others who have the same disabilities. Ironically, it may be that students with disabilities may actually have the potential to be positive role models for other students with the same or similar disabilities:
Perhaps association with others who have similar problems could be used to transmit the culture of what it is like to be learning disabled, mentally retarded, and so forth. This would require a shift, however, in how disability and disability labeling is viewed. In our view, we should weigh the possibility and probability of reducing stigma and increasing learning by banning labeling and grouping by disability against the feasibility and likelihood of reducing stigma and increasing learning by developing esprit de corps among congregations of people with disabilities. ( Hallahan & Kauffman, 1994, p. 505)
For decades, we special educators have found coherence, unity, and mutual support in the notion that we should celebrate the diversity of the characteristics of children and youth. We have been, to be sure, congregated and united by our dedication to the task of changing for the better the characteristics of our students who have disabilities. However, we are in no way disparaging of the students whose characteristics we hope to change. We value these young people in all their diversity for who they are and hope that our profession will soon stop disparaging special placements and see renewed value in retaining a diversity of alternatives.
For a variety of reasons, our profession has been seriously divided, and therefore weakened, by the ideology of full inclusion. The doctrine of full inclusion defines diversity of placement as morally suspect, if not the Great Satan of special education. It seeks the elimination of placement options under the assumption that only one environment can be least restrictive, that the general education classroom is the promised land of all children. Special educators should reject the notion of a special education promised land and become united around another celebration-the celebration of the diversity of restrictive environments that are necessary to meet the needs of students with a wide variety of exceptionalities.
At present, we special educators are having trouble knowing just where we fit in the scheme of public education. Perhaps we will be more willing to celebrate a diversity of restrictive environments when we feel that our own niche in public education is secure.
Barker R. G. ( 1968). Ecological psychology. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
Bateman B. D. ( 1994). "Who, how, and where: Special education's issues in perpetuity". The Journal of Special Education, 27, 509-520.