I think this week's article is rather difficult. Its difficult in the sense that I do not know how to respond to it. Many of the values held by the author of this article are also my own. I believe that everyone can learn and advance, especially if given the right atmosphere. I believe that kids with Down Syndrome can learn and not be a burden to society. They can become contributing members of society and form relationships in which both sides can learn and benefit. I do believe all that, and if I had a child with Down Syndrome in my elementary school class I would do my best to integrate them into the curriculum. I wholeheartedly believe Vygotsky's words, "Why do the higher functions fail to develop in an abnormal child? Under development springs from what we might call the isolation of an abnormal child from his collective." (p. 199)
However, I do not completely "buy' this article either. The author presented many theories and ideologies, but very little practical explanations for how his theories could be implemented in schooling. I agree that completely integrating children with Down Syndrome can work in preschools and even in elementary schools. As one teacher of pre-school aged children said,
"It's not like they come here to be labeled, or to believe the label.
We're all here-kids, teachers, parents, whoever-it's about all of
us working together, playing together, being together, and that's
what learning is. Don't tell me any of these kids are being set up to
fail."It works when all you are doing is playing and learning about the environment.
But I do not see how kids with severe Down Syndrome (I have worked with kids with Down Syndrome before) could perform on the same level in high school. I do not see how they could do Calculus or Chemistry ( I am terrible at both myself). But I suppose if a child with Down Syndrome sits in the class, it might benefit their development and it probably will not affect the class for the other students. Down Syndrome is rare, and there probably would not be more than one child in a classroom ever. I also think that they should always have an assistant with them.
I did find one statement that slightly answered the question of how integrating people with Down Syndrome could be implemented.
"As early as the first grade, Japanese students are posed arithmetical problems
of some complexity and allowed up to a week to solve the problems. They are to criticize one another's approaches, and to tryout different roles vis-a.-vis the problem. Teachers deliberately avoid serving as a source of answers, although they may coach, direct, or
probe in various ways. (Gardner, 1991, p. 221)"
I also just want to mention that there is a huge variation in severity when it comes to Down Syndrome. The severity determines how behind the subject is from the norm. I am sure that there are plenty of people who do not have a severe form of Down Syndrome who could function very successfully in society and probably should not be segregated from regular education classes under any circumstances.
To conclude, I did some research on Down Syndrome and found a great statement in Wikipedia that reflects my beliefs with some modifications, "In education, mainstreaming of children with Down syndrome is becoming less controversial in many countries. For example, there is a presumption of mainstream in many parts of the UK. Mainstreaming is the process whereby students of differing abilities are placed in classes with their chronological peers. Children with Down syndrome may not age emotionally/socially and intellectually at the same rates as children without Down syndrome, so over time the intellectual and emotional gap between children with and without Down syndrome may widen. Complex thinking as required in sciences but also in history, the arts, and other subjects can often be beyond the abilities of some, or achieved much later than in other children. Therefore, children with Down syndrome may benefit from mainstreaming provided that some adjustments are made to the curriculum.
I do not think there should be "adjustments in the curriculum" because I do not want to see the learning experience of the majority affected. But I do think each child with Down Syndrome should have an assistant with them, someone who will work with them individually in order to push them along and make sure they are following the class.