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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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I would like to sincerely thank the three early childhood centres, the directors, staff and families who kindly agreed to support this classroom project and allowed me to occupy some space in their classrooms for many weeks. I particularly want to thank the children in the settings who generously shared their ideas with me. I also want to thank all the children I have worked with over many years who I think about often and who have provided me with the passion and the fortitude to complete this project.

I am forever indebted to Zsuzsa Millei and Eva Bendix Petersen for the research and writing support they provided to me in completing the doctoral study that led to this book. Their knowledge, friendship and critical feedback made this work possible. I would also like to thank Gaile Sloane Cannella for giving me the opportunity and encouragement to write this book. Thank you to the Faculty of Education at the University of Newcastle, Australia, for their support and allowing me the time and space to write.

Thank you to my family who have always supported me in my work. To my parents, Ann and Arthur Healy, thank you for your unwavering interest and encouragement. The influence of both the Scannell and Healy families continue to shape me and the work that I do. Thank you to my five children, Sam, Matilda, Oliver, Clementine and Elliot, who have endured my passionate rantings and←vii | viii→ remain...

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