A Refocus on Inclusive and Diverse Education is Needed
Equity and diversity have been regarded as significantly important and timeless social values. In the last 2 thousand years, even since the ancient Greek period with Plato and Aristotle, philosophers, writers, poets, artists, and political leaders have been trying to transfer meaningful thoughts and conversations about these big ideas. Moreover, educational systems have recently been playing a significant role in this effort not only by transferring knowledge about these values but also by creating inclusive and diverse classrooms.
Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations affirmed inclusion in education as a human right in 1948. A number of important declarations followed the journey towards securing basic education for all regardless of race, ethnicity, disability, gender, sexual orientation, language, socio-economic status, and any other aspects of the individual’s identity that might be perceived as different. Some of the key examples are The World Programme of Action Concerning Disabled Persons in 1982, Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1989, and The World Declaration Education for All in 1990. All these efforts have been made in order to create the foundations for an inclusive and equitable society that needs to take into account a broad range of diversity. This is set forth for all nations, including the United States.
Inclusion is a philosophy based on values aiming to maximize the participation of all in society and education by minimizing exclusionary and discriminatory practices (Booth, 2005).
Unfortunately, we are still experiencing some cases expressing discriminative and racist behaviors. It is devastating to see people acting with cruelty against other human beings based on their different identities. Those examples make us wonder what is going wrong? Why are there such negative feelings towards each other? What attitudes and experiences can lead to hate-driven or discriminative behaviors?
After a series of “why” questions, a set of actions should be performed by school leaders and practitioners with the aid of educational researchers: i) to create, first, a supportive, safe, healthy and welcoming environment for all students; and i) to facilitate discussions and orchestrate learning activities that help students realize what a more inclusive world looks like; One which values difference, practices empathy, and eliminates racism, sexism, homophobia, etc.
Educational leaders and practitioners might need to rethink their strategies and ensure that they are following the structural and pedagogic adjustments needed to provide for equity, diversity, and inclusion. It is recommended they make a number of adjustments in re-centering equity, engaging diversity, and teaching for inclusion thus contributing to transforming the way students think, teach, learn, and act. To achieve this, the adults in the educational environment need to engage in self-study, honest appraisal of the current system and determine what needs to be changed to achieve those structural and pedagogical adjustments in their systems - macro and micro to ensure all persons - adult and child can depend on an environment devoid of discrimination that welcomes and appreciates diversity. Inclusive environments are difficult to create but the effort ensures the education for all that we now see is necessary in our society.