Education and the Complete Individual

Education is something that many have said much about. Most of these are complex or vague. Consider the Greek philosopher Aristotle’s saying that education is ‘an ornament in prosperity‘ and ‘a refuge in adversity‘. There have been a great many attempts to explain this description, but none have quite succeeded in satisfying my curiosity. Alternatively, this is what the English essayist Joseph Addison has to say on education: What sculpture is to a block of marble, education is to a human soul. This too, has a great many explanations and elaborations. But does it really tell us what education is? Does it tell us why we need education? Not really, since the concept of the soul is, till date, a shadowy area. So how can we begin to comprehend what everyone claims is essential to life nowadays? To put it simply, education is a process of training our mind so that we can apply it in a field of our choice: which is why we have education not as a single seamless entity, but as a whole made up of various divisions: music education, scientific and technological education, art education, even teacher education!

Education can be considered similar to picking and eating a fruit. Picking a particular fruit on the tree is akin to choosing a field to get an education of. When we bite into it, we get our first taste of the subject. As we chew on the bitten portion, we begin to understand its various aspects – the tastes, textures, intricacies and complexities of it – and when we are ready to move on to the next portion, we swallow what we have assimilated so far so that it can be used for further application. The tree we get the fruit from is the entire body of past thinkers’ teachings and the voice that tells us which fruit to pick is the interpreter of that knowledge: the teacher.

Throughout the lifelong course of education (no, it’s not like school or college which ends after a fixed period of time), we get to know about things that always were, still are and always will be around us, waiting to be recognized and acknowledged. Light plays a central role in education – both literally and metaphorically – for visual inputs are the best learnt and without light – of the sun or electrical – we would be missing out on a whole world of knowledge. In fact, this is where phrases like ‘light of knowledge’, ‘throw light on the matter’, ‘kept in the dark’ and so on came from.

You might be thinking, how can we narrow the infinite field of knowledge to select what we will need or want to know? This is where the part on ‘training the mind’ comes in. The mind, as psychology tells us, is the centre of cognitive faculties which enables consciousness, thinking, perception and judgement. It is the kitchen for the information we acquire, where we can season and prepare the bits and pieces of data into comprehensive knowledge. Like any good kitchen, the mind has infinite capabilities (which is often the reason for confusion among us youth when it comes to deciding on a particular field to ‘specialize in’ for higher education) and therefore needs to be trained in order to make this choice clearer as every good chef needs to know what to or not to use for a dish. Unfortunately, the world we live in does not allow us to experiment with our capabilities without being ostracized or reduced to penury. Thus the need for specialization. And thus the need for education.

Another obvious question would be: how can we get education? It’s easier to use metaphors and analogies when describing something like this, but a parallel in the real world is sometimes hard to provide. One answer could be a school, college or university. There are also other means to formally get education. Such as home-schooling, distance learning etc. All of these provide us with a forum to exchange knowledge – where we can gain as well as give. This is a guided and restricted form of education, especially in the Indian scenario. It is difficult to find a good school where we can tailor our education according to our needs and interests. Often, we fail to avail of the opportunity even if it is within our reach. Peer pressure, our parents’ and elders’ wants, whims and wishes and societal trends all play a role in influencing us. And this very often has an adverse effect with the student being unable to cope with the contradictory inputs and buckling under the combined pressure. An educational system where students can fulfil their desires and not bow to transient trends is necessary for proper development and realization of one’s full potential. An example of how this can help could be the famous English poet John Keats. Trained to become a doctor, Keats renounced his apothecary’s license to follow his desire, eventually creating a path for himself that no one else has quite been able to match.

Education is not just a pathway to money, as is often considered nowadays. The fact that it provides a doorway to affluence is secondary. Education is first and foremost, I believe, a source of joy and pleasure that is also a means of enhancing our capabilities. It is a landing that provides us with infinite doorways to choose to continue into, each leading to a different yet interconnected walk of life (after all, how can we forget that science and philosophy, despite being ‘at odds with one another’ go back beyond human comprehension?).

The needs of the human in order to lead a productive and satisfactory life have long been debated. Yet one point stands clear in this debate: along with the basic necessities of food, clothing and shelter, education is extremely necessary, especially in today’s material world. After all, without education, one cannot gain employment and without employment, one cannot fulfil his/her basic needs and is considered a failure by modern society.

The knowledge we gain through our guided education is definitely useful for life in the sense that they will be required to succeed in gaining and maintaining employment, a must to be accepted in society. Not having a job is enough to have you labelled lazy, a failure, even weird or odd. And any employer will require you to have a thorough knowledge of your field, which is easily available for the taking through education.

Education provides us with an endless canvas. How much of it we put into use is up to us. New fields seem to emerge everyday – parapsychology, particle physics, noetics, to name a few. Although relatively ‘unknown’ or ‘obscure’, these have as much importance as the others we know of. The flood of engineers and accountants that India is facing seems to know no end. Easy money is apparently all people seems to think of. They are becoming flat characters in the play of life: although given names like ‘security of future’, lust for a fat wallet seems to be the only motivation.

On the other hand, there are billions of people around the world who want to get an education but are unable to due to poverty, geographical isolation, familial conditions or ignorance. Like the Lady Law, education is blind to the faults or favours of those who take a sip from its pool. The people who are not able to get to its banks because they are dragged back by the brambles of shortcomings – economic, social or cultural – have to endure a life full of superstition, fear, hopelessness, helplessness, poverty and exclusion. The literate but uneducated are considered equal to the illiterate as their life pretty much goes to waste (not everyone is the Old English poet Cædmon, after all). We must, however, keep in mind that this ‘education’ is totally career-oriented – a trait that has emerged in the past decades.

