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Educating All

Developing Inclusive School Cultures From Within


Christopher McMaster

This book contributes significantly to the conversation about inclusion as a critical component of school culture. Educating All recounts Christopher McMaster’s experience as a critical ethnographer in a school community, given the task of not only studying the institution’s culture, but of creating change as well. The school used a whole-school framework known as the Index for Inclusion, which addressed students identified as having «special» or learning needs. The outcome of this process was the realization that the faculty and the system were not adequately providing optimum services to «special needs» students. By incorporating the special needs unit into a larger department and by utilizing it as a teaching center rather than a classroom, the staff and school leadership were able to produce a better alignment of value and practice and to provide a re-interpretation of just what is meant by «mainstream».
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Chapter 5. A Fish in Water and a Peasant at a Dance: The Importance of Culture

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While trying to identify specific practices that contributed to what was considered a “successful model” of inclusion in a U.S. school, the researchers Zollers, Ramanathan, and Yu (1999) found that successful inclusion was linked to the culture of the school. Entering the field expecting to find educational practices contributing to successful inclusion, they instead discovered that such practices were only one part of a cultural context that supported inclusive values. While in the school they found that practice was only one aspect of a larger school culture “that was wholly supportive of inclusion” (p. 157). The school in which they conducted their research was multi-ethnic and acted as a “magnet” in attracting students with disabilities. The principal himself had “a significant visual impairment” (p. 166) that earlier research found acted as a model and daily reminder of the values he, as a school leader, promoted (Zollers & Yu, 1998). But perhaps more than his impairment, his democratic leadership style, the collaboration fostered between community and school, the shared language around inclusion and belonging all contributed to a school culture that was “inclusive.”

Corbett (1999) similarly drew a correlation between cultural values of inclusion and the extent to which a programme of inclusion can be successful. Corbett recognised that changing the culture of an institution may be a ← 55 | 56 → necessary step in making it more responsive to difference. “It is about creating an institutional culture,” she wrote, “which welcomes, supports and nurtures diverse needs” (p. 58). Corbett was...

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