"We do not want to talk about inclusion"

"We do not want to talk about inclusion"

In various contexts, one encounters educators who are hesitant to talk about inclusion. There are mainly three reasons for not using the word that I think are important to discuss.

First, the word inclusion been given different meanings. It can be difficult to use an ambiguous word in relation to the challenges educators face in school.

Secondly, there are those who believe that inclusion is an expression of something generally good and therefore is uncontroversial and a uninteresting.

A third reason to avoid the word is that one is skeptical of the ideational content that the word expresses. Possibly this may be due to the fact that schools are moving away from the ideal of inclusion and many teachers do not advocate inclusion.

In the following, I will briefly discuss these three reasons to avoid talking about inclusion.


There are different ways to define inclusion (see link) which can be a reason to avoid talking about inclusion. Furthermore, it may not be a word that immediately comes down in a good way in the school world with its traditions.

It may be a little clearer to talk about inclusive learning environments and / or accessibility. To talk about inclusive learning environments could be a viable alternative to talking about inclusion.

The most important thing, however, is not which words are used but which school you advocate. It is of course possible to use words other than inclusion to talk about a) that the school should be well-designed for all students b) that special solutions should be avoided and c) that a number of measures are needed at several levels for the school to function on this way.

Something generally good

If inclusion means that all students should have a well-designed school situation and that special solutions should be avoided as far as possible, it can be said that this is a fairly uncontroversial goal for the school.

However, it can be objected that there are also those who believe that inclusion means building communities in schools and classrooms and this is far from an uncontroversial goal.

Furthermore, several would argue that inclusion is about the school realizing a broad mission, which is also not uncontroversial when a large part of the discussion today is almost exclusively about educational achievement.

In addition, the idea of ​​inclusion as presented in the Salamanca Declaration is not only a question of goals but also an idea about what means that are necessary in order to achieve the goal and these means are far from uncontroversial.

Thus, it is not really correct to claim that inclusion signifies something generally good, even if there is a certain truth in the statement. Exactly what this good consists of and how it is to be achieved is as has been argued far from uncontroversial.

Departing from the inclusion ideal?

There are (at least) three aspects of today's school which I think are a bit out of step with the inclusion ideal.

First, schools are to a large extent dominated by the educational ideology that is sometimes called “social efficiency” and which means that the primary purpose of the school is to qualify the workforce based on the needs of the labor market in the most efficient way possible.

What then happens is that the mission of knowledge (understood in a narrow sense as educational achievement) will overshadow other important goals for inclusion, such as e.g. personal development, the preparation for citizenship and the development of social relations.

Secondly, it is the student (and his or her parents) who are at the center of the educational discussion. The Swedish researcher Tomas Englund has described a shift in the school world from an emphasis on the common good to an emphasis on the individual (the private good). Inclusion is seen by many (but far from all) as an expression of "the common good" and therefore becomes a bit out of step with time.

Thirdly, students are today partly sorted based on, for example, class, ethnicity and able-bodyness to schools and classrooms in a way that many would think goes against the idea of ​​inclusion where a central idea is that differences enrich schools and classrooms.

Focus on individuals' knowledge goals in a divided school system is something completely different from what many would consider compatible with an inclusion ideal. Such a focus can also be a reason for not wanting to talk about inclusion.

There are also many teachers who do not believe in the idea that students in difficulty should be placed in regular classrooms. It is of course the case that then you do not want to talk about inclusion more than about something to be avoided.

A final word

In summary, I mean that we can talk about the idea that the word inclusion expresses in different ways. However, inclusion cannot be seen as an uncontroversial goal for the school. We must also be aware that there are several tendencies in the current development of schools which counteract the development towards an inclusive school.

It is important to distinguish between two things. On the one hand, actors who are sympathetic to the content of the concept of inclusion but who for various reasons find it easier to use other words to talk about similar things. On the other hand, actors who advocate a different type of school and who think that the issue of inclusion is either irrelevant, subordinate to the issue of efficiency or something that leads to negative consequences. In this group, people sometimes do not hesitate to more or less consciously misunderstand the concept of inclusion as in the expression "inclusion has gone too far".

Lin to blog about how to define inclusion:


Link to blog about what is meant by inclusion in the Salamanca declaration:


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