In our society, success is defined by financial wealth. Wealth is accumulated by employment in most cases, and remuneration for white collar jobs is higher than for blue collar jobs. Therefore white collar jobs are viewed as more prestigious; these are the positions that our school curriculum is preparing students for. The BC Government defines the following intellectual attributes of a graduate:
• competency in reading, writing, mathematics, social studies and science, including the ability to use these skills in problem-solving and decision-making
• the ability to use and understand information technologies
• the ability to communicate effectively with a range of audiences; this includes the ability to access, synthesize and present information; it also includes knowledge of both a first and second language
• an understanding and appreciation of artistic and aesthetic expression
• the ability to think critically and solve problems, using information to develop opinions and make sound judgments and decisions
• an understanding of the importance of a lifelong commitment to continuous learning.
These attributes describe well a mainstream student who is preparing for a post-secondary program in an academic field. They describe less well an academically capable student who is interested in a career in a more hands-on occupation. But for students at-risk for drop out, these attributes serve to exclude and marginalize them. This is the opposite effect of the intended policy of inclusion.
According to the Ministry of Education website, the purpose of the policy of inclusion is to address a wider variety of diversity needs.
Diversity refers to the ways in which we differ from each other. Some of these differences may be visible (e.g. Race, ethnicity, gender, age, ability), while others are less visible (e.g. Culture, ancestry, language, religious beliefs, sexual orientation, socio-economic background).
While this description of diversity does include socio-economic background, a corresponding document entitled “Diversity in BC Schools, A Framework” says little about diversity in terms of successful educational outcomes. Under “Special Education Funding” it merely states that the school system should be “relevant.” (BC Ministry of Education, 2006) For many students the school system is largely irrelevant. Some of these students may be classified as “at risk.” “Meanings of ‘at risk’ are typically associated with traditional definitions of and dominant discourse regarding academic success.” (McMahon, 2007) There are other risks besides academic failure. Beyond dropping out, students are at risk of entering into a life of crime and drug addiction, at risk of early parenthood and at risk of being stuck in a cycle of low wage employment and poverty. For students for whom college is not an option, it is hard to justify the current curriculum as “relevant.” For students who are “at risk” including those whose mental states and behaviour...