Let us now consider another angle. So far we talked of the relevance of education in the tangible corporeal world. But, being human beings, the intangible yet equally expansive world of our feelings is equally important. Education plays a major role in helping us find our niche here as well. We humans are inherently social. Even ‘loners’ have at least one person in their confidence. In fact, the more solitary one is, the stronger the bond is with those that person does interact with regularly. Even those who have large friend circles have an inner circle of those who they trust. So, where do these friends come from? Most of our friends and acquaintances come from school, college and our workplace and education is the line connecting these dots to one another. We go to school and college to get an education, as do those who become our friends. We talk about things that we have learnt somewhere down the line: academically, through music, film, news bulletins, books, etc. These, too, are an important part of our education. Academia alone is not enough to make us a complete person. It is definitely important, but our character and personality depends on our education as well. As we grow up, we learn new things and experience various feelings and emotions. Events and situations, too, play a part in education. Growing up, we have quarrelled with our parents. These sometimes go downhill over time and ruin the parent-child relationship. Alternatively, it can also teach us to give people space and motivate us into trying to understand before blindly contradicting. Regardless of that outcome, it teaches us what not to do when we take up the mantle of parenthood. Whether we put it to use is, of course, a completely different question altogether.

Besides academic information, schools also impart social education. They teach us, sometimes by pointing out our mistakes, what we should or shouldn’t do in a particular situation. For instance, we learn to stand up and greet a teacher when he/she enters our classroom. We also learn to respect our higher-ups and when to follow instructions without question. This gives us an idea of the norms of society.

Education teaches us control. It tells us what is acceptable behaviour in a certain environment and what isn’t. Experience, which is yet another form of education, often also teaches us when to exercise caution and when to be spontaneous. For example, at an informal gathering like a house party, it is acceptable – even expected – to wear casual clothes. Also, we can be freer in expressing ourselves: we can talk over one another, raise our voices etc. In an office party or a similar formal gathering, on the other hand, a certain code of conduct is expected to be followed. A professional front – in both mannerism and appearance – has to be maintained. Formal attire is required and an unruly or unkempt appearance must be avoided. We also learn these things through books, entertainment, word of mouth etc. Education and its imparting is therefore an intimate and implicit part of our social life as well.

Education is a major source of mental contentment. There is a simple, innocent pleasure in gaining knowledge. As sentient living beings, we humans are inherently curious. And fulfilling that curiosity paves the way for further questions to be answered, for the thirst for knowledge to become a quest for more. Also, considering the level of competition nowadays, any and every little snippet of information in addition to what our peers know gives us an edge in the rat race of modern life. And success because of that little edge gives us a great deal of satisfaction, joy and pride: the boost to our self-esteem that is essential to our well-being, mental and, thereby, physical.

A complete individual is one who leads a wholesome life. He/she has both contentment with his/her material possessions and mental satisfaction in his/her current place in life. The complete individual, hence, is one who has found a balance between the material and immaterial worlds: one who has both access to resources and the means to enjoy them; someone who has both adequate material possessions and happiness in life. And what makes all this possible but education?

A Brief History of Special Education

Perhaps the largest and most pervasive issue in special education, as well as my own journey in education, is special education’s relationship to general education. History has shown that this has never been an easy clear cut relationship between the two. There has been a lot of giving and taking or maybe I should say pulling and pushing when it comes to educational policy, and the educational practices and services of education and special education by the human educators who deliver those services on both sides of the isle, like me.

Over the last 20+ years I have been on both sides of education. I have seen and felt what it was like to be a regular main stream educator dealing with special education policy, special education students and their specialized teachers. I have also been on the special education side trying to get regular education teachers to work more effectively with my special education students through modifying their instruction and materials and having a little more patience and empathy.

Furthermore, I have been a mainstream regular education teacher who taught regular education inclusion classes trying to figure out how to best work with some new special education teacher in my class and his or her special education students as well. And, in contrast, I have been a special education inclusion teacher intruding on the territory of some regular education teachers with my special education students and the modifications I thought these teachers should implement. I can tell you first-hand that none of this give and take between special education and regular education has been easy. Nor do I see this pushing and pulling becoming easy anytime soon.

So, what is special education? And what makes it so special and yet so complex and controversial sometimes? Well, special education, as its name suggests, is a specialized branch of education. It claims its lineage to such people as Jean-Marc-Gaspard Itard (1775-1838), the physician who “tamed” the “wild boy of Aveyron,” and Anne Sullivan Macy (1866-1936), the teacher who “worked miracles” with Helen Keller.

Special educators teach students who have physical, cognitive, language, learning, sensory, and/or emotional abilities that deviate from those of the general population. Special educators provide instruction specifically tailored to meet individualized needs. These teachers basically make education more available and accessible to students who otherwise would have limited access to education due to whatever disability they are struggling with.

It’s not just the teachers though who play a role in the history of special education in this country. Physicians and clergy, including Itard- mentioned above, Edouard O. Seguin (1812-1880), Samuel Gridley Howe (1801-1876), and Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet (1787-1851), wanted to ameliorate the neglectful, often abusive treatment of individuals with disabilities. Sadly, education in this country was, more often than not, very neglectful and abusive when dealing with students that are different somehow.

