Introduction / Thesis
In recent years, the theme of mentally and physically inadequate children’s inclusion in early childhood classrooms has become especially popular among many “progressive” educators, who often go as far as to suggest that it is not only disabled children that should be able to benefit immensely from being allowed to socialize with typically developing peers, but also these peers themselves. The sheer preposterousness of such an idea is clearly visible to just about anyone capable of thinking logically.
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However, many people do not fully recognise the practical implications of having preschool inclusion fully institutionalized, because educators and social policy makers, known for their ardent support of “tolerance” in academic curriculum, try their best to prevent general public from conducting an intellectual inquiry onto this subject, by instilling their articles and speeches with sophistically sounding but utterly meaningless terminology.
Reading Samuel Odom’s article “Preschool Inclusion – What We Know and Where We Go From Here”, substantiates the validity of such our suggestion; because, despite the fact that it contains an academically sounding terminology, article’s actual premise can be best described as such that is being based on Odom’s wishful thinking, simply because only the readers completely deprived of their sense of rationale, could seriously believe that this neo-Liberal new “initiative” in the field of public education may bring about any positive results.
And the reason for this is simple – authors as Odom make a deliberate point in not bothering to check whether the ideas, expressed in their articles, correspond to the objective socio-political reality or not. In fact, these people often strive for nothing less then subjecting such a reality to their “progressive” beliefs, without understanding that this could not be done by definition. Therefore, in this paper we will not only aim to expose Odom’s article as being conceptually fallacious, but also as containing ideas that pose threat to just about any society’s well-being.
Despite “Preschool Inclusion – What We Know and Where We Go From Here” considerable size (5 pages), article’s main idea can be formulated as follows: Preschool inclusion is socially beneficial practice, because it allows disabled children to gain a sense of self-respect, through their continuous interaction with normal kids and also prompts typically developing peers to actually begin looking at their less fortunate classmates as being “existentially unique”, rather then just retarded.
Such suggestion is based on author’s irrational belief in socially beneficial essence of policy of multiculturalism, which is being jammed down citizens’ throats for duration of last thirty years: “Given the increased cultural and linguistic diversity in U.S. society, one would expect this area of research (possible effects of preschool inclusion programs) to increase in the future” (Odom, 2000).
Moreover, it reveals Odom’s article as being politically engaged (author clearly positions himself as supporter of Liberal ideals of “diversity” and “tolerance”), which in its turn, significantly undermines the validity of article’s conclusions, because it points out to author as being anything but an independent researcher. It is very doubtful of whether the actual well-being of disabled children in America represents a primary item on author’s list of concerns, simply because, just as any typical neo-Liberal dreamer, Odom think of people as simply the subjects of politically correct social engineering. This is the reason why author subtly admits that the policy of providing “special education” to “children with special needs” (another neo-Liberal initiative), which has been institutionalized in U.S. for over 30 years, has failed to reach its objectives.
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However, instead of recognizing the metaphysical wrongness of very premise, upon which educators like Odom base their understanding of how disabled children can integrate into society, these educators come to paradoxical conclusion that their previous ideas, in regards to educational treatment of disabled kids, were simply not radical enough. In its turn, this prompts them to come up with utterly absurd suggestion that preschool classrooms should benefit from having as many disabled children as possible included into curricula: “Some individuals define inclusion as occurring only when children are in class with ratio that reflect that of the natural population (e.g., children with disabilities represent 5%-6% of the children in class). Others have observed excellent inclusive programs.., in which a third of the children in the class have disabilities” (Odom, 2002).
Of course, author does not specify what account for these programs “excellence”, simply because inclusion of disabled (especially mentally disabled) children in early childhood educational process can only result in one possible outcome – undermining the overall effectiveness of such a process. It is due to the fact that educators like Odom were being given a green light to promote their socially destructive ideas as to what educational process in U.S. should be, which resulted in creation of a situation when even many America’s high schools have now been transformed into kindergartens, where students are being encouraged to do just about anything, but studying.
Apparently, Odom has forgotten that educators’ foremost goal is to contribute to society’s well-being, by helping as many children as possible to acquire a taste for gaining knowledge, as opposed to helping physically and mentally disabled children to “celebrate” their inadequateness, as such that account for their “uniqueness”.
It is important to understand that, no matter how much time teachers spend to convince disabled children in conventional classroom settings that they are no different then their typically developing peers, these children will never be able to attain actual “equality” with their normal classmates, simply because:
- The very definition of disability imply that the variety of existential limitations are being automatically imposed on physically or mentally disabled people,
- Within the context of socially interacting with each other, children do not observe the notions of political correctness, as they do not even know what these notions stand for.
