Lately I have been having this itch that I can't quite scratch. I finally figured out what it was the other day. It has been 52 years since I first became a special educator. Times have certainly changed. Back then kids with disabilities could be excluded from school just because they had that disability. Now, of course, they can't. There would be some who would tell you that students with disabilities are treated better than those without disabilities. But I don't see too many people lining up to get a disability.
What troubles me is that in the old days of discrimination in schools, special educators fought hard to protect and provide services for "their" kids. Today those people seem to have circled the wagons. Instead of putting kids first, they are putting the system first and trying to figure out how to save money, even if it hurts a child.
The most simple example of that is what I call the "failure model". Children with obvious needs are required to fail big time before they can receive services. So a child might have to be in a general ed class, be bullied and feel stupid enough before it occurs to someone to remove that child. The system dramatically over estimates the benefits to the child of being with plain kids. Mostly the system forgets the cost to the child of feeling like a failure or being teased and bullied. We are told that the kids have friends but they are not invited to social events.
In the olden days, special ed people would have been up in arms to fight that. It is also true that in the old day general educators would sometimes put the kids with special needs out on the playground at a separate time from the plain kids so they could not mix.
People go into special education because they care about these kids and their needs. What hurts is that sometime along the way they lose the spirit that brought them to the kids and seem to feast at the banquet table of the big boys and forget the most vulnerable who need them the most.