Pros and Cons of Inclusion

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Inclusion is a subject that has polarized educators since the inception of legislation to govern special education. Proponents of inclusion are concerned with the high cost of special education, promoting the "least restrictive environment" and educational equality in the classroom. Opponents believe there are not enough resources, materials, and time for teachers to take on special education in the classroom. They also believe teachers lack the skills necessary to make "accommodations" in the classroom. This only causes social strife among the "regular" students.

The pros and cons of inclusion present a wide spectrum of viewpoints and philosophy. According to the Wisconsin Education Association Council (WEAC), Inclusion is a term, which expresses commitment to educate each child, to the maximum extent appropriate, in the school and classroom he or she would otherwise attend. It involves bringing the support services to the child (rather than moving the child to the services) and requires only that the child will benefit from being in the class (rather than having to keep up with the other students). Full inclusion means that all students, regardless of handicapping condition or severity, will be in a regular classroom/program full time. All services must be taken to the student in that setting.

Two federal laws govern the education of children with disabilities. Neither requires inclusion, but both require that a significant effort be made to find an inclusive placement. The first is the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) as amended in 1997, does not require inclusion. In fact, there is no mention of the word inclusion in this document. The term "least restrictive environment, indicates the regular classroom environment. The other law is called Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Under Section 504, the recipients of federal funds for education must provide education for each qualified handicapped person in its jurisdiction with persons who are not handicapped to the maximum extent appropriate to the needs of the handicapped person (WEAC 1996). While the proponents and opponents of inclusion debate on the ramifications of the two bills, some questions remain unanswered. For example, How far must the schools go? What are the rights of the other children? How important is potential academic achievement/social growth in making placement decisions? These questions have polarized educators, legislators, and the public for decades. Some of the general issues debated are resources for funding special education, teacher preparedness, appropriate placement, and basic philosophical/moral/ethical differences (CEC, 2003).


Perhaps one of the strongest arguments for greater inclusion is a philosophical/moral/ethical base. Our country was founded on the ideals of freedom and equality. We don't have to look back too far in American history to remember the inequalities of slavery. Moving toward equality for all is a realization that still continues today. Even opponents agree that the philosophical and moral/ethical underpinnings for full inclusion are powerful. The arguments of this nature can be emotionally powerful and speak to all humanity with images of friendship, loyalty, togetherness, unity, helpfulness without monetary compensation, care-giving from the heart, and building a society based on mutual trust (SEDL, 1995). Another case for inclusion is the effect of segregated special education on the students with disabilities. According to the National Association of State Boards of Education in 1992, 43 percent of students in special education did not graduate; youths with disabilities have a significantly higher likelihood of being arrested than their non-disabled peers (12 percent versus 8 percent); only 13.4 percent of youth with disabilities are living independently two years after leaving high school (compared to 33.2 percent of their non-disabled...
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