Inclusion in Education

Fewer subjects in education evoke more discussion, confusion, or apprehension
than the topic of inclusion. What is inclusion? What effects will inclusion have
on the classroom? What is the impact on teachers? More importantly, are we as a
nation prepared to face the challenge brought about with inclusion? These are
only a few of the areas that we will explore as I attempt to unravel the issues
surrounding inclusion.

The true essences of inclusion is based on the premise that all individuals
with disabilities have a right to be included in naturally occurring settings
and activities with their neighborhood peers, siblings, and friends. Moreover,
supporters of inclusion believe that the heart of inclusion refers to the
commitment to educate a child, to the maximum extent appropriate, in the school
that the child with the disability attends. It is believed that the child will
benefit from being in the classroom with “normal,” if you will, students.
(Education World, 2000)

One of the strongest arguments for inclusion has a philosophical, moral and
ethical base. This country was founded upon the ideals of freedom and equality
of opportunity. Although the idea of freedom and equality for all have not yet
been fully realized, we as a society are constantly struggling to achieve it for
all, disabled children included. Proponents of inclusion argue that labeling and
segregating a student is indeed an injustice that will affect the student for
years to come. Supporters of inclusion would rather that we admit that all
students have strengths and weaknesses that vary from student to student. By
making such an admission we no longer view those with disabilities as
distinctively different but as students who need to strengthen some areas as it
relates to education. (ERIC, 1998)

On the other hand, opponents of inclusion argue that special education
programs are designed to meet the needs of students who need special help. Such
programs are not designed to segregate or deny any student of their basic
freedom of equality. In essence, it seems that we are taking steps backwards.
Special education programs emerged because of the non-adaptability of regular
classrooms. Very little if anything has happened to change the setting or
adaptability of today’s classroom; therefore, why are we to believe that
children will now benefit from inclusion. (AFT, 1996)

Special education classrooms are designed and equipped to handle the
diversified needs of disabled students. Teachers are trained to teach those with
special needs. Public Law 142-92 comes at a time in which the educational system
is already fragile. Reports such as “A Nation at Risk” call for raising the
standards of education with in the American schools. Oponents of inclusion argue
that the school system can not handle the additional burden of educating special
needs students in the classroom.(AFT, 1994)

A poll conducted by the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) in West
Virginia revealed that “78 percent of respondents think disabled students won’t
benefit from inclusion; 87 percent said other students will not benefit either.”
Citing numerous concerns expressed by many of its national membership, the AFT
has urged a moratorium on the national rush towards full inclusion. Among the
concerns is the time factor involved in educating special needs students.
Furthermore, depending upon the disability, the classroom could become a hostile
environment for all of the students. The report goes on to cast a suspicion that
school administrative motives for pushing for inclusion is influenced by
finances rather than what is best for the students. Including all students in a
regular classroom would cut the cost associated with special education by
eliminating special equipment, materials, classrooms and additional personnel.
(AFT 1994)

Supporters argue that while it might appear to save money by “lumping”
all of the students together, if the program is properly implemented there will
be little if any financial benefit as a result of inclusion. Additionally, for
inclusion to work a commitment must be made to move the needed services to the
student rather than to place the child in a segregated setting. An inclusive
education program would allow time weekly and in some cases daily for regular
and special educators to concur. Special educators will become consultants as
well as teachers. The regular classroom teacher would ultimately be held
accountable for the successes and or failures of the student with special needs.
(Education World, 2000)

Opponents would argue how could we hold a regular classroom teacher
accountable for needs that are outside of (his or) her area of expertise.
Furthermore, the idea that students will embrace and want to become “peer
buddies” with special need students is simply an assumption with little if any
research to support it.