Mainstreaming Should be the Parents Decision
Integrating children with handicaps into regular classrooms (also known as mainstreaming) has been a huge issue in education systems recently. The goal of mainstreaming is providing the most appropriate and beneficial education to a child in the least restrictive setting and so the question of where the children with handicaps benefit the most is the question that is the hardest to answer. In the 1960's there was no question. No one even thought about taking a child with a handicap out of special education and placing them within a regular classroom. But now, partly because of parent's requests, select school districts are mainstreaming. The debate over mainstreaming being good or bad can be easily taken from either side. The severity of the handicap and how great the need is for extra help play an important part in determining if placing a child with a mental handicap into a regular classroom would benefit the child the most. But in a case of a handicap such as Downs Syndrome, a regular classroom setting is not the best possible place for that child. Therefore, special education is the best choice.
A classic story about the advantages and disadvantages of mainstreaming was told in a segment of "Turning Point." The segment focused around two young boys, both with Downs Syndrome, who were place in two different schools for the duration of a year. Bobby had returned to his school for the mentally handicapped while Sean's mother had fought to get him out of that school and placed into a regular classroom in a public school. The segment followed each of the boys' experience and progress throughout the year.
The greatest benefit of special education, seen in Bobby's school, is that it teaches different skills than those taught in a regular classroom. In special education, the teachers focus on teaching the skills that the children will need to survive so they can increase the chance that these children will be able to live independently. They focus on dressing and personal hygiene, as well as teaching them basic job skills. The students learn how to count stock at the grocery store, how to run a cash register, and how to handle money. Bobby's class actually learned these things along with reading and writing. In my opinion, I think these skills which teach the children how to take care of themselves is a lot more valuable than most of the things that Sean was learning.
Sean's mother and other advocates of mainstreaming, on the other hand, believe that children with mental handicaps should be taught the same skills as any other child. They say that teaching a child how to count stock and use a cash register is basically telling the children that they won't amount to anything more than working at Mc Donald's. They say that...