chapter  1
13 Pages

A History of Special Education

The choice to focus attention on special education as education in public schools in the twentieth century is not arbitrary. Indeed, the twentieth century, particularly in the United States, marked a stark departure from prior social history in general and the social treatment of those with disabilities in particular. The special education continues to focus attention on questions about the nature of individual differences, the proper role and organization of public education and the meaning of equality. The special education begins on Henry Street in the Lower East Side of Manhattan in the classroom of a single teacher, Elizabeth Farrell. Special education, including Farrell's ungraded classes model, survived and flourished until the major reforms of 1975. Whereas New York City had invested relatively enormous resources in its commitment to special education in Farrell's day, the costs associated with modern schooling are many magnitudes larger in real terms.