There is even a rich literature in our nation that describes the treatment provided to individuals with disabilities in the 1800s and early 1900s. Sadly, in these stories, as well as in the real world, the segment of our population with disabilities were often confined in jails and almshouses without decent food, clothing, personal hygiene, and exercise.

For an example of this different treatment in our literature one needs to look no further than Tiny Tim in Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol (1843). In addition, many times people with disabilities were often portrayed as villains, such as in the book Captain Hook in J.M. Barrie’s “Peter Pan” in 1911.

The prevailing view of the authors of this time period was that one should submit to misfortunes, both as a form of obedience to God’s will, and because these seeming misfortunes are ultimately intended for one’s own good. Progress for our people with disabilities was hard to come by at this time with this way of thinking permeating our society, literature and thinking.

So, what was society to do about these people of misfortune? Well, during much of the nineteenth century, and early in the twentieth, professionals believed individuals with disabilities were best treated in residential facilities in rural environments. An out of sight out of mind kind of thing, if you will…

However, by the end of the nineteenth century the size of these institutions had increased so dramatically that the goal of rehabilitation for people with disabilities just wasn’t working. Institutions became instruments for permanent segregation.

I have some experience with these segregation policies of education. Some of it is good and some of it is not so good. You see, I have been a self-contained teacher on and off throughout the years in multiple environments in self-contained classrooms in public high schools, middle schools and elementary schools. I have also taught in multiple special education behavioral self-contained schools that totally separated these troubled students with disabilities in managing their behavior from their mainstream peers by putting them in completely different buildings that were sometimes even in different towns from their homes, friends and peers.

Over the years many special education professionals became critics of these institutions mentioned above that separated and segregated our children with disabilities from their peers. Irvine Howe was one of the first to advocate taking our youth out of these huge institutions and to place out residents into families. Unfortunately this practice became a logistical and pragmatic problem and it took a long time before it could become a viable alternative to institutionalization for our students with disabilities.

Now on the positive side, you might be interested in knowing however that in 1817 the first special education school in the United States, the American Asylum for the Education and Instruction of the Deaf and Dumb (now called the American School for the Deaf), was established in Hartford, Connecticut, by Gallaudet. That school is still there today and is one of the top schools in the country for students with auditory disabilities. A true success story!

However, as you can already imagine, the lasting success of the American School for the Deaf was the exception and not the rule during this time period. And to add to this, in the late nineteenth century, social Darwinism replaced environmentalism as the primary causal explanation for those individuals with disabilities who deviated from those of the general population.

Sadly, Darwinism opened the door to the eugenics movement of the early twentieth century. This then led to even further segregation and even sterilization of individuals with disabilities such as mental retardation. Sounds like something Hitler was doing in Germany also being done right here in our own country, to our own people, by our own people. Kind of scary and inhumane, wouldn’t you agree?

Today, this kind of treatment is obviously unacceptable. And in the early part of the 20th Century it was also unacceptable to some of the adults, especially the parents of these disabled children. Thus, concerned and angry parents formed advocacy groups to help bring the educational needs of children with disabilities into the public eye. The public had to see firsthand how wrong this this eugenics and sterilization movement was for our students that were different if it was ever going to be stopped.

Slowly, grassroots organizations made progress that even led to some states creating laws to protect their citizens with disabilities. For example, in 1930, in Peoria, Illinois, the first white cane ordinance gave individuals with blindness the right-of-way when crossing the street. This was a start, and other states did eventually follow suit. In time, this local grassroots’ movement and states’ movement led to enough pressure on our elected officials for something to be done on the national level for our people with disabilities.

In 1961, President John F. Kennedy created the President’s Panel on Mental Retardation. And in 1965, Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which provided funding for primary education, and is seen by advocacy groups as expanding access to public education for children with disabilities.

When one thinks about Kennedy’s and Johnson’s record on civil rights, then it probably isn’t such a surprise finding out that these two presidents also spearheaded this national movement for our people with disabilities.

This federal movement led to section 504 of the 1973 Rehabilitation Act. This guarantees civil rights for the disabled in the context of federally funded institutions or any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance. All these years later as an educator, I personally deal with 504 cases every single day.

In 1975 Congress enacted Public Law 94-142, the Education for All Handicapped Children Act (EHA), which establishes a right to public education for all children regardless of disability. This was another good thing because prior to federal legislation, parents had to mostly educate their children at home or pay for expensive private education.

The movement kept growing. In the 1982 the case of the Board of Education of the Hendrick Hudson Central School District v. Rowley, the U.S. Supreme Court clarified the level of services to be afforded students with special needs. The Court ruled that special education services need only provide some “educational benefit” to students. Public schools were not required to maximize the educational progress of students with disabilities.

Today, this ruling may not seem like a victory, and as a matter of fact, this same question is once again circulating through our courts today in 2017. However, given the time period it was made in, it was a victory because it said special education students could not pass through our school system without learning anything. They had to learn something. If one knows and understands how the laws work in this country, then one knows the laws always progress through tiny little increments that add up to progress over time. This ruling was a victory for special education students because it added one more rung onto the crusade.

In the 1980s the Regular Education Initiative (REI) came into being. This was an attempt to return responsibility for the education of students with disabilities to neighborhood schools and regular classroom teachers. I am very familiar with Regular Education Initiative because I spent four years as an REI teacher in the late 1990s and early 2000s. At this time I was certified as both a special education teacher and a regular education teacher and was working in both capacities in a duel role as an REI teacher; because that’s what was required of the position.

