“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.” George Orwell

Monday, July 16, 2007

Inclusion and exclusion

I was struck the other day by something. It may be obvious to you, but the notion of inclusion is not really an outcome. Inclusion is more of a strategy that has been applied at schools, particularly public schools in order to attempt to facilitate social integration. Inclusion is not the outcome, inclusion is the intervention, the strategy I might use in order to facilitate integration. It's like phonics is a way to teach reading. Phonics is not reading, it is a way to teach reading. Many people learn to read via phonics, but others don't. As a strategy to teach reading, phonics is pretty good. I am unsure whether inclusion as a way to teach integration is very good at all.

It has at times made me uncomfortable to say that I am not a big inclusion fan. When you say that, people think you are discriminatory against people with differences, like you don't want them around or something. But you see I am a big integration fan, maybe even a zealot. I think people with and without disabilities, for example, should work to be integrated together. I believe in the outcome, I just don't necessarily believe in the strategy many have attempted to use to facilitate integration, that being inclusion. Maybe it is just inclusion in its current form that I don't particularly like, but I must say that my perspective is supported by the lion's share of the empirical research. Inclusion as practiced by public schools does not really lead to integration. That is the reason I am not a supporter.

What might be some of the major reasons why inclusion is not working in schools? Could it be that...
Inclusion is something I expect students to do that will lead to integration.
Inclusion is something I expect others to do that will lead to integration.
Inclusion is something I do not do in my own live that will lead to integration.
Inclusion is something I do not do because I really do not want integration in my personal life.

You see we think it wonderful when children with and without disabilities are integrated, but we are unwilling to do it in our own lives as adults.

Once again, however, it is important to make the distinction that inclusion is just a strategy to achieve integration, it is not the outcome.

In a related way, I have been thinking about exclusion. Exclusion is also a strategy that people use deliberately or otherwise to teach, or to achieve an end. I have most often seen exclusion employed as a strategy to keep a group from changing. "If we integrate you, we will not be able to do things in the manner in which we have become accustomed to doing things. If we do not integrate you, we can keep doing things the way we always have done them." I think that is a reason why there aren't more people with various disabilities in local churches.
So in the same way that inclusion is a questionably successful strategy for facilitating integration, exclusion is a means which is a very successful for facilitating segregation.

The one thing I can say for those attempting inclusion, is that they are at least trying to get others to believe in inclusion and hopefully integration. But it is too often a do as I say not as I do kind of proposition, so no wonder it doesn't work very well.

But whatever we do, we should not practice exclusion because whether we know it or not, it is probably a more powerful form of instructional strategy, a more powerful intervention than inclusion. If we see someone being disruptive or having a seizure in a social setting, our response should not necessarily be to remove them from the setting. That is exclusion. Perhaps we might first think of what is best for the individual, at least for a moment. Might we stop for a moment, to determine whether there are flaws with the setting? Disruptions are not always bad. Disruptions can cause us to evaluate the way we do things. Disruptions can cause us to ask, "Is this the best way of doing things?" "Is exclusion of this indiviudal the only response we can offer?" Are we excluding because we just don't want to be confronted with the need for change? Are we so brittle that we cannot accommodate?

Disruptions can introduce us to people and ways of looking at people which we might not have considered before.



Anonymous said...

An amazing and complex line of thinking. I admit, I have a little trouble following, but just because I think that the concept is quite deep. I do know that in raising children we use inclusion as a reward for good behavior and it encourages more good behavior. So I suppose you're very right, inclusion is a tool.

Anonymous said...

I agree with your observation that inclusion is something that sounds good on paper, but does not necessarily translate to actual people with disabilities and people without disabilities integrating, interacting, and being included in each other’s lives. I also agree that I say I want it, but while I say this, I am not inviting people with disabilities to hang out or seeking them out so we can integrate (or even always interacting when we do cross paths). Words are void if action doesn’t follow. In Mere Discipleship by Lee Camp he says, “If we want others to believe what we say, we must live as if we believe what we say.” He is referring to believing in Jesus and following Jesus, which I think completely fits with the inclusion of people with disabilities too. I think it fits with everything that we claim to believe- if we aren’t willing to act on it, we must ask: do we truly believe it?!!
I also like what you had to say about disruptions because lots of times the parables and miracles that Jesus performed and taught were the result of disruptions. Like the women who was bleeding in Mark 5:21-43. This story is often isolated from the context of which it happens in, which is actually in the middle of a completely different story. A very intense story too… Jesus is told that the daughter of a synagogue leader named Jairus’ is dying and is on His way to heal her. When he feels His power come out and heal the bleeding women, He is on a journey to save a little girls life. Now, how many people would stop and talk to an outcast woman under these conditions… Jesus did. And her faith healed her, and the little girl was also raised to life AFTER Jesus stopped to talk to the woman (who is no longer the “bleeding woman”). WOW. So, disruptions like the yelling out a person with turrets or someone freely worshiping God loudly, off key, or with lots of movement are pleasing and glorifying to God because Jesus first gave us an example of how to deal with disruptions!