Friday, January 05, 2007

Real Reason for Mainstreaming?

BACK WHEN I WAS IN PUBLIC SCHOOL, there was a new educational trend called "mainstreaming" that brought students with severe disabilities into the general schools. Before this time, disabled individuals were segregated into their own institutions. Mainstreaming in public education was paralleled by a similar movement to reintegrate mentally disabled persons into society, and not keeping them segregated in mental hospitals.

The professed reason for doing this was basically an appeal to society's liberality: as fellow human beings, why should these disabled students be kept hidden from view? Also, perhaps mainstreaming would help develop tolerance in the general population, as well as provide broader horizons for the disabled themselves. Now we know that Catholic moral theology teaches us that liberality is a necessary virtue for sanctity, and so as a matter of moral imperative, we must have generosity towards those with difficulties, even if it might be inefficient or cause disruption. But what was initially an appeal to public morality became instead federal law in the United States with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, first legislated in 1975.

Back in school I noticed that some disabled students were incapable of keeping up with the mainstream: these students were apparently not learning much, nor were they interacting with others. They were alone among the crowds. Thankfully, most of the mainstream students (even the schoolyard bullies) were polite enough not to physically abuse the most disabled children, but instead they would avert their eyes, treating the disabled as a shock and a horror.

This reminds me of an avant-garde definition of art: "the purpose of art is to shock and enrage". Shock the mainstream or bourgeois, that is. It did not seem to me that the disabled students were being well served by being mainstreamed. Likewise, when mainstreaming closed down many residential mental hospitals, we ended up with a tremendous problem of homelessness. Instead, it seems that "mainstreaming" was designed to primarily influence the mainstream population and not help the disabled.

Consider this: the same people who promote mainstreaming also promote abortion on demand. And a major trend in modern abortion is the elimination of birth defects: defects that were precisely those suffered by the mainstreamed disabled students. As it seems that the primary effect of this mainstreaming was the inducement of shock in the general population: a shock that would perhaps strongly influence people to consider 'therapeutic' abortion?

Abortion of disabled children is a win/win situation for both the political left and right in the U.S.: the elite of both parties want to make the productive percentage of the population as high as possible. Eliminating the feeble is a seemingly guaranteed method of increasing productivity for both commerce and higher government revenue. The United States government is not so crude as to actually round up and kill the disabled, but I would not discount more subtle methods of doing the same thing.

Traditionally, the physically and mentally disabled were kept segregated and hidden from general society. While this may have been promoted by many to avoid the unpleasantness of seeing people who were not beautiful, these asylums were primarily designed for the benefit of the disabled themselves. Hopefully, they would be living with others who were sympathetic to their needs. The disabled in asylums were not treated as if they were invisible. Clearly, there were many problems in the asylums, especially in the large government-funded institutions, but perhaps they served their charges better than mainstreaming.

Nowadays, mainstreaming is seen more as a way of making money: disabled students typically generate about 60% more revenue per student than does general education. Attention Deficit disorders are classified as a disability, although this so-called disorder seems instead to be the average behavior of boys. Nowadays, mainstreaming advocates no longer appeal to our liberality, but instead say that this technique generates measurable positive results. However, since so many objectively normal students are classified as "disabled", I don't think that these results are reliable. Now if they would just invent a new disability called Attention Surfeit Syndrome, then they would be able to classify 100% of the student population as "disabled"!

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