The 1990s saw a big boost for our special education students. 1990 birthed the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). This was, and is, the cornerstone of the concept of a free and appropriate public education (FAPE) for all of our students. To ensure FAPE, the law mandated that each student receiving special education services must also receive an Individualized Education Program (IEP).

The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 reached beyond just the public schools. And Title 3 of IDEA prohibited disability-based discrimination in any place of public accommodation. Full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, or accommodations in public places were expected. And of course public accommodations also included most places of education.

Also, in the 1990s the full inclusion movement gained a lot of momentum. This called for educating all students with disabilities in the regular classroom. I am also very familiar with this aspect of education as well, as I have also been an inclusion teacher from time to time over my career as an educator on both sides of the isle as a regular education teacher and a special education teacher.

Now on to President Bush and his educational reform with his No Child Left Behind law that replaced President Johnson’s Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). The NCLB Act of 2001 stated that special education should continue to focus on producing results and along with this came a sharp increase in accountability for educators.

Now, this NCLB Act was good and bad. Of course we all want to see results for all of our students, and it’s just common sense that accountability helps this sort of thing happen. Where this kind of went crazy was that the NCLB demanded a host of new things, but did not provide the funds or support to achieve these new objectives.

Furthermore, teachers began feeling squeezed and threatened more and more by the new movement of big business and corporate education moving in and taking over education. People with no educational background now found themselves influencing education policy and gaining access to a lot of the educational funds.

This accountability craze stemmed by excessive standardized testing ran rapid and of course ran downstream from a host of well-connected elite Trump-like figures saying to their lower echelon educational counterparts, “You’re fired!” This environment of trying to stay off of the radar in order to keep one’s job, and beating our kids over the head with testing strategies, wasn’t good for our educators. It wasn’t good for our students. And it certainly wasn’t good for our more vulnerable special education students.

Some good did come from this era though. For example, the updated Individuals with Disabilities with Education Act of 2004 (IDEA) happened. This further required schools to provide individualized or special education for children with qualifying disabilities. Under the IDEA, states who accept public funds for education must provide special education to qualifying children with disabilities. Like I said earlier, the law is a long slow process of tiny little steps adding up to progress made over time.

Finally, in 2015 President Obama’s Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) replaced President Bush’s NCLB, which had replaced President Johnson’s ESEA. Under Obama’s new ESSA schools were now allowed to back off on some of the testing. Hopefully, the standardized testing craze has been put in check. However, only time will tell. ESSA also returned to more local control. You know, the kind of control our forefathers intended.

You see the U.S. Constitution grants no authority over education to the federal government. Education is not mentioned in the Constitution of the United States, and for good reason. The Founders wanted most aspects of life managed by those who were closest to them, either by state or local government or by families, businesses, and other elements of civil society. Basically, they saw no role for the federal government in education.

You see, the Founders feared the concentration of power. They believed that the best way to protect individual freedom and civil society was to limit and divide power. However, this works both ways, because the states often find themselves asking the feds for more educational money. And the feds will only give the states additional money if the states do what the feds want… Hmm… Checks and balances, as well as compromise can be a really tricky thing, huh?

So on goes the battle in education and all the back and forth pushing and pulling between the federal government and the states and local government, as well as special education and regular education. And to add to this struggle, recently Judge Moukawsher, a state judge from Connecticut, in a lawsuit filed against the state by the Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding, rocked the educational boat some more when in his ruling he included a message to lawmakers to reassess what level of services students with significant disabilities are entitled to.

His ruling and statements appear to say that he thinks we’re spending too much money on our special education students. And that for some of them, it just isn’t worth it because their disabilities are too severe. You can imagine how controversial this was and how much it angered some people.

The 2016 United States Presidential election resulted in something that few people saw coming. Real Estate mogul and reality star Donald Trump won the presidency and then appointed anti-public educator Betsy Devos to head up this country’s Department of Education. Her charge, given to her by Trump, is to drastically slash the Department of Education, and to push forward private charter schools over what they call a failing public educational system.

How this is going to affect our students, and especially our more vulnerable special education students, nobody knows for sure at this time. But, I can also tell you that there aren’t many people out there that feel comfortable with it right now. Only time will tell where this is all going to go and how it will affect our special education students…

So, as I said earlier, perhaps the largest, most pervasive issue in special education is its relationship to general education. Both my own travels and our nation’s journey through the vast realm of education over all of these years has been an interesting one and a tricky one plagued with controversy to say the least.

I can still remember when I first became a special education teacher back in the mid-1990s. A friend’s father, who was a school principal at the time, told me to get out of special education because it wasn’t going to last. Well, I’ve been in and out of special education for more than two decades now, and sometimes I don’t know if I’m a regular education teacher or a special education teacher, or both. And sometimes I think our country’s educational system might be feeling the same internal struggle that I am. But, regardless, all these years later, special education is still here.

In closing, although Itard failed to normalize Victor, the wild boy of Averyon, he did produce dramatic changes in Victor’s behavior through education. Today, modern special education practices can be traced to Itard. His work marks the beginning of widespread attempts to instruct students with disabilities. Fast forwarding to 2017, for what happens next in the future of education and special education in our country… Well, I guess that depends on all of us…

Special Education Reform?

