Academic journal article Exceptional Children

Four Fallacies of Segregationism

Academic journal article Exceptional Children

Four Fallacies of Segregationism

Article excerpt

Four Fallacies of Segregationism

We appreciate the forum that the editor has given us to react to a critique of our work and the General Education Initiative (GEI). Because of space limitations, we cannot respond point for point to the criticisms made by the Fuchs. Instead, our comments are arranged acording to the four major fallacies in the Fuchs' attempt at case building: (a) erroneous interpretations of the GEI; (b) segregationism in the Fuchs' point of view; (c) the ALEM's research base; and (d) readiness for the GEI.

FALLACY 1: ERRONEOUS

INTERPRETATION OF THE GEI

One of the fundamental premises of the GEI, as we see it, is that all educational professionals (e.g., regular and special educators, school psychologists, speech therapists, reading specialists) must share a commitment to, and the responsibility for, effectively using all available resources to ensure schooling success for every child. The GEI also upholds the principle that "special" or supplementary services for all children with special learning needs, including special education services, should be provided to the greatest extent possible in general education classroom settings.

The Fuchs' interpretation of the GEI is misdirected in three fundamental ways. First, their own statement regarding the purpose and design of the Initiative reflects a mistaken understanding. To quote the Fuchs, "by merging [italics added] special, remedial, and general educator's expertise, and incorporating many special and remedial education resources under the aegis of general education [italics added], the Wang and colleagues plan aims to facilitate new partnerships in education and enhance classroom teachers' capacity to accommodate diverse groups of students" (p. 116, this issue).

But neither the paper by Assistant Secretary Madeleine Will, which is generally considered as the position paper for the GEI, nor our writings call for "merging" categorical programs under the "aegis of general education." The position paper, "Educating Students With Learning Problems--A Shared Responsibility" (Will, 1986), encourages "special programs to form a partnership with regular education. The objective of this partnership for special education and the other special programs is to use their knowledge and expertise to support regular education in educating children with learning problems" (p. 19, emphasis added). In like manner, we have consistently proposed a shared responsibility for providing more coordinated and inclusive educational arrangements for all students, including students with special needs (e.g., Reynolds & Wang, 1981; Reynolds, Wang, & Walberg, 1987; Wang & Reynolds, 1985; Wang, Reynolds, & Walberg, 1987b).

Contrary to the implications of the Fuchs' interpretation, the GEI is not aimed at eliminating or subordinating special education services. IT does, however, question the practical wisdom and moral and empirical bases for continuing the current "second system" approach, whereby disproportionate numbers of students with special learning needs are classified and placed into segregated programs (cf. Gartner & Lipsky, 1987; Wang, Reynolds, & Walberg, 1987b).

In the spirit of the GEI, special education and related services would be provided for individual students at the time that services are needed, and not after temporary failures have become full-fledged handicaps. The driving vision is one of "a system that will bring the program to the child rather than one that brings the child to the program" (Will, 1986, p. 23). The GEI thus recognizes that some students require greater than usual educational and related services, and it is aimed at building upon the resources of the many well-intentioned, categorical programs that have been created to provide these services.

The GEI has come at a most opportune time, in light of both the past decade's significant advances in research on effective teaching in general and in special education (Wang, Reynolds, & Walberg, 1987a; Williams, Richmond, & Mason, 1986; Wittrock, 1986), and the practical wisdom that has accumulated on establishing and institutionalizing improved practices in schools (Fullan, 1985; Kyle, 1985). …

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