By Marie A. Christensen Karr

An Appropriate Education

One of the hallmarks of Special Education is the mandate that children with special needs be mainstreamed as much as possible. Some children attend regular academic classrooms, and some can only participate in sports, and so on, as 'appropriate.' But why is an 'appropriate' education available only to those with special needs? Don't all students have special needs? How does shoehorning all students into an outdated, Industrial Revolution-era curriculum and physical plants serve to prepare them for the 21st Century and their role in it?

It doesn't. Oh sure, a few districts offer magnet and/or charter schools that have a specialized curriculum (usually technology or the arts). And that's a start. But it's time that all states and all districts - indeed, all communities - completely rethink the way they prepare students for the future. It's 'inappropriate' to force all students into a curricular plan in preparation for college. Most students will not go to college: Some need to be prepared to go directly into the workforce; some will need specialized training beyond high school; and all students need a strong basic academic background.

A strong academic background is the realm of kindergarten through middle school/junior high school. But something other than 'more of the same' is absolutely essential for students who enter high school. In fact, schools may be remiss if they fail to retool the conventional curriculum so that students can be adequately prepared for entering society and the workforce.

But how should this be done? Perhaps something in the line of 'college majors,' where students are required to show strong interest in a certain career path, and classes are subsequently designed to meet the need. Or perhaps a combination of 'online' and 'brick and mortar' classes, integrated with an open campus policy. And maybe, just maybe, the organization of sports teams should be handed over to the community, thus relieving public schools of the financial burden. However it happens - and there are a lot of smart people out there who are just itching to make it happen - it must begin. Not some day. Not 'maybe next year.' Right now.

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