I remember 20 plus years ago when I was getting my graduate degree in Special Education and a buddy of mine getting his degree in elementary education told me that his father, a school principal, said that I probably shouldn’t waste my time getting a masters in Special Education. He said that Special Education would be eventually fading out of public education. I was almost done with my masters at this point so I figured I would have to take my chances with it, besides what other choice did I have anyways at that point?

I got a Special Education job and taught for about 10 year. There were a lot of ups and downs over those 10 years, and eventually I decided that I wanted a change so I got certified and switched over to high school history. At this point in my career I remembered what my friend had said a decade ago and wondered if I was ahead of the curve on schools no longer needing special education teachers, even though it was 10 years later. I wondered if my job was now safe in my new-found home in the history department.

Well, I loved teaching history, but life has its own funny ways that aren’t aligned to us and what we want, so after a decade of teaching history I personally got a first class education on budget cuts and my job was eliminated. Thankfully, I landed on my feet back in Special Education, believe it or not.

It had been more than two decades since my old graduate school buddy told me that the need for special education teachers was disappearing. During the previous two decades my friend had gone from graduate school to elementary school teacher to assistant principal to principal, just like his father had done. I had gone from graduate school to special education teacher to history teacher to back to special education teacher, like nobody else that I know had done. And believe it or not there was still a bunch of special education jobs available when I landed there for a second time. As a matter of fact, there was actually plenty of jobs there because there is a shortage of special education teachers in 49 out of our 50 states. Imagine that… Two decades after I was told that Special Education was going away, and I find that they still can’t seem to get enough special education teachers.

Fast-forward a few more years to today and there is a new and interesting twist affecting Special Education called full inclusion. Now inclusion isn’t a new thing to our schools. As a matter of fact inclusion has a long interesting history in our schools.

Six decades ago there was the Supreme Court Case of Brown v. Board of Education. In 1954 the new law of the land became integrated schools for all races. Four decades ago the ground-breaking law of Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) began to take effect and help ensure that more than six million students with disabilities have the right to a free and appropriate education, which means they too get to be included in with the general education population.

To help this happen schools create a Planning and Placement Team (PPT) that meet and discuss a student’s Individual Education Program (IEP) and then place the student in the appropriate educational setting based on the student’s needs and the law. The placement also needs to be the least restrictive environment (LRE). I can still remember my college professor describing the least restrictive environment in a short story that one would not bring a machine gun to take care of a fly. Rather, one would just bring a fly-swatter to take care of a fly. In other words, if a kid’s disability can be dealt with in the neighborhood school, then the kid doesn’t have to be sent across town or even to another town’s special school.

Today, many schools are trying to improve on this inclusion model and least restrictive environment by going from a partial to a full-inclusion model. Schools in the Los Angeles School District have moved a vast majority of their students out of their special education centers within the last three years and into neighborhood schools where they are fully integrated into elective classes like physical education, gardening and cooking. They are also integrated into regular main stream academic classes as well, but it’s usually not to the same degree as electives.

Michigan schools say that want to break down the walls between general education and Special Education creating a system in which students will get more help when they need it, and that support doesn’t need to be in a separate special education classroom.

Some school districts in Portland, Oregon are a little further along than the Los Angeles schools that are just bringing special education students back from special schools and Michigan schools that are just beginning to try full integration of its students and eliminating most of the special education classrooms.

Being a little further along in the process Portland makes an interesting case study. Many of the parents who initially supported the idea of integrating special education students into regular education classrooms in Portland are now worried about how the Portland Public School System is doing it. Portland is aiming for full-inclusion by the year 2020. However, some of the teachers in Portland are saying, “Obviously the special education students are going to fail and they are going to act out because we are not meeting their needs… If there’s not the right support there, that’s not acceptable, not only for the child, but for the general education teacher as well.”

A Portland parent said, “I would rather have my child feel successful than for them to be ‘college-ready’.” She further states, “I want my children to be good, well-rounded human beings that make the world a better place. I don’t think they necessarily need to go to college to do that. I think that children are individuals, and when we stop treating them as individuals, there’s a problem.” Sadly, many parents and teachers have left the Portland School District, and many more are fantasizing about it because they feel the full-inclusion model isn’t working there how they pictured it would.

How much should schools integrate the special education students is the burning question of the hour. In my personal experience some integration is not only possible, but it’s a must. With some support many of the special education students can be in the regular education classrooms.

A few years ago I even had a non-speaking paraplegic boy in a wheel chair who was on a breathing respirator sitting in my regular education social studies class. Every day his para professional and his nurse rolled him into and sat with him. He always smiled at the tales I told of Alexander the Great marching across 11,000 miles of territory and conquering much of the known world at that time. By the way, Alexander the Great also practiced his own model of inclusion by encouraging kindness to the conquered and encouraging his soldiers to marry the captured territory’s women in order to create a lasting peace.

Other important factors to consider in special education inclusion is the much needed socialization and the saving of money integration offers. Kids learn from other kids and money not spent on Special Education could be spent on general education, right? Hmm…

If you noticed, I said a little bit earlier that many special education students could be integrated, but I did not say all or even most should be integrated. There are just some students that are going to take away too much of the teacher’s time and attention from other students, such as, in the case of students with severe behavior problems. When we put severe behavior problems in regular education classes it’s just outright unfair to all of the other children in there. Similar cases could be made for other severe disabilities too that demand too much of the main stream teacher’s individual time and attention.

