An essay I wrote analyzing the benefits of including special needs students.
The Many Benefits of Full Inclusion
Nassau Community College
Do children deserve to get a good education? Most people would agree when I say yes, that children do deserve a good education. With that in mind, children with exceptionalities are no different than any other child. They deserve to get as good of an education as their peers. Education is more than just classrooms and teachers. Even if two separate classes are taught the same subject by the same teacher; their experiences, while similar, are not the same. Separate but equal is a farce. Full inclusion of children with exceptionalities isn’t just a moral conclusion, but it also has many benefits for students, teachers, and parents. Seperate classes for children with severe exceptionalities should be a last resort if ever used at all.
“Special placement in segregated settings for children with disabilities has resulted in a marginalized population that has been institutionalized, undereducated, socially rejected and excluded from society” (Carrington, Hansen, Jensen, Molbaek, Schmidt, 2020, 1). If we look at history, we know how accurate that is. Take for example southern states in the U.S during segregation, African American children received far poorer education compared to their Caucasian counterparts due to segregation. Thinking about how so much of their potential was squandered, because some people felt that they didn’t deserve an equal education is very disappointing. The same thing could very easily be said for children with disabilities. Speaking from experience, my own brother has an exceptionality, and he also recently graduated medical school and has become a doctor. Just because someone has an exceptionality does not mean he or she has any intellectual impairment. A child with exceptionalities can still thrive in a general education classroom. Segregating such students will only serve to hinder them.
Students with exceptionalities aren’t the only ones who will benefit from inclusion. Students that have no exceptionalities see great benefits from it too. “As teachers it is our job to educate children...this is more than just...reading, writing, and arithmetic. We teach social skills...we teach conflict resolution”(Bloomberg, Hennessy,1). People tend to fear and hate what they don’t understand. The things they don’t understand are usually things they haven’t experienced. Fear and hate have never led to anything good in society. Children aren’t born hateful, but like most adults, they tend to fear what they don’t understand. If children go to school and sit in classrooms with other children that so happen to have exceptionalities, it’ll help breed understanding. Which can lead to new friendships and help prepare kids for the day when they meet somebody who’s ideals differ wildly from their own. That in turn creates cooperation and cooperation will help a society more in the long run. After all even if kids don’t meet someone with an exceptionality when they’re in school, they’re bound to meet someone like that in their adult life. Children would not receive these helpful experiences if schools don’t practice inclusion.
Teachers can benefit from this too. For one, it offers them new and important job experience. It’s safe to assume, with all other things being equal, that an employer would rather hire the teacher that has experience teaching students with and without exceptionalities over one that has only taught one or the other. “The quality of education ultimately depends on teachers”(Murphy, Sunthonkanokpong, 2019, 2). While I don’t entirely agree with that point, as a stubborn student unwilling to learn will not learn, no matter how good the teacher is. The fact is though, a teacher that has a wider variety of experiences can better relate to students of varied backgrounds especially compared to teachers with more narrow experiences. If teachers can relate to a student, said student is more likely to respect and listen to said teacher, thus enhancing that student’s education and overall making the teacher’s job easier.
Parents benefit from this too. Every parent wants their child to succeed and be their best self. The parents of kids with exceptionalities get to see their children interact and learn from and with their peers. This would assuage many of their fears, as many parents worry about their children being bullied for being different. However, parents of children without exceptionalities have even more to gain. Young children think of their parents as infallible, so that makes them very open to their parents' suggestions. They’re very similar to mirrors in that way, often reflecting what their parents do. If a kindergartner sees his or her parents treating people with obvious exceptionalities with kindness and respect; they’ll naturally try to mimic that behavior. “The dominant thinking in a society that differentiates between who is included and who is excluded represents, more fundamentally, social and cultural understandings of difference...are reflected in the beliefs and attitudes of people”(Carrington, Hansen, Jensen, Molbaek, Schmidt, 2020, 1). What that essentially means is, culture is displayed through people’s actions. Culture is first passed down from a parent to a child. If one’s parents encourage behaviors such as treating others, no matter who they are or what their exceptionality may or may not be, with respect, then that person is more likely to be kind and respectful. The parents of those children get to see their children perform the behaviors that they taught them.
All children deserve a good education, even if they have an exceptionality. Segregation of special education students is doing both special education and general education students a great disservice. Children with exceptionalities can still thrive in general education classrooms, and children without exceptionalities can meet and befriend people who act very differently from them. Teachers gain valuable experience which can help with future employment and their overall relationships with students. Parents get the chance to see their children become kind and empathetic people and or be shown kindness and empathy.
Hansen, J. H., Harrington , S., Jensen, C. R., Molbaek, M., & Schmidt, M. C. S. (2020). The collaborative practice of inclusion and exclusion. Nordic Journal of Studies in Educational Policy , 6(1), 1–12. Retrieved from http://content.ebscohost.com/ContentServer.asp?T=P&P=AN&K=142799980&S=R&D=eue&Eb...
Hennessy , T., & Bloomberg , S. (n.d.). Queering Your Culture: The Importance of Gender Diversity and Inclusion in the Classroom. Retrieved April 24, 2020, from http://content.ebscohost.com/ContentServer.asp?T=P&P=AN&K=141886186&S=R&D=eue&Eb...
Murphy, E., & Sunthonkanokpong, W. (2020). Quality, Equity, Inclusion and Lifelong Learning in Pre-service Teacher Education. Journal of Teacher Education for Sustainability, 21(2), 15. doi: 10.2478/jtes-2019-0019