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Inside the 'Inclusive' Early Childhood Classroom

The Power of the 'Normal'


Karen Watson

Inside the Inclusive Childhood Classroom: The Power of the Normal’ offers a critique of current practices and alternative view of inclusion. The rich data created inside three classrooms will challenge those who work in the field, as the children and their performances, previously overlooked, are foreground. Although at times confronting, it is ultimately invaluable reading for classroom teachers, students, academics, and researchers as well as anyone who desires to deepen their understanding of inclusive processes. The inclusion of children with diagnosed special needs in mainstream early childhood classrooms is a policy and practice that has gained universal support in recent decades. Exploring ways to include the diagnosed child has been of interest to inclusive research. Adopting a poststructural perspective, this book interrupts taken for granted assumptions about inclusive processes in the classroom. Attention is drawn to the role played by the undiagnosed children, those positioned as already included. Researching among children, this ethnography interrogates the production of the classroom ‘normal’. As the children negotiate difference, the operations of the ‘normal’ are made visible in their words and actions. In their encounters with the diagnosed Other, they take up practices of tolerance and silence, effecting fear, separation, and a desire to cure. These performances echo practices, presumed abandoned, from centuries past. As a way forward this book urges a rethink of practice-as-usual, as these effects are problematic for inclusion and not sustainable. A greater scrutiny of the ‘normal’ is needed, as the power it exercises, impacts on all children and how they become subjects in the classroom.

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5 Disrupting Tolerance as a Practice



Disrupting Tolerance as a Practice

Many questions arose for me during the classroom project, in particular, questions about the regular performances enacted by the unmarked children as they encountered and interacted with the marked child and each other. Noteworthy, were the countless observations of the unmarked children engaging in ‘helping’ performances with the marked child. These performances were accompanied by an obvious degree of ‘concern’ for them and their actions, their inactions, or their indiscretions in the classroom. The ‘helping’ and ‘concern’ performances exhibited a shared understanding among the unmarked children. There was a collective understanding that the marked child was someone in need of monitoring, and in need of assistance with their deficits, and their multiple and constant transgressions. I wish to clarify here, that while I am not arguing that the ‘act of helping’, or ‘being helpful’, has no public value in producing a caring society, and that people should not help each other (Watson, 2016). I do wish however, to problematise the power of this discourse and practice, and the way it constructs the marked child as Other. There is a need and desire to disrupt the naturalised innocence of the discourses that circulate around ‘helping’, as these discourses normalise this act of helping, as an act of virtue, without any questioning of the power and subjection involved.←115 | 116→

Helping in the Classroom

The children’s help at times, was quite direct and often teacher-like, remediating the marked...

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