Hey, I’m not saying to never try out a kid with a severe disability in a general education setting. But what I am saying is that schools need to have a better system of monitoring these placements and be able to quickly remove students that aren’t working out, and are taking precious learning time away from other students. Furthermore, schools need to do this without shaming the teacher because the teacher complained that the student wasn’t a good fit and was disrupting the educational learning process of the other students. Leaving a kid in an inappropriate placement isn’t good for any of the parties involved. Period.

Over the last two decades I have worked with more special education students than I can remember as a special education teacher and a regular education teacher teaching inclusion classes. I have learned to become extremely flexible and patient and thus have had some of the toughest and most needy kids placed in my classes. I have worked miracles with these kids over the years and I know that I am not the only teacher out there doing this. There are many more out there just like me. But, what I worry about is that because teachers are so dedicated and pulling off daily miracles in the classroom, districts, community leaders, and politician may be pushing too hard for the full-inclusion model thinking that the teachers will just have to figure it out. Setting up teachers and students for failure is never a good idea.

Furthermore, I hope it’s just not the money that they are trying to save while pushing this full-inclusion model forward because what we should really be trying to save is our children. As Fredrick Douglas said, “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” Regardless of how the financial educational pie is sliced, the bottom line is that the pie is just too small and our special education teachers and our special education students shouldn’t be made to pay for this.

In addition, I have been a teacher for too long to not be at least a little skeptical when I hear the bosses say that the reason they are pushing for the full-inclusion model is because socialization is so important. I know it’s important. But, I also know that too many people are hanging their hats on that socialization excuse rather than education our special needs students and providing them what they really need. I have seen special education students whose abilities only let them draw pictures sitting in honors classes. There is no real socialization taking place here. It just doesn’t make sense.

Well, finally coming full circle. It will be interesting to see where this full inclusion thing goes. The wise ones won’t let their special education teachers go, or get rid of their classrooms. And for the school districts that do, I imagine that it won’t take long before they realize the mistake they made and start hiring special education teachers back. To my friend and his now ex-principal father from all those years ago who thought special education was going away, well, we’re not there yet, and to tell you the truth, I don’t think we ever will be.

Globalization: How It Has Affected Philippine Education And Beyond

Education before the 20th century was once treated as a domestic phenomenon and institutions for learning were once treated as local institutions. Prior to the 20th century, education was usually limited within the confines of a country, exclusively meant for the consumption of its local citizens. Scholars or college students did not have to travel miles away from their countries of origin to study and to gain skills which they needed in order to traverse the paths of their chosen careers. Moreover, national borders served as impenetrable walls in the name of sovereignty. Gaining a college degree and the skills entailed with it were merely for the purpose of staunch nationalistic service to one’s land of origin. Furthermore, knowledge of the valleys and the oceans encircling the world map, as well as foreign languages and international political regimes were not much of an imperative. Intercultural exchange was not massive and sophisticated, if not intricate. Acceptance and understanding of cultural diversity were not pressured upon anyone, as well as the lure to participate in a globally interconnected world. In other words, before the 20th century, scholastic work were predominantly simple and constrained in the local, the domestic, the nearby. They were limited to one’s own village, one’s own region, one’s own country. A student had his own neighborhood as the location where he is to be born, to be educated, and later to be of service to – the local village which is his home, his community, his country.

Nevertheless, the world has been in a constant state of flux. In the 20th century onwards, the phenomenon called globalization rose and became the buzzword. Anything which pertained to the term globalization was attributed to modernization, or anything that is up-to-date, if not better. Part and parcel of this trend is the advent and irresistible force of information technology and information boom through the wonders of the Internet. The idea of cosmopolitanism – a sense of all of humanity, regardless of race, creed, gender, and so on, living in a so-called global village – is another primary indicator of globalization. Moreover, international media as well as trade and investment have been unbridled and have occurred in a transnational nature. Finally, globalization has involved the uncontrollable movement of scholars, laborers, and migrants moving from one location to another in search for better employment and living conditions.

Apparently, globalization seemed to be all-encompassing, affecting all areas of human life, and that includes education. One indicator of this is the emergence of international education as a concept. Internationalization of education is manifested by catchphrases like The Global Schoolhouse, All the world’s a classroom, One big campus that is Europe, Think global. Act local, and Go West. Students from the world over have been ostensibly persuaded to learn about the world and to cope with technological advancements, if not to become a Citizen of the World. Moreover, globalization and international education are at play, for instance, when speaking of Singapore being branded as the Knowledge Capital of Asia, demonstrating the city-state as among the world’s academic powerhouses; De La Salle University in Manila, Philippines entering into agreements and external linkages with several universities in the Asian region like Japan’s Waseda University and Taiwan’s Soochow University for partnership and support; the establishment of branch campuses or satellites in Singapore of American and Australian universities like the University of Chicago and the University of New South Wales, respectively; online degree programs being offered to a housewife who is eager to acquire some education despite her being occupied with her motherly duties; students taking semesters or study-abroad programs; and finally the demand to learn English – the lingua franca of the modern academic and business world – by non-traditional speakers, like the Chinese, the Japanese, and the Korean students exerting efforts to learn the language in order to qualify for a place in English-speaking universities and workplaces. Apparently, all of these promote international education, convincing its prospective consumers that in today’s on-going frenzy of competition, a potent force to boost one’s self-investment is to leave their homes, fly to another country, and take up internationally relevant courses. Indeed, globalization and international education have altogether encouraged students to get to know their world better and to get involved with it more.

