African-American Children in Special Education Term Paper

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[. . .] Many of these individuals also receive their special education classes in buildings or classrooms that are segregated (Nobles, 1991). It is also important to note that the labeling that comes along with various categories of learning disabilities has very strong negative implications for many African-American youth (Nobles, 1991). These can include labels of emotional and behavioral disabilities, learning disabilities, and mild mental disabilities (Nobles, 1991). There are both validity problems and definitional problems with these issues because there are disagreements as to what exactly make up these problems and how exactly individuals who appear to have these difficulties should be categorized (Nobles, 1991). It has also been noted by researchers that there have been different and seemingly arbitrary shifts in much of the diagnostic criteria and frequency rates for the label of serious emotional or behavioral disability (Nobles, 1991).

This, when coupled with a great deal of variability in rates of placement across the country, brings the validity of the serious emotional or behavioral disability category into question (Nobles, 1991). The concerns that come from this and the variability of many students behavioral attitudes and policies on a cultural level place many African-American children at a very strong risk of being labeled, albeit falsely, as having a serious emotional or behavioral disability (Nobles, 1991). Some of this is also related to the judgment of teachers as they may not understand the cultural differences of their students (Nobles, 1991; Patton, 1992; Reschly, 1996).

There have been similar arguments made for the category of specific learning disability and for the category of educable mentally retarded (Nobles, 1991). Much of the literature about the subject is very clear in that there is subjectivity and ambiguity embedded very strongly in many of the categories that deal with mild disabilities, as well as the referral process that is utilized and the judgment that teachers make about these individuals in their care (Nobles, 1991). There also some inherent biases that come into the assessment process and these help to contribute even more strongly to the disproportionate amount of African-American youth that are referred and placed in special education programs (Nobles, 1991; Harry & Anderson, 1994, Hilliard, 1991).

The assessment aspect has received the greatest amount of attention in not only the types of research literature that have been conducted but also in the courts in this country as well (Irvine, 1990). This has much to do with the overrepresentation of African-American youth in special education programs in this country but it still appears that little has been done to correct it (Nobles, 1991). It would also appear that there is a great deal of statistical and theoretical evidence which would suggest that many of the intelligence tests that are created and utilized today are very biased and that they can be extremely harmful to a great deal of African-American students (Nobles, 1991).

The effects of many standard intelligence tests are also made stronger by the fact that many of these tests are used not for prescriptive or diagnostic reasons but actually for purposes of classification (Apple, 1990). Looking at these tests in that light, they contribute to curriculum or validity in a very small way (Apple, 1990). Recently, the board of assessment and testing of the national research council created a report which concluded that IQ tests, when utilized to determine whether a child should be placed in special education classrooms, needed to be strongly reevaluated (Aronowitz & Giroux, 1991). The report cited as their main reason a lack of connectivity between the effective treatments and the assessment practices that were being utilized (Aronowitz & Giroux, 1991).

In spite of the fact that there has been a great deal of convincing and strong data on the disproportionate issue of African-Americans in special education and despite the fact that there has been a great deal of literature which challenges the processes that lead to special education training and identification of these individuals, as well as placement, the problem continues (Aronowitz & Giroux, 1991). It is likely that the problem will not leave on its own and the work that is being done now to create new premises for special education are extremely important (Aronowitz & Giroux, 1991).

Also important is analyzing some of the structural foundations of the special education system in order to come to a clearer understanding of why this issue has become so problematic (Aronowitz & Giroux, 1991). One of the difficulties for special education is that it has often utilized a functionalist approach which deals with tradition and looks at the development, paradigm construction, research approach, research applications, and the use of methodology (Aronowitz & Giroux, 1991).

Functionalism as its worldview looks at an objective, rational, and theoretic interpretation of social reality and any type of deviations that occur based on this view are placed under various pathological headings (Aronowitz & Giroux, 1991). This framework is very strict and rigorous and draws to its natural conclusion the fact that schools exist to transmit prescribed skills, values, knowledge, and norms that are deemed to be essential for functioning in society (Aronowitz & Giroux, 1991).

Individuals who believe in this then look at practices and discussions that help them to continue to search for the appropriate diagnosis, the right kind of test, and the right way to label and teach various students (Aronowitz & Giroux, 1991). However, they are looking at these within the restraints of the worldview that they have developed and this worldview quite often is not challenged or contested in anyway (Aronowitz & Giroux, 1991). Because deviations from what is considered to be the norm are considered pathological in some way students who are not capable of performing general education tasks in some way allow teachers and others to think that they should our deemed as defective, and there are determinations made as to how to fix these students (Aronowitz & Giroux, 1991). This is where special education comes into it (Aronowitz & Giroux, 1991) because it is considered the way to fix the students and correct the problems that they may have.

Not only did this help remove the idea of how to fix these students when special education was created, but also took these students and compartmentalized them into a separate type of education which everyone understands is not equal (Aronowitz & Giroux, 1991). By doing this, there are four assumptions that have been created (Aronowitz & Giroux, 1991). These include:

That disabilities that students are seen to have are considered to be pathological conditions (Aronowitz & Giroux, 1991).

Creating a differential diagnosis is both useful and objective (Aronowitz & Giroux, 1991).

The special education program has been conceived rationally and has been coordinated as a system of services that has been designed to benefit students diagnosed in this manner (Aronowitz & Giroux, 1991).

That there is a great deal of progress which will result from technological improvements created rationally in both instructional and diagnostic practices (Aronowitz & Giroux, 1991).

This is the type of language used by many individuals who belong to the special education curriculum and these individuals continue to create the opinions and beliefs that others will follow as they attempt to help these students (Aronowitz & Giroux, 1991). Unfortunately, a great deal of what is done to allegedly help these students is actually causing them more difficulties than they would have had had they remained in standard educational curriculums (Aronowitz & Giroux, 1991).

There are some researchers who still ask themselves whether disproportionate representation of African-American students in special education programs is actually a problem (Artiles & Trent, 1994). However, African-American sociologists, educators, and others do not ask these questions (Artiles & Trent, 1994). Instead, they believe that the answer to this is a resounding yes (Artiles & Trent, 1994). The challenge and where the analysis should come into play with this issue is not whether this problem is actually a problem but how it can be fixed and why the individuals who ask this question continue to ask it and do not seem to see the obvious (Artiles & Trent, 1994).

Many researchers struggle to understand what is behind the asking of this question because African-American youth in this country are clearly in special education programs in much larger numbers than other ethnicities and this is something that is generally obvious not only two professionals but to laypeople as well (Artiles & Trent, 1994). This is particularly true for categories of students with emotional or behavioral disabilities or with mild disabilities (Artiles & Trent, 1994).

It seems as though research into this issue indicates that many of these learners are not only misplaced but are also mislabeled in this diagnosed which is something that could stick with them for the rest of their lives and cause them a great deal of difficulty as they get older (Townsend, Thomas, Witty, & Lee, 1996). One of the other factors that many… [END OF PREVIEW]

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