CONDITIONS SUPPORTING INCLUSIVE PEDAGOGY
If schools are to make substantive progress toward authentic inclusion, the kind of inclusion that goes beyond the mere physical presence of students in classrooms, fundamental changes must take place in the instructional framework of those classrooms. For us, the active, continual engagement among students and teachers integral to constructivist pedagogy is essential for inclusive education to occur. Having made the case that constructivist pedagogy not only promotes, but is an essential element of inclusive schooling, we now turn the discussion to a far more difficult issue. How might the conditions supporting this kind of inclusive pedagogy be achieved?
The answer to this question poses a significant challenge because constructivism itself is not uncontroversial. As a conceptual and philosophical framework, constructivism involves, among other things, a shift in understanding away from knowledge as objective, and teaching as technical, to an understanding of knowledge as values-laden and teaching as a moral, therefore political, undertaking. Becoming a constructivist teacher thus requires a complete epistemological shift in one’s fundamental beliefs about the nature of knowledge and the act of teaching (Gallagher, 2004).
Moreover, such a shift inevitably requires a reckoning with the political ideologies that maintain the current instructional status quo. In recognizing this state of affairs, Purpel (1993) calls upon educators to “forge a moral vision” to confront the destructive ethos of traditional educational practices. This, he acknowledges, will not be easy and will require a political mobilization of the profession. “Teachers, as other educators,” he contends,
must confront some of the painful and anguishing dimension of current educational practice. They, as the rest of us, are caught up in a system in which individual achievement, competition, success, and aggressiveness are essential and central elements. It is a system in which education becomes an instrument in legitimizing and defining hierarchy; in which schools are a site where people are sorted, graded, classified, and labelled, hence giving credence to the tacit social value that dignity is to be earned. Teachers are asked to prepare students differently – some are to be given the encouragement and skills to be leaders, whereas others are taught to endure their indignities quietly and proudly. It is a system that helps sustain and legitimize a society revelling in consumerism, jingoism, hedonism, greed, and hierarchy. (p. 282)
In short, this means coming to terms with conflicts between educational ideas and ideals often thought to be compatible.
Efforts toward inclusive education cannot be sustained if educators continue to embrace the concept of ability as innate and normally distributed (see: Brantlinger, 2004; Davis, 1995). Nor can inclusion succeed within the framework of the medical model of disability and its attendant scientific models of remediation (Blomgren, 1993). Yet, as Giroux (1993) points out, confronting the ideologies that maintain educational hierarchy, competition, and stratification is increasingly difficult in the current political climate. Now, perhaps more than ever, the press is on to intensify efforts toward the technification of teaching in the interests of these ideologies. That notwithstanding, it is possible for educators to find their collective voice and “work together to transform our traditional commodifying and hierarchical educational structures” (Brantlinger, 2004, p. 497). Change is possible; but it first requires that educators become articulate how they want to teach, and why.
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David Skidmore & Deborah Gallagher
Wednesday, 17 August 2005