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The Inclusion Delusion?

Reflections on Democracy, Ethos and Education

Aislinn O'Donnell

It may seem self-evident that a democratic society ought to develop inclusive institutions and an inclusive educational system, yet when we try to define what we understand by inclusion, its complexity becomes apparent. This book does not seek to diminish that complexity but aims to deepen our understanding of the idea and ideals of inclusion, as well as examining the presuppositions, values, aims and blind-spots associated with the language of inclusion. What do we mean by the concept? What normative assumptions underpin discourses of inclusion? What happens when we fail to think about the unintended consequences of including those who were previously excluded? Is there an implicit ideal of ‘normality’ at play? Does the concept of inclusion foreclose interrogation of patterns of privilege and power?
This book argues that in order to develop just and inclusive institutions we must begin from the standpoint of those who feel silenced, marginalised and excluded. Responding to the context of Irish education, it makes an important contribution to ongoing debates in Ireland and internationally about how institutions need to change if they are to become genuinely inclusive.
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1 Inclusion and Educational Theory: Developing Broader Understandings

← 12 | 13 →TONY BONFIELD



Wilfred Carr sought to move on the debate in relation to the status and epistemological structures underpinning educational theory by arguing that such attempts may now be seen ‘to rely on foundationalist assumptions [that] are no longer acceptable when we try to make sense of the contemporary world’ (2006, p. 145).1 He argued that it may be now timely ‘to bring the whole educational theory debate to a dignified end’ (Carr, 2006, p. 137). In a survey of significant proposals in respect of nature of educational theory (p. 139), Carr touches on the intervention of O’Connor who had advocated a scientific orientation for the enterprise (1957, 1973). In demurring from O’Connor’s ambitions for the sphere, Paul Hirst contended that theory’s well-being would be best ensured by drawing on a wide range of disciplines, including philosophy, in order ‘to formulate rational educational principles that can determine what ought to be done in educational activities’ (Hirst, 1966, p. 53). The epistemological structure of educational theory at that time, and to a large degree until recently, was to be influenced by the arguments set forth by Hirst and, in Carr’s estimation, his viewpoints began to dominate the debate to the extent that purely philosophical approaches to educational theory began to be dismantled and replaced by a range of academic disciplines, most notably the philosophy, psychology, sociology and history ‘of education’ (Tibble, 1966; Carr, 2006, p. 140).

← 13 | 14 → The orthodoxy which was to emerge for...

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