Boston College’s Center for International Higher Education director and International Education expert Philip Altbach asserted in his article “Perspectives on International Higher Education” that the elements of globalization in higher education are widespread and multifaceted. Clear indicators of globalization trends in higher education that have cross-national implications are the following:

1. Flows of students across borders;
2. International branch and offshore campuses dotting the landscape, especially in developing and middle-income countries;
3. In American colleges and universities, programs aimed at providing an international perspective and cross-cultural skills are highly popular;
4. Mass higher education;
5. A global marketplace for students, faculty, and highly educated personnel; and
6. The global reach of the new ‘Internet-based’ technologies.

Moreover, European Association of International Education expert S. Caspersen supported that internationalization influences the following areas: Curriculum, language training, studies and training abroad, teaching in foreign languages, receiving foreign students, employing foreign staff and guest teachers, providing teaching materials in foreign languages, and provision of international Ph. D. students. Nevertheless, globalization’s objective of a “one-size-fits-all” culture that would ease international transactions has not seemed to be applicable to all the nations of the world. In the words of Nobel Laureate economist Joseph Stiglitz, globalization’s effects are dualistic in nature. Globalization itself is neither good nor bad. It has the power to do enormous good. But in much of the world, globalization has not brought comparable benefits. For many, it seems closer to an unmitigated disaster. In Andrew Green’s 2007 book, “Education and Development in a Global Era: Strategies for ‘Successful Globalisation'”, he asserted that optimists would refer to the rise of East Asian tigers – Japan, China, and South Korea – as globalization’s success stories. But these are just a minority of the world’s two hundred nations. A majority has remained in their developing situations, among these is the Philippines.

In terms of international education being observed in the Philippines, universities have incorporated in their mission and vision the values of molding graduates into globally competitive professionals. Furthermore, Philippine universities have undergone internationalization involving the recruitment of foreign academics and students and collaboration with universities overseas. English training has also been intensified, with the language being used as the medium of instruction aside from the prevailing Filipino vernacular. Finally, Philippine higher education, during the onset of the 21st century, has bolstered the offering of nursing and information technology courses because of the demand of foreign countries for these graduates.

In terms of student mobility, although gaining an international training through studying abroad like in the United States is deemed impressive, if not superior, by most Filipinos, the idea of practicality is overriding for most students. Study-abroad endeavors are not popular among the current generation of students. The typical outlook is that it is not practical to study overseas obviously because of the expenses – tuition fees, living costs, accommodation, and airfare. Although financial aid may be available, they are hugely limited. There may be several universities that offer merit or academic scholarships, talent scholarships, athletic scholarships, teaching assistantships, research assistantships, full or partial tuition fee waivers, but actually there is certainly not a lot of student money. Apparently, international education is understood as a global issue, a global commodity, and above all, a privilege – and therefore, it is not for everyone. Hence, studying in America is a mere option for those who can afford to pay the expenses entailed in studying abroad.

The Philippines is a Third World country which is heavily influenced by developed nations like the United States. Globalization may have affected it positively in some ways, but a huge chunk of its effects has been leaning to the detriment of the Filipinos. Globalization has primarily affected not only the country’s education system but even beyond it – economically and socially. These include brain drain, declining quality in education because of profiteering, labor surplus, vulnerability of its workers overseas, and declining family values.

For one, the Philippines is a migrant-worker country. This phenomenon of sending its laborers (also known as Overseas Filipino Workers or OFWs) abroad to work and to send money back home has been intensified by globalization. Brain drain – or the exodus of talented and skilled citizens of a country transferring to usually developed nations for better employment and living conditions – is one problem that has been stepped up by globalization. The Philippine foreign policy of labor diplomacy began in the 1970s when rising oil prices caused a boom in contract migrant labor in the Middle East. The government of dictator Ferdinand Marcos, from the mid-1960s to the mid-1980s, saw an opportunity to export young men left unemployed by the stagnant economy and established a system to regulate and encourage labor outflows. This scenario has led Filipinos to study courses like nursing which would secure them employment overseas rather than in their home country. For more than 25 years, export of temporary labor like nurses, engineers, information technology practitioners, caregivers, entertainers, domestic helpers, factory workers, construction workers, and sailors were sent overseas to be employed. In return, the Philippine economy has benefited through the monetary remittances sent by these OFWs. In the last quarter of 2010, the Philippine economy gained roughly $18.76 billion in remittances which largely came from OFWs based in the United States, Saudi Arabia, United Kingdom, Japan, United Arab Emirates, Singapore, Italy, Germany, and Norway.

Second, the demand for overseas employment by these Filipino professionals has affected the quality of the local education system in the form of fly-by-night, substandard schools which were only aimed at profiteering. A Filipino legislator, Edgardo Angara, once aired his concern over the spread of many schools which offer courses believed to be demanded in foreign countries and the declining quality education. Angara observed that the Philippines has too much access to education versus quality education. For instance, for every five kilometers in this country, there is a nursing school, a computer school, a care-giving school, and a cosmetic school. Angara suggested that lawmakers and educators should find a happy formula for quality education.

