Inclusion is a Global Issue
Most of us have heard the saying, "Teaching is a lonely profession". Indeed, educators have long had a tradition of independently running their own classrooms; taking care of their own responsibilities without much input from others or interaction from other professionals. We sometimes blame the teachers, the school schedules or a lack of time for this isolationist modus operandus, but these things are not at the root of the issue from my perspective.
Consider how nearly all of us reinforce the social and intellectual compartmentalization of education. Each teacher thinks of her own class, independent of other courses within the school. Departments address their own priorities as if they are disjointed from the rest of the school. Schools within districts consciously or unintentionally 'compete'. Cities or towns compare their performance with that of other communities, and tend only to those issues that impact them directly. States or provinces within the same country may have different regulations and educational 'cultures'. Service delivery models in Missouri, for example, may vary drastically from those in New Hampshire. They operate, for the most part, as if the imaginary lines that make up their borders are all-important. On some level, they have been trained to think, "Whatever falls within these lines is my concern". Needless to say, nations can be the most 'isolationist' in terms of their views on education. Countries compare their scores to attempt to assign internal blame or affirm their success. They compete with each other, rather than work together. After all, they must strive for the best education in their own countries so that they can win, or at least compete. Some win, and the others lose. That is the implication.
During the past year I've communicated with professionals from across the United States and around the world. Most recently, I had the opportunity to learn about the status of 'inclusion' for students with disabilities in Belize, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Cyprus. As I hear the stories of professionals from around the globe, I am struck by how universal our challenges are. We are all fighting the same fight; struggling to improve the quality of education for all students. We work to advance education in any way that we can, with the overarching goal of helping all children and youth; not just a few, not only the privileged, not those who learn easily, or those that belong to any dominant social group. All children; all people; all included.
This is not to say that the 'here and now' of teaching and learning is not important. Clearly, that is where the real work takes place. However, we cannot put our blinders on and go about our own business without regard to others. We are not alone. We cannot and should not pretend that we are. Inclusion is not a state issue. It's not a federal issue. Inclusion is a global issue - in fact, it is a human issue. For all to be engaged with others in the fullness of life - with education being a major springboard into the opportunities life has to offer - this is our goal. It must continue to be at the forefront of our thinking and our professional endeavors.
We're on a long road. Perhaps it is a road with no ending, but the journey itself is worthwhile. We live in an age where we can easily communicate with others across the world. We now can engage with and learn from others in ways that would not have been possible only a few years ago. Let's capitalize on that! We can learn from each other, help each other evolve, and support each other's work. What can you do? Get involved in organizations outside of your typical 'zone'! Reach out to professionals in other countries. Share ideas. Connect your classrooms and students with those from different cultures. Learn from others. Use technology to work collaboratively with others on issues that are important across the world. We are no longer isloated. We are all one community; let's get to know each other better - for the good of our students and the future!
As for McCoy Educational Consulting, LLC - we are ready and willing to share and partner with anyone who promotes quality education for all students! Whether you are 'next door' or on the other side of the world we would love to communicate with you. We understand that "we are less when we don't include everyone" (Stuart Milk). Good luck on your journey to inclusion, and keep us posted!