I am not a supporter of mainstreaming special education students because there are too many variables. Each student mainstreamed performs at a different level of ability, but most teachers of most subjects in public schools have neither the time nor the patience to deal with each student at his or her own level. In a mainstream environment, all students are expected to keep up with the teacher. The teacher is not expected to keep up with the students. And many public-school students are college-bound. Is it fair for students who have never seen high school level material to tackle algebra and geometry without preparation? No it is not.
That brings me to the point of this article. None of the mainstream advocates ever mention what should happen before this mainstreaming takes place. When are special education teachers ever taught to prepare their students for what lies ahead in the public schools? I wonder how many of them are prepared to do so. Or are children who are selected for mainstream education just tossed to the wolves? And wolves there are!
Is time given to prepare the student? Or is immediate mainstreaming so important that many details are overlooked?
The most important detail to be addressed is whether or not the newly mainstreamed student can fight back and defend him or herself against all the mean, uncaring teachers, cruel students, and mean administrators in the public schools. Special education classes and vocational workshops too often become shelters against the world. Classwork is often kept at a low level of difficulty, with little or no competition or challenge. This means that any candidate for mainstreaming into academic work must learn how to study effectively, accept criticism, learn from mistakes, and deal with some inhumane, unfair teachers. In addition, this candidate must also learn to handle bullying and cruel treatment by classmates and peers, who can pick out the different and defenseless in a minute and make his or her life miserable.
Parents and caregivers also must be given a large role to play in the mainstreaming preparation. There must be a structured, consistent attitude in the home to motivate the child into an academic atmosphere. The child must also be taught manners, how to dress and how to fit in with and get along with non-challenged peers. This form of education is NOT ALWAYS an automatic process. Sometimes it must be learned.
Mainstreaming has its proper place, but requires more than what is often thought. Not all challenged students are up to it, and the ones that are need to be prepared for the big, bad world out there.