Friday, October 05, 2012

Some Special Needs Students Taking Up Resources

I expect that some people who read this will think I'm a heartless bastard for writing it. But that's ok. It still makes perfect sense in a reality-based world.

Everybody knows that our public education system is financially strapped. Everybody knows that the U.S. is cranking out below-average science and math students compared to other industrialized nations.

So why are we spending millions of dollars going through the motions of educating special needs students who will never be productive members of society?

See, I knew some people would take that the wrong way. What I mean is that, despite the fact that their parents do not want to hear it, there are some children who are so severely challenged mentally and physically that they will never be able to live anything like a normal life on their own. At the schools where I've taught, there are students who are so challenged that they can't eat on their own, write their names, or string words together to make a sentence. And I'm not talking about pre-schoolers. These are middle- and high-school students.

Some of the students require a full-time teacher all by themselves. These are not babysitters; they are certified teachers who are paid anywhere between $35,000 and $65,000 a year for their services - to a single child. This is on top of funds needed to supply classrooms with special equipment and materials to service these children.

Now, I'm not suggesting that we, as a society, should turn our backs and not help to support them. If they need to be cared for during the day and if the parents can't afford this care, we should take care of them - but not at school and not by faculty. Perhaps a specialized nursing-home environment would be better suited to their needs.

I've never been a big fan of what they used to call mainstreaming. Today it is referred to as inclusion. Kids with special needs are forced to sit through normal classes if they are able to handle it, even though there is little chance that they will learn much from a normal classroom environment. That, in itself, wouldn't be so bad except that inclusion students often require the presence of a second, special education teacher in the classroom, even if there are few students. And it also sometimes causes a distraction because it often takes the classroom teacher's time away from teaching the students who have a better chance of benefiting from that time.

I've heard the arguments the other way. And I'm certainly not targeting those students who have the capacity to learn enough to be contributing members of society some day. But I do believe there are better and less expensive ways to take care of those young people who will never be able to live on their own, get a job, and pay taxes due to a severe mental deficiency. I'm not saying sweep them under the rug and forget about them. I'm just suggesting that there are too many resources pumped into trying to educate these children who have little hope of providing any return on that investment. Those resources should be spent on the students who will be more likely to benefit from them.

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