As a significant term, inclusion came into use relatively recently in the long history of special education in the United States. Since the 1800s, when children with disabilities first were segregated for instruction in public schools, professionals and parents have called for more equitable, “normal” treatment of these students, and for closer contact with their nondisabled peers. Through the years, the central issues of the discussions between educators and parents have focused on who should be considered disabled and who should bear responsibility for planning and providing for their education. The History of Inclusion in the United States traces the antecedents of this ongoing debate to answer questions about what inclusion is, how it came to be, and where it might go.
In this comprehensive study, author Robert L. Osgood reveals how the idea of inclusion has evolved into broader realms of thought and practice. In its earliest manifestations, educators dwelled upon the classroom setting itself, wondering whether “disabled” children belonged there; if not, why not; and if so, how this could be accomplished? By the late 1960s, the scope of the discussion had shifted to assess the comprehensive structures of special education and its relationship with general education. The History of Inclusion seamlessly follows this progression into the present decade, in which current educational policy questions the need for any sort of separate “special education” in principle and structure.
Robert L. Osgood is Associate Professor of Education at Indiana University/Purdue University in Indianapolis, IN.