Friday, September 4, 2009

Co-teaching and Controversy

I knew going into the school year that there are a lot of controversies surrounding public education, particularly in the Christian community (home school/private school/public school, moral issues, anti-Christian bias, etc.) Add to that recent political controversies (President Obama's school address on Tuesday, environmental issues, school vouchers, etc.) and all the controversies about how special education should be delivered, and you have one big pot of roiling diatribe from every quarter.

This story and the ensuing comments cover just about all of it. I was particularly interested since we've made the leap back to a general education setting (with support) for our daughter. It looks like such a sweet innocent tale: one school district's approach to meeting the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) requirements of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is to pair a general education teacher with a special education teacher in one general education classroom. While not exactly two teachers for the price of one (presumably they both wish to be paid) it would seem the best of both worlds for all concerned. The general education teacher can focus more attention on normative students, the special education teacher can use their skills to help students that need more support, special needs kids get the support they need to thrive in a normative setting, and normative kids get some extra support too, while also hopefully learning a lot about how to be accepting of others' differences. Yet you can see from the comments that people take issue with this system, and the debate moves from inclusion to school vouchers and even racism.

Is anyone else feeling like we all need to take a step back and realize that the information age may be turning us against one another in some drastic and probably unnecessary ways? Can we all agree that every child deserves the best shot they have at the best education possible? Can we all agree that autism, in particular, but also other special needs are increasingly common disabilities that everyone will need to know about and be "comfortable" with? Can we agree that any system that pairs more than one child with one teacher will mean an imperfect education for each child? Can we get off our high horses long enough to listen to what each of us is saying before jumping down one another's throats?

My point is that I don't think anyone has a completely perfect idea of how to handle the special education needs of the growing population of special needs children, but they do have a right to that education. No system will be perfect, but that doesn't mean we should shoot down new ideas. The idea reported in this story seems to be working for this student, these teachers, and perhaps it would work for others. In my opinion that's a better outcome than can be achieved by people sitting around snarking at each other and not trying anything.

1 comment:

david in norcal said...

it's continually frustrating to me that policy debates in this country are too often limited to snark and simplistic and uninformed assertions. how can we make good decisions about complex issues without listening carefully to people who understand them well?

(i don't want to be a hypocrite about snark, i enjoy it and it has its place, but it does not replace civil discussion of complex problems)


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