I’ve started graduate work in Special Education with hopes of helping those most in need. Instead I find myself discouraged more and more by the system as it exists. This is my final reflection for week four of the online course:
The more I read about LREs FAPE, and IDEA; the more I assist students in class; the more I question the whole system. We are to provide an “appropriate” education, as long as that education is tied to curricular standards that may have been written by someone far away with no understanding of child development, and who may have never set foot in a classroom since s/he graduated; curricular standards which have little to do with understanding outside the walls of academia. We are charged with seeing that students are placed in the Least Restrictive Environment, so long as that environment is within the brick and mortar wall of an outdated age-grade divided relic of the industrial age. We are to use only those methods which have been scientifically proven to be effective, when the entire model of our education system is based, not on science, but on history and culture and industrial efficiency, without regard to how a child learns. The curriculum we use is based loosely on the ability of students to understand certain things at certain ages, but as early as Piaget we have understood that there is a vast range between children’s development from concrete to concrete operational thinkers. Still they all must learn algebra within a year of each other. We have learned that student interest can greatly affect the student’s ability to learn and retain information, but student choice is completely absent from the process. I believe that disabilities will largely disappear, or become irrelevant, if student interest drives learning. Instead, we are here studying how to help kids fit the system through adaptations and accommodations. Why? So they can succeed in this existing, completely unnatural system, and graduate as little more than people pleasing grade seekers with Pavlovian responses to bells and authority? In the end, how many of them remember what they “learned”? We are all about benchmarks, grades, assessment and data. Does anyone care about learning anymore?! Does anyone worry why these children are no longer curious by the time they reach us? We need to look beyond procedural safeguards, which do little more than ensure a student gets some “educational benefit” that is likely meaningless outside the walls of school.
“No one asks how to motivate a baby. A baby naturally explores everything it can get at, unless restraining forces have already been at work. And this tendency doesn’t die out, it’s wiped out.” ~B.F. Skinner