How Social Justice Has Hurt Special Education

“Life is not fair—get used to it.”  —Bill Gates

Helping Kids Learn Better

In 1989, when I started working for government-run schools as a special-needs teacher, special educators were supposed to find ways to help students learn better or do specific tasks more easily.

Entitling Learners to Equal Outcomes

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But when it comes to government, no good deed goes unpunished.  Because of the initial successes teachers were having with special-needs learners, the government then began to add on to the special education agenda in ways that began to entitle learners to equal outcomes—something which no teacher, in any classroom, can ever achieve with any given group of learners.

The social justice crowd began to demand “fair and equitable” results—through test scores and other ways of monitoring teacher behaviors and student data.  The upshot of all this, in the world of teaching, has been to grow special-education administration, in order to increase its power to strategize new ways for teachers to “prove compliance” with the increasing burden of rules and regulations.

By repurposing special education from giving access to equal opportunity to entitling learners to equal results, the program has been set up to fail consistently.  This means that missing the mark is guaranteed for all learners who demand equal outcomes, along with the lawsuits that will ensue.

Dumb Down or Pay Up

Common-Core-is-a-rotten-appleGeorge W. Bush’s “No Child Left Behind” encouraged a culture where special education is, in a manner of speaking, not just for special-needs learners anymore.  Every student is guaranteed an education, regardless of personal effort.  The school district is, in the end, responsible for making sure every student learns.

Students not qualifying for special education are still entitled to special accommodations under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and must have a 504 meeting to decide what those classroom accommodations might be.

Barack Obama’s “Common Core” has worsened education by dumbing down the curriculum for everyone to a significant extent, in order to make equal outcomes for all more easily attainable.  Why all the defensiveness, and why all the dumbing down?  In a word: lawsuits.

The social-justice world loves litigation and the use of it to transfer wealth.  This is a form of social justice which schools should not have to be focusing on.  And school taxes will have to rise to afford to pay out the awards for these lawsuits.  Thus, middle-class and upper-class taxpayers will be handing over their hard-earned wealth to litigants who are almost guaranteed a win in court.

Litigation will focus on deficits which can never be remediated and will blame the existence of those deficits on a failure of the public-education system, which must then be made to pay.  A system that was meant to facilitate everyone’s learning to the best of one’s ability has now degenerated into a system of monetary award for the parents of disabled students to manipulate.  Since guaranteeing equal outcomes is not possible among the members of any population, let alone a special-needs population, the game has now become this: either dumb down, or pay up.

Life Is Not Fair, So File a Lawsuit

For learning to improve, we actually need fewer rules for teachers, in order to free up their creativity in ways that will foster true benefits in the lives of our learners, rather than forcing teachers to use their creativity to come up with better defenses and evasions against accusations of wrongdoing.

commoncoreGovernment regulations have never improved teaching.  But parents working hand-in-hand with teachers can make a huge difference.  Co-operating with the teachers to help students learn better, however, actually works to weaken any legal claims.  So, many parents forgo this much-needed co-operation.

Taken to extremes, social-justice litigation means that every human being could find something unfair in his or her life, blame schools for not remedying the matter, and sue for monetary compensation for the fact that life is not fair.

Accepting Individual Differences

The ultimate, extreme response to this untenable situation has been for schools to dumb down the curriculum across the board to such an extent that very little exceptionalism results.  Schools can then point to the overall mediocrity of outcomes as proof that everyone is achieving much closer to the same levels of performance.

Promoting equal opportunity, and allowing the hardest working students the liberty to excel—encouraging excellence and the freedom that it brings—runs counter to the mediocrity-based, social-justice approach of equal intellectual impoverishment for all.  Since motivating students towards academic excellence brings about a naturally disproportionate set of results in achievement, excellence as a goal is being largely abandoned.  So, the new goal is to make sure that no one is allowed to excel, since the world of social justice is not accepting of individual differences.

This is the view that is being promoted, and this is the notion which Americans must work tirelessly to defeat, if freedom is to continue and America is to remain strong.  The forces of envy and covetousness, that are being promoted by our own government, must be fought against with vigor.  And the fear of not achieving success, exactly as others have achieved it, must be replaced with the hope and confidence that each person can find a path to success that is individual and specific to him- or herself.  It is equality of opportunity that unleashes success for all—although it will not occur in the same way or on the same day for all learners.

It is the acceptance of individual differences that must be promoted.  And out of this acceptance, we must then challenge ourselves to find creative ways to help each person that will unleash his or her own creativity in ways that will enrich his or her life.  Only an attitude based on the idea of equal opportunity for all can achieve a bounty of blessings for all students in our educational establishment.

The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by

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