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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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6 Nuanced Silences and Their Effects



Nuanced Silences and Their Effects

Careful consideration has been given to what was ‘seen’, ‘said’, ‘heard’ and assembled in the classroom. In this chapter, attention is turned to the things that were not seen, not said and not heard. An exploration of silences is a critical part of looking at the whole, as it is “the relevant speech act ‘spoken’ beneath the surface” (Mazzei, 2007b, p. xii).

Silence itself—the things one declines to say, or is forbidden to name, the discretion that is required between different speakers—is less the absolute limit of discourse, the other side from which it is separated by a strict boundary, than an element that functions alongside the things said, with them and in relation to them within over-all strategies. (Foucault, 2008, p. 27)

Keeping ‘silent’, being ‘silent’ or not speaking, or speaking about something in different terms in order to avoid speaking, are examples of what could be cogitated as discursive moves (Mazzei, 2007b). Silences are essential components in the analysis of classroom encounters as they contribute to the ‘meaning between words’ (Mazzei, 2007b). Silences not only shape the category of the ‘normal’ but are produced as an effect of it, and its category maintenance work. How does silence position subjects? What does silence do? Silences have much to teach the researcher (Mazzei, 2007b).←151 | 152→

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