Throughout our lives our surroundings and experiences influence who we are and who we are to become. The values and beliefs installed in us through these interactions with our environment can have a positive or negative affect on the type of citizen we are and ultimately our contribution to society. Major contributing influences on ones values and beliefs are interactions that occur within ones family unit as well as experiences within educational institutes. This paper will focus on the latter, education. More specifically it will focus on inclusive education and how this framework will shape societies attitudes toward the way difference is accepted. To conclude, the implications of inclusive education will be related to my own future pedagogical choices.
Since its beginnings education has been underpinned by political and social agendas. Holmes, Hughes, & Julian (2003) argue that it is through education that a country’s labour force is generated, thus meeting the needs of the economy; and also that education serves a socialisation agent, installing a shared culture or set of common values within children. Drawing on this rational, I will argue that as education is a socialisation agent, it is possible to bring about a change in societal attitude to the way difference is perceived through the educational context.
A defining characteristic of contemporary society is that of difference and diversity. Whilst this is exciting and something that should be embraced, intolerance and discrimination continues to tear society apart. Globalisation, immigration, restructuring of the family unit, and social justice issues and are just some of the influences that are redefining culture, no longer is Australia a homogenous society, if it ever was. Ashman (2009) argues that in order to overcome these prejudices we must stop concentrating on the differences and take notice of our similarities, this is what inclusive education aims to do. Education provides a context to allow us to bring about a shift in societal values. Some researchers argue that education merely acts as a means to maintain existing values (Holmes, Hughes, & Julian, 2003). However, with government support and strategic planning within the classroom it is possible for education to play a role in producing new social values. Thus inclusive education has the potential to redefine difference as the new ‘norm’.
In recognition of this changing world, policies and legislations have been developed internationally and nationally to ensure equitable outcomes for all individuals. Internationally, U.N.E.S.C.O and The World Health Assembly have acknowledged a requirement to address issues of inclusion. In 1994 a meeting of world governments took place and The Salamanca Statement (U.N.E.S.C.O., 1994) was detailed. This called on the international community to support inclusive education by implementing practical and strategic changes (CSIE., 2008-2010), with the ideal of inclusive education to remove...