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People have been striving for freedom for a long time. The well known saying "Give me liberty or give me death!" expresses succinctly this value that people have been seeking. A dichotomous way of thinking prevailed in industrialized society where emphasis was placed on objectivity and the concrete. In such a society there was always a neglected class of people who were outside the social norms, outcasts, the inevitably marginalized.
The structuralist way of thinking in the 1960s held for an inequality among the classes and said that class struggle would make social justice come true. As a result, productivity and unemployment decreased and the economy deteriorated. In this situation life for the suppressed and marginalized became worse. Under this paradigm people could not find true freedom. Social, economic, and cultural isolation was the lot of the oppressed. Equality and the guarantee of human rights were the focus in mass production and democracy. Our society developed into one where people could escape from social oppression and be assured of cultural equality. The social system improved so that individuals were esteemed and were able to realize their dreams. In this situation special education was able to develop a number of programs such as integrated education, main-streaming, IEPs, and diagnostic educational assessments. All of these were designed for children who were supposed to take part in special education. Today we live in an information age where individuality and the quality of life are central. Our concept of education, welfare, and social policy has changed. While every human being whose existence in history is very important, he or she is just part of the total environment. Individuals and groups are linked together as in a living organism.
We should let each person pursue what is most meaningful for himself or herself and what the person finds meaningful rather than what he or she must get interested in. What is most important in the life of this person? This is what has to be encouraged. This is pursuing personal happiness. The goal we are pursuing is leading individuals to be happy. While modern industrial society adhered to the values of equality, freedom, and self-realization, including quantitative, institutional, and objective concepts, in the post-modern era there has been a change toward quality of life with focus on the individual and the subjective.
Education, social welfare, and social policy must be centered around supporting the individual in his pursuit of happiness. We have to focus on what a person needs, on the most fitting environment for the person's survival, and on whether he wants something rather than the outcome of diagnostic assessments. We have to formulate education, social welfare, and social policy, keeping these facts in mind.
Now is the time to pass on from freedom to the pursuit of happiness and to focus all our efforts on this!
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