Third, labor surplus is another dire effect of globalization. In 2008, the phenomenon of brain drain started to subside in the Philippines. This period was when the United States started to experience a financial turmoil which was contagious, distressing countries around the world which are dependent to its economy. In the Philippines, it has been surmised that the demand for nurses has already died down because the need for them has already been filled. For instance, the United States has decided that instead of outsourcing foreign nurses, they have resorted to employing local hires to mitigate its local problem of rising unemployment. As a result, this incident has receded the phenomenon of a majority of Filipino college students taking up nursing. And the unfortunate result is the labor surplus of nursing graduates. This dilemma which has been caused by a Third World country such as the Philippines trying to cope with globalization’s feature of labor outflows has left Filipinos on a double whammy. Over 287,000 nursing graduates are currently either jobless or employed in jobs other than nursing. Nursing graduates nowadays suffer job mismatch, taking on jobs which are different from their field of specialization like working for call centers, serving as English tutors, if not remaining unemployed because the Philippine hospitals have little to no vacancies at all which are supposed to be occupied by the large number of nursing graduates. Furthermore, these professionals are accepted by hospitals or clinics as volunteers with little to no monetary benefits, or as trainees who are burdened with the policy of forcibly paying the hospitals for their training.

Fourth, a dilemma that globalization has burdened the Philippines is the vulnerability of its overseas workers. For instance, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, United Arab Emirates, and Taiwan, have had no choice but to lay off and repatriate their Filipino guest workers in light of the global financial crisis. Furthermore, the threat of Saudization is a present concern in the Philippines nowadays. Presently, around 1.4 million OFWs in Saudi Arabia are in danger of losing their jobs because the Arab nation is implementing a Saudization program which will prioritize their Arab citizens for employment. To date, with more than 1.5 million OFWs, Saudi Arabia is the country which has the greatest concentration of OFWs. It is the largest hirer of Filipino Workers and has the largest Filipino population in the Middle East. As Saudi Arabia hosts a majority of OFWs, the problem of these Filipino workers losing their jobs and returning to their homeland where employment opportunities are scarce is a national threat. Furthermore, the current national instability in countries like Syria and Libya has threatened the lives of the OFWs, who still have chosen to stay in their foreign workplaces because of economic reasons which they find weightier vis-à-vis their safety.

Finally, globalization has resulted to social costs which involve challenges to Filipino families. Possessing close family ties, Filipino families sacrifice and allocate significant amounts of financial resources in order to support their kin. Filipino parents have the belief that through education, their children are guaranteed with promising futures and achieving decent lives. Thus, given the limited employment opportunities in the Philippines which are unable to support the needs of the family, one or both parents leave to work outside the country. As a result, Filipino children, although their educational goals and well-being are sustained, would have to survive with one or both parents away from them. They would then have to deal with living with an extended family member such as aunts, uncles or grandparents who are left to take care of them. This has deprived Filipino children of parental support and guidance as they are separated from the primary members of their family.

In reality, even though Filipino families have experienced the monetary benefits of a family member uprooting himself from the country to work overseas, this trend has not been enjoyed by the majority of Filipinos. The poorest of the poor cannot afford to leave and work overseas. Also, with volatile market forces, the value of the US dollar which is used as the currency of OFW salaries vacillating, rising gas prices and toll fees in highways, and the continued surge in the cost of living in the Philippines, in general, globalization has precluded long-term economic growth for the country, with the masses suffering a great deal. Moreover, with human capital and technological know-how important to growth, the Philippines suffered with globalization by losing its professionals to the developed countries which, on the other hand, experienced “brain gain”.

Indeed, globalization has both positive and negative effects, but in the Philippine case, it is more on the negative. It is justified to say that globalization is an “uneven process” and that most least developing countries did not grow significantly in light of globalization. Those which predominantly benefited are the affluent and powerful countries of the Western world and East Asia.

The Philippines was once considered as the “knowledge capital of Asia”, particularly during the 1960s and the 1970s. Its system of higher education was marked by high standards comparable to its neighboring countries, much lower tuition fees, and the predominant use of English as the medium of instruction. The Philippines, consequently, was able to entice students from its neighboring nations, like the Chinese, the Thais, and the Koreans. However, presently, this once upbeat picture has now been replaced by a bleak one because of several problems which has long confronted the system like budget mismanagement, poor quality, and job mismatch, thereby seriously affecting its consumers and end products – the Filipino students. Making matters worse is globalization affecting the graduates of Philippine universities by luring them to choose to work overseas because of the greater monetary benefits vis-à-vis the disadvantage of leaving their families home and not serving their countrymen. Now that the world is undergoing financial turmoil, the Filipino workers would then have to cope with these dire effects of globalization.

Apparently, the Philippines has remained stagnant, as opposed to the goals of increasing equality, rapid economic growth through integration into the global market, and the wide distribution of social improvements in less developed countries. These fruits of globalization, unfortunately, did not trickle down a great deal to the Philippines. Hence, although overseas employment has been a legitimate option for the local workers, it is high time that the Philippine government encourage colleges and universities to provide programs that are relevant to the nature of this substantially agricultural country like agriculture-related courses as these would play a significant role in setting the Philippine economy in motion towards development. The population boom in this country, which is commonly reckoned as among the country’s predicaments as the surging number of Filipinos is indirectly proportional to the employment opportunities available, should be taken advantage of by encouraging the surplus of people to develop employment and improve the rural farmlands. Affluent Filipino families who own large conglomerates should also participate in creating more employment opportunities and encouraging dignified labor conditions so as to mitigate the dismal trend of labor migration. Moreover, instead of adopting policies imposed by powerful Western countries like the United States and going with the flow, the Philippine government should work in reinforcing the welfare of its citizens more than anything else. (Sheena Ricarte, August 31, 2011).