Unlike adults, children do not have a developed sense of moral ethics, which would prevent them from ridiculing their disabled classmates’ psychical or mental inadequacy as something entertaining.
In her article “Out of Sight, out of Mind”, Katharine Quarmby points out to the fact that children with disabilities in normal classrooms are not only being subjected to emotional distress, but very often to a physical abuse as well, on the part of those children who should be learning “tolerance”, by socializing with what they refer to as “retards”: “The fact that disabled children are far more likely to be abused than non-disabled children has not filtered through to public consciousness, although a number of studies have demonstrated an increased risk… A large American study in 2000 found that disabled children were three times more likely to be abused (by normally developing children)” (Quarmby, 2005).
Therefore, the concept of preschool inclusion is not simply illogical, but also morally wicked, just as it is wicked to have a young person in the wheelchair being exposed to the sight other young people playing volleyball in front of his very eyes. Apparently, Odom is not quite capable (or pretends he is not capable) of understanding this simple fact, otherwise he would not be coming up with statements that expose him as person, whose sense of rationale has been severely undermined by his adherence to politically correct dogmatism: “School systems are more likely to place children with mild disabilities in inclusive settings then children with severe disabilities.
This may be due, in part, to how comfortable teachers feel having children with severe disabilities in their classes” (Odom, 2000). We will dare to disagree with the author, in this respect. The reason why teachers are not being overly excited with the prospect of having disabled children included in conventional classroom settings has nothing to do with their “feelings”, but with the fact that they rightly recognize this practice as such that would negatively impact the overall effectiveness of educational process. In his article “Let’s avert this Classroom Crisis”, Andrew Nikiforuk is making an absolutely good point, when he says: “Right across the country LD (Learning Disability) kids aren’t being identified.
Their programs are being cut and these kids are being herded into normal classrooms with no support – all in the name of cost cutting and “inclusion,” the Orwellian practice of putting all children in the same classroom no matter what their educational needs. The horrendous failure to properly identify or educate LD children in our schools affects everyone – children, teachers and every taxpayer in the country. When bright kids aren’t taught properly and fall behind academically, they understandably invest their energies and resources elsewhere” (Nikiforuk, 2007). We need to understand that preschool education, whatever “playful” it might be, is still meant to provide children with basic social and academic skills, the possession of which will become indispensible, during the course of these children’s latter years.
Apparently, in such countries as China and Singapore, teachers are well aware of this fact, which in its turn, explains the utter effectiveness of Asian educational system. In his article “Education Pressure Cooker: Social Darwinism and Status Ranking in Asia”, David Ho says: “The Hong Kong educational system functions like a huge machine, sorting students into institutions ranked hierarchically and warping their development in the process.
Schools vie against one another in fierce competition, striving to rank among the top, or at least not at the bottom” (Ho, 2009). Even in Hong Kong’s kindergartens, children are being encouraged to develop skills in “hard sciences” – geometry and math, as opposed to developing skills in “tolerance”, as their American counterparts do. By the time Chinese children reach the age of 12, they are expected to know how to solve complex mathematical equations. Throughout the course of their studies, students’ IQ rate is being continuously tested – once they score lower them expected of them, it results in “dumb” students being kicked out of school.
However, whatever the elitist and intolerant Hong Kong’s system of education might be, it actually yields practical results that are best referred to as truly amazing. According to Tatu Vanhanen and Richard Lynn’s book “IQ and the Wealth of Nations”, people’s average IQ rates (107, 102) in Hong Kong and Singapore are the highest in the whole world. Therefore, Odom’s conclusions as to the utter necessity of allowing disabled children to “celebrate” their disabilities in inclusive classroom setting, at the expense of normal children being slowed down in their intellectual and physical development, can be referred to as socially-counter productive, at best, because the proposed educational approaches, on his part, do not correspond to the notion of sanity.
Attentive readers will undoubtedly recognize Odom’s article as lacking conceptual soundness; because, despite the fact that author had mentioned the works of other authors, which supposedly support his own suggestions, he nevertheless has failed to quote from these works, while expecting readers to simply assume that these authors are being just as “progressive” as himself. There are good reasons for us to think that this is far from being the case, as even most of Odom’s own conclusions are marked with the high degree of inconclusiveness.
