Shouldn't all education be special education?

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My brother sent me a link to an article about a school where students are asking that the term "Special Education" be removed from the signs on the building housing their program. I think the students have a valid point. While some students need different help to succeed in school they are all too often singled out for less than favorable treatment at the hands of other students and even on occasion faculty. We have a ways to go until we really act as though different did not always mean "better" or "worse."

But as I read this article some other things came to mind. That is that all students benefit from some personalization of education to their individual learning style, speed of understanding and even background of knowledge. Some students can succeed at some level, sometimes even at high levels, without additional attention but I wonder how many of them could attain even higher levels with some customization of their education. Probably a lot.

We talk about education a lot in my family. I'm a former teacher, my wife is a middle/high school librarian and our son teaches students with special needs. One of the things my son feels strongly about is that a teacher's responsibility is to find ways to meet the special (or if you prefer - individual) needs of all of their students. That is hard to do as there are many demands on a teacher's time, teachers are differently gifted, and class sizes often get in the way of this ideal goal.

Smaller class sizes are a great goal but taxpayers who are focused on saving money and who hold the idea that "good enough" is all they want to pay for get in the way. Perhaps this is an area where technology can help. Not just drill and kill with repetitious exercise programs but some real interactive, highly visual software that allows students to learn at their own pace. This should also provide progress information so that the teacher knows who knows what and who needs something extra to help them to the next step. This is not so much a hardware problem anymore – rather it is one of software and teaching knowledge. Who is working on this one? Isn’t it about time someone did?

Let’s make education special for everyone. What do you think?



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