When I read In Their Own Way back in February, I was surprised to find how many principles it talked about are still valued in the special education world today. Within its pages, the author made a few predictions about what he thought schooling would be like a decade from the time of publication. The two things he said would become more prevalent were computers and sensory learning.
|We’ve come a long way from one room schoolhouses
like this one.
By JERRYE & ROY KLOTZ MD (Own work)
[CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Since the book was written in 1984, I was in school ten years later, in 1994, so I experienced the reality of what schooling was then first hand. He was correct in the greater prevalence of technology, which still grows today, but he was wrong about an increase in individualized, sensory learning.
The only classes that involved any sort of sensory methods were literature, drama, PE, choir, shop and some science classes.
I wish sensory, individualized education caught on, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. Politics play into the issue in a huge way, as do our cultural ideals. Right now, testing is over emphasised, and there’s more value placed on appearance, money or sports than science, math, literature or any other basic academic ideas.
There’s still a massive amount of misunderstanding about what’s wrong with the educational system as it is, and apathy about the issues that surround it. Although awareness is slowly growing about things like dyslexia and autism, there’s still a long way to go. As long as these brands of neurodiversity are used as insults and viewed as strictly negative things, education for those of us with them will be a struggle.
However, there is still some hope. Geek culture, which is still seen as a big marginalized, is more mainstream than it was. There’s a huge movement to get more girls involved with science, and there have even been some popular educational shows on network TV, like the latest incarnation of Cosmos.
The convention I’ll be going to at the beginning of July, CONvergence, works hard to be as inclusive as possible, and a big part of its foundation is based on how much fun education can be.
I mean, the first panel I’d ever attended was led by a high school biology teacher who walked us through the dissection of a sheep’s heart. That’s not exactly something you’d expect to find at an event like that, but it was great fun.
This year, there’s at least one panel about Aspergers I hope to attend, though the timing might eliminate that. I need to take a closer look at the schedule for other panels like it.
Of course there’s a lot of fan related stuff, but it still has quite a few science and socially based panels. Even better, the daytime events are all kid friendly. Interacting with children is the most fun part, especially when they’re learning to embrace a passion for learning and diversity early on.
Then, there are the fantastic teachers working hard to change the system from within, and who at least do all they can to foster a love of learning within their students. I was privileged to be a student of some of them, I follow more over the internet and I’m lucky enough to be related to some of them, as well.
So, what’s it going to be like in ten years?
Well, that depends on us, the officials we elect and the way we influence our culture. I can easily see schools becoming even more factory like, especially with the direction some officials want to take and the money special interest groups throw at people in power.
On the other hand, I can also see the schools becoming better suited to effectively teaching a broad cross section of children, too, especially with the help of teachers, parents and students themselves.
Then again, maybe various versions of homeschooling will become more popular. There’s at least one online K-12 school in our local area, which allows kids to make their own schedule, while still giving them a federally accredited primary education. Telecommuting is slowly becoming more common, which allows more parents to stay home , and might actually make those online schools more of an option.
Odds are, they’ll become some sort of mix of these futures. In the end, how we influence the outcome is up to us.
Now, however, I have this Pink Floyd song stuck firmly in my head: