line professionals such as teachers and mental health personnel. It is particularly relevant for special education/disabilities studies graduate students and faculty and for readers in general education, curriculum studies, instruction theory, and critical theory.

Excerpt

Special education for students with substantial disabilities was very much the vision of parents. They were the ones who brought forward the court cases (e.g., PARC, 1971) based on equal protection clauses of the constitution that mandated that education was a right of all American children regardless of their unique characteristics. Nevertheless, over time parents lost control as the field of special education has become increasingly dominated by a professional class of specially trained teachers, teacher educators, therapists, psychometrists, and funded researchers. Clearly, the number of influential parents was always insignificant compared with the less powerful parents of students identified with high-incidence disabilities (learning disabilities, emotional disturbance, mild mental retardation). These children had regularly been classified as disabled and excluded from mainstream education without their own or their parents’ consultation (see Mercer, 1973).

Unfortunately, parents inevitably see the personalized and unique attributes of their children and think in terms of what is best for them, whereas professionals are likely to have a more abstract and disconnected view, and thus may fail to see other people’s children as individuals. Furthermore, they tend to understand disability from a medical model perspective; that is, they see disability as a problem or deficit in certain children, rather than as an artifact of the general structure of schooling. Based on the prevailing ideology of the necessity of expertise, these professionals may assume that, because of their specialized training, they know what is best for other people’s children.

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