Education has long been the road to advancement and independence in the United States. In the early 19th century, considerable interest was focused on the education of people with a wide range of disabilities. Often the motivation was religious. In the late 19th century, educational leaders and leaders of the deaf community fought a charged battle over how the deaf should be taught to communicate: deaf students were forced to learn only oral speaking despite the objections of deaf leaders who wanted to continue teaching sign language.
In the mid 20th century, a slow revolution in education began
when parents of children with cognitive disabilities joined together
to teach their children themselves, often showing that expert
opinion about ability was wrong. The disability civil rights
campaigns of the last 20 years have made mainstreaming of all
children with disabilities mandatory in public schools, changing
both the prospects of children with disabilities and the attitudes
of the students who go to school with them.
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