For example, while knowing perfectly well that he lacks a concrete evidence as to socially-beneficial effects of inclusive preschool education, Odom had deliberately strived to add diplomatic sounding to most of his statements: “The quality of the early childhood environments in inclusive settings appears to be, at least, comparable to quality in traditional special education and community based early childhood programs” (Odom, 2000).
Had Odom been writing on the subject of different interpretation of art’s semiotics, or on the actual meaning of people’s lives, then such his writing style would have been acceptable. However, “Preschool Inclusion – What We Know and Where We Go from Here” is considered to be an academic article that deals with the issues of utter social importance. Moreover, throughout his work, Odom continues to make suggestions that article’s conclusions should be taken into consideration by policy makers in the field of education, without bothering to substantiate these conclusions with scientifically credible data.
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The actual level of author’s argumentation is being revealed in the following sentence: “We anticipate that this initial study will be extended in the future by more detailed analyses of specific costs to quality of preschool programs. However, from our data, it appears that inclusive programs are not more expensive than traditional special education programs and they may in fact be less expensive” (Odom, 2000). However, our review of literature, mentioned in article’s bibliography, does not allow us to refer to it as containing any factual data, as to the possible costs of implementation of preschool inclusive programs. Just as Odom himself, the authors of these articles operate with such “scientifically” sounding words as “maybe”, “probable” and “expected”.
Nevertheless, even if Odom’s argumentation in this respect was absolutely valid, there would still be no rational reasons for schools to switch in favor of preschool inclusive programs, simply because only very naïve people can believe that reduction of costs, associated with a particular learning process, can somehow increase this process’ effectiveness. One does not have to hold PhD in math to understand a simple fact that, the less money we spend on education, the less our children will be likely to succeed in academia. The closer analysis of Odom’s article reveals author’s actual agenda as not being quite related to what he officially proclaims it to be. Let us explain such our thesis at length.
The inclusion of disabled children in early childhood classrooms will automatically result in learning standards in these classrooms being considerably lowered. In its turn, this will allow schools to save on buying learning equipment – no need to buy such equipment, because “children with special needs” will not be able to use it anyways, and allowing normal children to use it, in the presence of disabled kids, would represent a crime against the spirit of political correctness. This is exactly what Odom implies, by suggesting that preschool inclusion programs should be less costly, as compared to special education programs.
However, given the fact that the very purpose of preschool inclusion programs’ implementation Odom openly proclaims making it easier for disabled children to integrate into society, we can predict with the high degree of probability on what the saved money are going to be spent – hiring additional hordes of psychologists, social workers and counselors, whose task would be setting disabled children on the path of social reintegration, at the expense of depriving healthy children of variety of educational opportunities. In the end, the implementation of preschool inclusion programs into academic curricula will end up costing more then expected. The long list of failed educational experiments, which were initially promoted by neo-Liberal “dreamers”, such as Odom, confirm the validity of such our conclusion better then anything else does.
In their book “Rethinking Disability”, Patrick Devlieger, Frank Rusch and David Pfeiffer provide us with the insight onto the fact that, in the field of public education, theory often does always not correspond to reality: “Adoption of a full inclusion model (in preschool education) implies that appropriate support for a particular student will be provided in neighborhood schools throughout a student’s school career. This first warning sign that rhetoric and practice do not correspond may come with the change in the level of financial support at the preschool level compared with that provided when the child enters a public school” (Devlieger, Rusch & Pfeiffer, 2003).
There can be little doubt that Odom have considered such a probability. Nevertheless, as a typical “progressive” educator, he could not care less about the practical consequences of disabled children being allowed to socialize with regular kids. For him, disabled children are nothing but new objects, upon which neo-Liberal educational theories can be tested. Author knows perfectly well that If these theories prove to be ineffective and even harmful, as it always been the case with social utilization of Liberal mentality’s intellectual by-products, he will never be held accountable for promoting these theories, in the first place.
It appears that, even before beginning to work on his article, author knew from which angle it will be criticized. This is the reason why in article’s preface, Odom tries to anticipate the probable objections to his ideas by suggesting that article’s apparent lack of scientific soundness is merely an impression: “At times, it may appear this important movement for children and families is being propelled by emotion, advocacy, and accelerating momentum rather then being guided by what we know about inclusive programs and issues that may shape the future” (Odom, 2000). Such claim, however, can hardly be considered as being effective, within a context of Odom trying to defend his point of view, as throughout the article, author has failed to substantiate his stance on the issue of preschool inclusive programs logically.
