From Them to Us: An International Study of Inclusion in Education

By Tony Booth; Mel Ainscow | Go to book overview

2

USA: I KIND OF WONDER IF WE'RE FOOLING OURSELVES

Linda Ware


Introduction

This chapter considers inclusion in one classroom, in a high school in the Midwest, a region of the United States that stands out as having only limited similarities to the rest of the country. An overview of the national and local contexts for inclusion are presented, and then a high school theater arts class is portrayed from data collected over a fifteen-week period. The chapter concludes with a synthesis of the issues raised by the case-study and their implications for continued progress toward the goal of inclusion in American society. The reader is advised that the formal voice utilised in the introduction to this chapter is intentional and contrasts with the personal voice used to tell the story at Marge Piercy High School.


The national context: history and politics

Inclusion should be viewed as a social movement connected to a history of social policy reform in the United States beginning in the mid-1950s. Included among these events are the 1954 Supreme Court decision on the racial desegregation of schools; the de-institutionalization of persons with mental illness during the late 1960s and 1970s; the 1975 passage of the Education for All Handicapped Children Act (EHA); the mid-1980s call for reform of this Act and “mainstreaming” in particular; the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act in the early 1990s; and various school restructuring efforts over the past decade intended to overhaul American schools.

In the late 1970s and throughout the 1980s, mainstreaming was premised on the belief that students with disabilities should be separated from the regular class for special instruction. This instructional delivery approach followed the hard-won success of moving children with disabilities back into the public school setting. In the 1990s, in an inclusive program, the child is presumed to belong in the regular class that she would normally attend if she did not have a disability, in her neighborhood school. This underlying assumption is significant in that it invites exploration of the questions raised, but left unanswered, by mainstreaming.

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