“Winston sank his arms to his sides and slowly refilled his lungs with air. His mind slid away into the labyrinthine world of doublethink. To know and not to know, to be conscious of complete truthfulness while telling carefully constructed lies, to hold simultaneously two opinions which cancelled out, knowing them to be contradictory and believing in both of them, to use logic agains logic…” George Orwell 1984
Double-think is not new the special educator. In order to commit to the profession of special education for more than a few years, one must carefully hone this skill. My current teaching position is somewhat unique, and filled with its own doublethink requirements, but I worked as a classroom special educator for years, and as such:
- I was required to plan and teach a full day of individualized instruction for a classroom of students, with only a short planning period to prepare these lessons during the school day.
- I was required to conduct IEP meetings, contact parents, maintain detailed records of student progress, write and update IEP’s on a regular basis during the regular school day.
- I was required to provide consultation services to general education teachers in inclusive settings and supervise teaching assistants in and outside the classroom during the regular school day.
My itemized duties required me to be in more than one location at the same time. I dutifully felt guilty when I was unable to do so. Now, new directions in US special education policy require special education teachers to reach new heights in our mastery of doublethink. From the U.S. Dept. of Education news release:
With this year’s IDEA determinations, the Department used multiple outcome measures that include students with disabilities’ participation in state assessments, proficiency gaps between students with disabilities and all students, as well as performance in reading and math on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) to produce a more comprehensive and thorough picture of the performance of children with disabilities in each state.
This change in special education evaluation is intended to address the concern Arne Duncan expresses that “Two-thirds of students with disabilities are performing well below grade level in reading and math. By the eighth grade, that figure rises to 90 percent.” He finds this concerning despite the fact that the eligibility requirements for the most common disabilities include proof that the student performs well below grade level in reading and math in order to qualify for services. Let’s review:
- In order for students to qualify under the most common disability categories of specific learning disability or intellectual disability, a student must be tested and score significantly below grade level.
- When a student does not score significantly below grade level, the special education teacher is required to hold an exit meeting to exit the student from special education services (meaning the child is no longer a special education student.)
- Special education teachers must ensure that students currently diagnosed with disabilities score at grade level.
Yes, the special educator must now raise student test scores so that students with disabilities test on grade level, but the students cannot test on grade level in order to qualify as special needs students under the most common categories. We special educators must now meld those two realities into one and dutifully accept reprimand when the requirement is not met.
“That was the ultimate subtlety: consciously to induce unconsciousness, and then, once again, to become unconscious of the act of hypnosis you had just performed. Even to understand the word ‘doublethink’ involved the use of doublethink.” George Orwell, 1984