After having read “Preschool Inclusion – What We Know and Where We Go From Here”, we did not become more enlightened on why the implementation of inclusive preschooling must attain status of a mainstream educational policy. Moreover, author’s thesis as to implementation of such programs as the “way of future” exposes Odom as an individual who does not have a mental grip on objective reality – it is not the fault of American educational system that physically and mentally disabled kids are being deprived of many opportunities to attain social prominence in life, but solely of their parents, who did not bother to consult with a physician on whether they carry defective genes or not, before deciding to conceive children.
Therefore, we can only agree with Marcia Rioux, who in her article “Social Disability and the Public Good” suggest that under no circumstances should the existential inadequateness of people with disabilities affect the lives of physically and mentally healthy members of society: “If disability is interpreted as a biological condition, an individual pathology, then there is less imperative for the state to make it an expenditure priority and a necessary condition of social well-being – that is, for it to be treated as a public good.
More importantly, policy that provides for the humane treatment of people with disabilities can be characterized as beneficence rather than social justice, and falls outside the parameters of the social good and social justice” (Rioux, 2001). Of course, special education programs for children with disabilities can hardly be thought of as such that create social preconditions for these kids to be able to fully integrate into society, by the time they grow up. However, we need to understand that the full integration of disabled people into society will produce a counter-productive effect on society’s overall well-being.
Why is it that 50% of American children under the age of 12 are being officially recognized as suffering from obesity, with the chances for such children to lose an excessive weight equaling from slim to zero? It is because people like Odom have succeeded in convincing general public that there is nothing wrong with kids’ obesity. After all, the more an individual is being affected by a particular form of existential abnormality, the more hawks of political correctness consider him or her to be willing to “celebrate diversity”, as its full-time occupation.
In its turn, such “celebration” needs to be guided by psychologists and sociologists who often get paid as much as $50 per hour for simply yapping away: “My colleagues and I agree that specialized instruction is a necessary part of preschool inclusion” (Odom, 2000). “Now more then anytime in the past, we have a greater awareness of the types of support professionals can provide to create productive learning environments for children with and without disabilities in inclusive settings” (Odom, 2000). As lawyers say in situations like this – we rest our case.
As it appears from article’s context, author seriously believes that it is up to him and his “colleagues” to actually set the standards for the “meaning of intensity”, while designing preschool inclusive programs, after having received government’s monetary grants. It is namely the fact that Odom wanted to present himself as an “expert” on the subject of preschool inclusion, which explains his article’s unintelligible sounding – in Odom’s mind, the fact that “Preschool Inclusion – What We Know and Where We Go from Here” contains sophistically sounding terminology, accounts for article’s objective value.
The following verbal constructions are just a few of article’s many intellectual “pearls”: “delineation of issues”, “two dimensions of organizational context”, “individualized service delivery model”, “collaborative itinerant teaching”, “critical mass of education”, etc. It is needless to say, of course, that author does not bother to enlighten his less “sophisticate” readers onto the actual meaning of “critical mass of education”, for example.
And, there are good reasons to believe that this is due to the fact that Odom himself has absolutely no clue as to what this notion stands for. Moreover, in his article author clearly presents himself as individual not overburdened with the sense of modesty, because he find it quite appropriate to refer to his previously written articles as academically credible sources of information, in regards to the subject of discussion, despite the fact that such practice is being disdained within academic circles. In its turn, this strengthens the thesis, articulated by great many people in Western countries, which asserts that educational Liberalism is actually a form of mental illness, the main characteristic of which is liberally minded educators’ inability to consider a possibility that their points of view might not be altogether faultless.
As we have illustrated earlier in this paper, Odom article’s insinuations should not be seriously considered, simply because author appears as someone who does not have even a slightest clue as to the actual essence of socio-political dynamics in the field of public education. This is the reason why, while not denying Odom’s supreme ability to indulge in meaningless politically correct rhetoric, we nevertheless doubt whether he qualifies for acting as a spokesman for disabled children.
As a person who makes his money on deliberately misleading parents on what accounts for real problems in the system of public education, Odom has a personal interest in seeing the number of physically and mentally disabled children being continuously increased as time goes by, simply because then, the governmental authorities will be more willing to pay for his “consulting” services as to how these children should be treated. Therefore, we can only feel sorry over the fact that nowadays, “professionals” as Odom enjoy the “freedom of action”, instead of being charged with undermining society’s biological and educational integrities.
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- Introduction / Thesis