19 Urban Questions: Teaching in the City

By Shirley R. Steinberg; Joe L. Kincheloe | Go to book overview

CHAPTER TEN

How Can We Transgress in
the Field of Disabilities in
Urban Education?

Joe Valentine

In the first decade of the twenty-first century, disabilities education is riddled with contradictions and complications. So many problems face urban educators who deal with disabilities and special education that practitioners in the field—myself included—often suffer from a form of professional schizophrenia. While I am dedicated to the work of educating individuals with varying forms of disabilities, I understand the problems facing educators in this domain. And, as education students in the field of disabilities know, there are plenty of students who need help in urban and other schools in the United States. In the contemporary era, there are over 5.3 million students who are involved in federally supported programs for children and adolescents with disabilities. About one out of eight students enrolled in U.S. schools is officially designated as possessing disabilities. A little over half of the elementary and secondary students so designated (51.2 percent) are diagnosed with learning disabilities. Of the remaining students, 21.2 percent have language or speech impairments, 11.3 percent, mental retardation, 8.7 percent, serious emotional disturbances, and 7.6 percent, other health conditions such as hearing, orthopedic or visual impairments and multiple disabilities (Kaye, 1997).

In light of these sobering statistics, we are confronted with the collision of two major trends in the domain of disabilities and special education. The first trend involves the movement for inclusive education over the last third of a century. The key element of the inclusion movement involves the effort to educate students with disabilities as close to general education as is pedagogically feasible. At first the impulse focused on students with more severe disabilities, but it has moved to

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