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Volume 10, Number 4
July/August 1994

With New Court Decisions Backing Them, Advocates See Inclusion as a Question of Values


As children with disabilities join their peers in "inclusive" classrooms, the most contentious debate in special education has grown even more polarized. Some parents call inclusion "the best thing that ever happened to my child"; others call it a "cruel sales pitch." Some teachers are enthusiastic, others are appalled. Many are sympathetic but skeptical.

The American Federation of Teachers (AFT) has denounced the nationwide "rush to inclusion" and called for a moratorium on further efforts, except where "appropriate." But what is appropriate? Is it appropriate for autistic children, easily overwhelmed by normal classroom stimulation, to learn in less distracting environments? Or does that merely guarantee them sheltered, less productive lives?

After years of argument over the efficacy of special education and the harm done by labeling students "disabled", the issues remain unresolved. But growing numbers of educators have come to believe that every child with a disability should be educated alongside "typical peers," and that segregated special education is as damaging as segregation by race. "People used to say the same things about black kids coming into the classroom," says Robert Koegel, a psychologist and inclusion advocate at the University of California Santa Barbara: " 'Let's not rush into this.' "

This is an excerpt from the Harvard Education Letter. Subscribers can click here to continue reading this article.


Also by this Author

For Further Information

For Further Information

M. Forest and J. O'Brien. Action for Inclusion. Inclusion Press, 24 Thorne Crescent, Toronto, Ontario M6H 2S5; 1989.

"Inclusion of Special Needs Students in Regular Classrooms." American Federation of Teachers, 555 New Jersey Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20001.

J. Kauffman. "The Regular Education Initiative as Reagan-Bush Education Policy: A Trickle-Down Theory of Education of the Hard-to-Teach." Journal of Special Education 23, no. 3 (Fall 1989): 256-278.

B. Rimland. "Beware the Advozealots: Mindless Good Intentions Injure the Handicapped." Autism Research Review International 7, no. 4 (1993). Autism Research Institute, 4182 Adams Ave., San Diego, CA 02116.

L. Wilde, R. K. Koegel, and R. L. Koegel. "Increasing Success in School Through Priming: A Training Manual." CCS Psychology Program, Graduate School of Education, University of California, Santa Barbara, CA 93106; 1992.