In this course, Dr. Amy Richards introduces both a philosophical basis and practical guidance for serving students with special learning needs within classical schools. A classical education should orient us towards how the true, the good, and the beautiful manifest themselves in human lives. Which leads, of course, to the even more fundamental question: what is it to be human? In responding to this question, we gain an understanding of what constitutes a good human life and what determines the nature of human virtue and the telos of education. At the heart of any adequate response to the question of what it is to be human, Dr. Richards argues, lies a careful consideration of persons with disabilities, as they reveal to us in particularly profound ways the relational nature of our humanity often denied or overlooked by our focus on autonomy and self-sufficiency. Consideration of persons with disabilities shows us that our vulnerability and our connections with one another are not obstacles to achieving our human telos but a necessary condition of it. We need not only to allow persons with disabilities to serve as a light by which we can understand what it is to be human, but also to make our classrooms hospitable to such persons. Dr. Richards makes the case that serving students with special learning needs is central to leading classical Christian education forward into the fullness of the truth and justice towards which it strives. She goes on to outline some initial techniques and considerations—both those already part of the classical pedagogical repertoire and those developed in the broader world of special education that are consonant with a classical approach—that can help schools, teachers, and parents to guide students with special needs towards the true, the good, and the beautiful.
Dr. Amy Richards is Affiliate Professor and Chair of Philosophy at Eastern University. She completed her dissertation entitled “‘Beyond Reason and Beyond Merit’: Practical Wisdom and the Second-Person” at the University of Virginia.
Currently, Dr. Richards’ is writing on the virtue of ‘docilitas’ and on how an understanding of persons as selves defined always in relation to the Other affects our conceptions of freedom.
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