There’s a documentary coming to Public Television in October that has the ability to change and amplify the debate over special needs in public schools, a debate that is now mostly faceless.

Photojournalist Dan Habib produced the film after his son, Samuel, was born with cerebral palsy. Now he’s considering how his son is going to grow up and keep up in public schools.

“What makes inclusion successful? What makes it fail?” he asks.

“Everybody else in life is going to limit him; I can’t do it,” Samuel’s mother says.

Here’s a preview:

Related: In its story today about the difficulty young teachers in Minnesota are having getting and keeping jobs in a time of school cutbacks, this lone sentence jumped out:

What’s more, with the exception of math, science and special education areas, Minnesota already is overloaded with teachers.

If you have a story to share on the subject, please drop me an e-mail.

  • kennedy

    With the conversation being specifically about inclusion in pubic schools, I see two distinctly separate needs. Children with physical challenges have different needs than those with mental challenges. Since the purpose of schools is to educate, accomodating physical challenges seems easier and more straightforward than accomodating mental challenges.

    Special needs range across a spectrum. Some children require more “accomodation” than others. The question is, what are our obligations as a society?

    Considering the extreme, is it appropriate for taxpayers to fund one on one tutoring for a student while the other 20+ students vie for the time of a single teacher? Is this an effective use of taxpayer money in educating the next generation?

  • Bob Collins

    In terms of obligations, yes, we are obliged. It’s the law, although Congress has never fully funded it.

    You bring up a familiar complaint about special ed, but I don’t recall ever seeing research that shows a corresponding negative impact on other students. Is there such a study?

    Obligations, of course, are always an interesting topic where public schools are concerned. Do taxpayers have an obligation to provide for football or hockey, especially when many communities have their own leagues now? Or band?

    The argument might go that students derive a benefit from these activities. The question is do they also derive a benefit from being around people who aren’t physically or mentally perfect?

    It would be great if the film leads to some good give-and-take on the subject.

  • kennedy

    Setting a minimum standard means that we spend more time and resources on those less able to learn.

    What makes this such a senstive topic is the tendency to equate measurable intellect with humanity. People can accept that athletes are born with physical gifts, but are uncomfortable with the concept when applied to mental ability. Accept and love everyone for who they are, but don’t think that everyone can do anything given the chance.

  • Bob Collins

    Some people contend the insight you provided is the message that inclusion can teach. In some cases, that there isn’t a correlation between physical ability and mental ability. Stephen Hawking comes to mind.