As I am nearing the end of the 2/3 semester of my teacher’s training, I am trying to put into thought/personal philosophy some of the theory we’re learning by attaching my heart to the ideas of the texts and lectures. Part of the learning process for me might be to bounce these ideas off of others (ie: you) that are not connected to my level in the field (ie: my classmates). Here’s my concluded thought on inclusion of students with disabilities and exceptionalities in the classroom. We used this piece in a presentation yesterday and it’s fairly long but I would love some feedback on this, especially if you feel strongly one way or the other or if you have a student, child, or peer in your life that lends inclusion to being a personal concern of your own (presently or in the past). Disclaimer: I am obviously a little idealistic in some ways as I haven’t taught yet but like I said, I am attaching my heart to theory.
We’ve outlined the main positives and negatives of inclusion when looking at it through the individual versus society paradigm.
As a collective whole, we argue that inclusion, for the most part is a good thing and should continually be a part of the BC school model.
We conclude this based on the principle of benefit maximization that ‘justifies any exchange between the welfare of one group for the welfare of others so long as the average welfare increases’. Yes, this principle can do potential harm if human rights are denied to increase average welfare but we found that this threat simply enhances just how serious an issue were are faced with when questioning inclusion.
As such, looking at the positive and negatives for both sides of the theoretical tension, the positives for both necessitates inclusion.
However, we recognize that inclusion needs to be determined on a case-by-case basis. For example, we cannot decide that one ADHD student can’t be included in our classroom and from then on, all students with the same disability are also not included. This is because everyone….student, parent, colleague, admin…are all unique from one another and thus, so are their cases/circumstances and have to be treated the same way.
When we are presented with or choose, collectively, to include disabled or special needs students, we have to recognize that we are TEACHERS. When we train for and take on this career, we commit to a moral responsibility to best serve our students and have to commit to do so in whatever capacity we can. Inclusion requires us to use resources, special education support and staff, parents, administration, and any finances available to make it as successful as possible. We can only in our most vigilant and humble ability do the best that we can.
Social inclusion ensures diversity in the classroom which brings a richness of culture and knowledge to the community. Through inclusion we learn to live, work, play, and learn together. It also results in a more equitable environment where we work towards common goals while recognizing the value of individuals.
The BC Teacher’s Federation states that we’ve made substantial progress in terms of integration but are still far off from complete success which is something our group agrees with. Students needs, while often unmet, need to simply be acknowledged and then we can move a click forward.
When we emphasize the individual versus society paradigm, the issue of ‘able-ing the disabled’ becomes largely about whether or not the morality of society deems inclusion as a valued investment. So we need to ask what are the COLLECTIIVE needs of each INDIVIDUAL society?
From this moral ideal, we cannot quantify the benefits or investing in certain types of students (ie: the majority) over another (ie: special or exceptional needs) because they are DIFFERENT. And while this difference should not be emphasized in order to favour one group over another, the difference HAS to be acknowledged so we can recognize one simple truth:
We cannot equate the circumstances and needs of humans but authenticity and recognition of equality should be the basis of where all our decisions and efforts for inclusion fall.
Furthermore, we need to remember that our individual goals may not always fall in tandem with goals and views of society.
So the conflict of a SOCIETY comprised of multiple INDIVIDUALS is simple: the differences and abilities between the individuals need to be recognized, accommodated, and celebrated… not feared and ignored.