The most liberal of middle class people sometimes can become the most reactionary. People who have previously argued for the need to understand those who commit crimes can become advocates of strict policing and severe punishments when the crime affects them personally. However, such situations do not often arise because the people who most suffer through criminal behaviour are those who are the most vulnerable, those who live in poor communities. Middle class people living in comfortable suburbs enjoy a security not available to their poorer counterparts. They live in homes secured by alarms; they live in streets where intruders are conspicuous; when they phone the police, they expect a response. Inclusive attitudes towards those responsible for crime and anti-social behaviour may extend only as far as the point where the advocates of inclusivity are unaffected.
In education, it is hard to imagine that beliefs in inclusivity would not be similarly constrained by personal interests. How many middle class parents would not want to ensure the best possible education for their own children? It is difficult to imagine any parent would consciously put their own child at a disadvantage in pursuit of an ideology.
If the purpose of inclusivity is to be inclusive, the question must be asked, inclusive of whom? For children of poorer families, education may offer the only prospect of achievement, the only prospect of fulfilling their potential. Shouldn’t inclusivity be focused on enabling as many disadvantaged children as possible to achieve as much as possible? If there are individual children who disrupt lessons, if there are children whose behaviour makes disproportionate demands upon the time of the teacher, is a point reached where the inclusion of one child becomes the exclusion of twenty-nine children?
Of course, the answer is to resource schools in such a way that there are appropriate supports in place for disruptive children, that there are staff to ensure that children with particular needs are included within mainstream education while at the same time ensuring that the other children have the full opportunities to which they are entitled. However, in the circumstances of an underfunded education system, where years of austerity have pared back school staffs, requirements for schools to admit particular children, without having the resources to properly fulfil those requirements, can become requirements that disadvantage the majority.
How many of the proponents of inclusivity would be happy for their own children to be in such a situation?
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