Classrooms of the 21st Century
Technology in Education

BIOETHICS FORUMS DECISION NOTEBOOK

Teacher
"This is a school, I'm an educator, I'm supposed to educate. There's no education going on here. We've got our hands full just keeping order. Society hands over its children. All its children. We get kids with emotional problems, family problems, medical problems, drug problems. We're supposed to heal them and teach them. We try, but these kids don't need teachers. They need doctors, social workers, and psychologists. The result is nobody's getting an education here. Nobody."

Why is he/she a stakeholder?
The teacher is a stakeholder because he will have to deal with students who have fetal alcohol syndrome.

What values does he/she hold?
The teacher doesn't specifically state a value that he holds but we can infer based on his job and what he does say.

Beneficence
Beneficence is doing good for others. There are several different kinds of beneficence. Individual beneficence is doing good deeds for individuals--someone you know or a stranger. Kinship beneficence is doing good deeds for relatives-- members of the immediate family, the extended family, or social organizations like tribes, clans, or races. Social beneficence is doing good deeds for society as a whole.

Analysis
The teacher wants to help students by giving them a good education, which is very valuable.

Economic Efficiency
Many people feel that it is important to use money efficiently, and make decisions with that in mind. To some, economic efficiency means spending as little money as possible on a problem; others point out that larger initial expenditures may be more efficient by reducing later or hidden costs. Some people consider economic efficiency to be an absolute value; for them it is the main consideration in making a decision. Others consider economic efficiency a relative value; they try to minimize costs but do not consider saving money to be the most important part of a decision.

Analysis
The teacher thinks his time is best spent when he can help his students learn. He is afraid that having students with fetal alcohol syndrome and other learning disabilities will interfere with his ability to do that. Since the school pays him for his time, we can say he values economic efficiency.

What are his/her immediate objectives?
The teacher wants to teach students who are ready and able to learn. He is afraid that taking care of students with fetal alcohol syndrome will reduce his ability to teach his students.

What information is relevant?
The teacher needs to know how children with fetal alcohol syndrome are educated, how big a problem fetal alcohol syndrome is, what is the cost of teaching students with learning disabilities, and how do these kids behave in school.

Special Education Costs
It costs $2,780 a year to educate a normal student and $6,335 a year to educate a special education student. There are 4.4 million students receiving special education in the United States.

The High Cost of Mainstreaming
The goal of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act is admirable. The federal law requires that "to the maximum extent appropriate, children with disabilities...are (to be) educated with children who are not disabled." This is called "mainstreaming," and the idea is to ensure that disabled children have the same chance of receiving a good education as other children have.
But the cost of mainstreaming is staggering. There are now 5.17 million disabled students in our schools, including 2.33 million with learning disabilities, 990,000 with language impairment, 484,000 with mental retardation, and 368,000 with serious emotional disturbances.
To meet the special needs of these children, many of whom are disruptive, cash-strapped schools have had to hire specially trained staff, purchase new equipment, and build new facilities. On average, it costs $10,675 per year to educate a disabled student, almost twice the cost of educating student who is not disabled. In fact, in the 1992-93 school year, federal, state, and local spending on the education of the disabled topped $53.5 billion, one-quarter of the total spending in the United States for kindergarten through 12th grade education.


Analysis
It is nearly three times more expensive to educate a child who needs special education than it is to educated a child who does not need special education. Should parents of children with fetal alcohol syndrome have to pay the additional expense? Who should pay? Society as a whole? Alcohol manufacturers? People who sell alcohol? Should we use tax alcoholic beverages to pay for it? Should we "mainstream" children with learning disabilities? How could mainstreaming interfere in a classroom? How could it make a classroom better?

Societal Costs Associated with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
The estimated cost of fetal alcohol syndrome in the United States ranges from $75 million to more than $9.5 billion a year.

Societal Costs Associated with Alcohol Abuse
The total cost of alcohol abuse in the United States is estimated at $116.6 billion per year.

Analysis
The costs of fetal alcohol syndrome, and alcohol abuse in general, are immense. How could we reduce these costs? Who should pay these costs? Should the use of alcohol be restricted?


Bioethics Menu