January 15, 2005
Teacher Feedback on Mainstreaming
I retired from teaching in 1996 after 33 years in the profession but was still in the classroom when an increasing degree of mainstreaming was being forced upon it. In short, mainstreaming is essentially a publicity exercise to make it look as though all students, regardless of abilities, are given equal opportunities, and it's also a money-saving ploy.
Mainstreamed classrooms are guaranteed to go hand-in-glove with diluted course content as teachers must set the bar lower to accommodate a wider range of students, some of whom are totally out of their element without special help. Naturally the experts, if any such species exists in the education field, recommend that teachers should run separate courses within a single class to meet the needs of the differing abilities. These experts are inevitably far removed from the schools, where they never spent much time teaching in the first place, and are highly unlikely to have to return to the system to demonstrate how well they can implement their ideas.
The notion that handicapped students will feel less isolated if they are placed in a regular class is a myth also since they are usually politely ostracized by the others who will seek their own types for friends.
As for the money-saving aspect of mainstreaming, it's convenient for administrators who don't have to worry about setting up and limiting the size of classes with separate course designations; eg., in the days of 00, 01 and 04 level courses, the rule was that the weaker the class the fewer the students. With no such differentiation any more, classes tend to become overloaded, and usually the extras are the slower students.
- Email from retired teacher in Winnipeg, January 14, 2005
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