inclusive exclusion

Throwing money at schools to provide more support for students with unique functioning says something about a profound discomfort in schools with any form of diversity beyond culture. When writing about the ‘cost’ of providing support for disabled students the needs of the majority of students who ‘might miss out on teachers time’ are privileged. The threat to the normative learning environment is what is represented when it comes to promoting increased funding and my concern is this moves schools further away from inclusive and more toward exclusive concepts of special needs. One of the reasons I think is a general dis-ease with any form of emotional, social, physical difference. The need to manage diversity by erasing undersirable outward expressions of uniqueness means schools have lost one of their most powerful functions, to provide young people with experiences with others who may ‘be’ un-like them to allow this unsettling to play an role in forging a genuine appreciation of the vast range of humanbeingness. Maybe this has something to do with the insanity behind assessment driven pedagogy, I’m not sure, but the dominant concerns indicate this might be part of the reason.

Another pressure point is the growing parental entitlement creeping into education. I don’t begrudge parents wanting the ‘best for their children’. However neoliberal forces seem to have condensed and concentrated this into a drive to demand that schools remove all barriers to their child achieving their best. It seems as though ‘accessibility’ has been hijacked as an idea to some degree. If litigation or media exposure is threatened, Principals can be backed into a corner to preserve their brand. These are some of the contextual influences skipped over by media in a bid to focus on economies of identity – financial bottom lines and the ever growing business management approach to education and pedagogy.

A concept I find increasingly needed but missing in schools is de-expertising. That is, you can actually ask young people themselves what they need! And be careful to allow for some space to just them to be teenagers, de-pathologising youth in general would be a good start. Getting frustrated, angry, emotional and struggling to communicate feelings is not uncommon for teachers…or young people. Let’s remember that and get back to basics – the 3 r’s – 1: Are assumptions disabling students more than their actual disabilities, 2: Are young people consulted when developing IEP’s? (especially year 11 and beyond but even before this), 3: Are the needs of the many really that different to the needs of the few?

Having said all this however I am acutely aware that parents are covering the costs of teacher aids and shouldn’t be. I’m also grateful for the work RTLB’s and TA’s do, an often invisible and underappreciated part of the fabric of teaching. To the Ministry Of Education, put your money where your mouth is but don’t let it suffocate a wider discussion of inclusion, belonging and feeling valued by everyday practices in schools.


Battle of the Sex-isms

Apparently it was international women’s day yesterday. Ok. So WTF – What’s True Feminism? Cut to the NZ herald today for a comment on sexism and this is why journalism needs a philosophical enema. Deborah Hill Cone takes a bit of a pot shot at Alison Mau about her concern around ‘casual sexism’ that there is ‘serious sexism’ to compare it to.

This is where the backlog of neo-liberalism and post-feminism really starts to bloat these kinds of debates and the constipated arguments keep being recycled. The arguing for a continuum of serious – non-serious issues of equality or examples of discrimination simply drys out the digested mass of assumptions and absorbs the complexities to leave ‘solid’ claims that just…well…stink!

Caring about how your daughter is positioned in the educational, social, and political world by noticing comments made is not trivial. The flow on effect of this is how she will access the economic world and so what income she will ‘earn’. Some will go as far to say these arguments pale in comparison to women in countries where female genital mutilation occurs and so the dangerous illusion of relativity flushes away any chance of re-defining what might be considered worthy of caring about.

Human rights needs a rebranding and a 21st century reboot. One that re-cognises the subtle power plays of language, privilege, social construction, and ditching some moralistic high ground typical of western/capitalist neo-liberal based thinking. Instead of splitting up rights into labels of have’s and have nots and taking some strange imaginary scale system to measure when ‘equality’ is finally reached we need to question the very measures of our definitions of what makes us Hue-man.

And if you need to regain your appetite or some pain relief after all that, just do mau cone.