Unlike usually, where I pretend to have researched a topic and scrawl down some vague notes about it in an attempt to pass off a transient desire to write as a planned endeavour, I figured to honestly portray the situation as it is.
The last post was written in a café in the hills of India, whereas now having travelled across so many countries and suffered from too many illnesses, the various fragments of my life have settled to the point to allow me to write again. So apologies for the month long hiatus, and the introductory note. As my next academic course begins next week, this site will likely be exploring the intersectionality between educational psychology and the broader themes of dis/ability, however it will still stay true to the application of critical race theory and narrative theory as analytic critiques.
Inclusion is difficult. It’s difficult as it has no intrinsic meaning, and unlike everything else which has no intrinsic meaning, the constructed meanings people build around the term mean their own biases and opinions come to take a greater weight than perhaps research or rigorous methodology. There was of course the castigating light of the UK’s White Paper, but that aside, much of the preconceptions people have aren’t based on peer-reviewed evidence. Indeed, having read too much of the peer-reviewed evidence, I can also testify that much of it only applies to predominantly western countries, and precious little is done directly in International Schooling.
So I guess this leads to the actual point of this post. I finished Breakfast at Tiffany’s today, and apart from being shocked by the protagonist being blonde, Holly Golightley’s ending was perhaps the most auspicious occurrence. Unlike the film, here she leaves slob the cat behind to his alleyway, and far from proclaiming eternal love in the rain, she boards her plane to South America and the book ends in the beginning, with some poignant remarks concerning colonial Africa. The cult of mystique built around the brand of Audrey Hepburn in ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ is, in short, a preconception. The book fails to even have breakfast at tiffanys, Holly after-all preferring to wake around 4pm. So whilst sepia toned images of Audrey adorn many a wall in the west, the meanings around the iconography don’t represent the characters and themes of the novel. There’s been a semiotic breakdown, or perhaps shift, with the signs no longer representing the signifiers.
So too in Inclusion, as every person’s unique take on the term becomes based on their own experiences, and not on the original intention. So what was the original narrative, the original novel, the original characters and plotline of Inclusion?
There’s a history of special, well worn and often told, and a gradual shift from ‘special’ (many students, myself included, labelled special could hardly be described as feeling that way) to ‘inclusion’, but is this anything more than a term?
There’s a hole here, a sign that’s emerged with broad consensus for the need but without much thought on the underpinning philosophical meaning, which results in a dirth of shared understanding. Without a universal consensus, as wrong-headed as it might be, as to the meaning of Inclusion, as to the look and feel of Inclusion, can there truly b an inclusive schooling environment?
I’ve heard some laud every child in the class making progress, others vow students must be removed for short, targeted intervention sessions to ‘catch them up’ with their peers, other advocating removing them entirely, as if educating a child alone is more inclusive as then they can access the learning, but not the experience.
The saving grace, the ultimate gift of not having a shared understanding, is that it allows an emergence of new meaning, perhaps better than any before. Meaning can become contextual, and Inclusion can become unique to the school.
I try never to be pinned down on defining a term, much less defining a philosophy, so all I can end with is this. In my limited understanding, inclusion is empowerment. It’s a philosophy of empowerment which puts the child’s needs above all else, and is ruthlessly focussed on ensuring the best outcome for the child. In that sense, it has to be entirely flexible, it must be entirely idiosyncratic, as it has to be born within the context of the individual child and not forced upon them, as what could be more exclusionary than having someone else’s meaning forced upon you.
So Holly Golightley, a lady who makes her own rules, controls her own destiny. Who marries at 14, but then decides she is no longer married to dear Doc. Few could be a more pertinent symbol for empowerment, than Holly. Few could be a more pertinent symbol for neurodiversity, than Holly.
Inclusion is Empowerment.