- Inclusion:The Need for Philosophical Inquiry in a Larger Context
The Ohio Deans Compact on Exceptional Children (https://www.ohiodeanscompact.org/ ) just completed its seventh annual conference, and the main topic was an old—but enduring, or perhaps, persistent—one: inclusion. One of the Deans Compact goals is to foster inclusion of all children with disabilities—and this means participation in the general education classroom as much as possible. Most members of the Compact are probably radical proponents, arguing that inclusion is a civil rights issue and that separate special-education settings are inherently unequal—and, in general, have not been successful (see, e.g., the related discussions in Allan & Slee, 2008; Thomas & Vaughan, 2004; Valle & Conner, 2011). The down-to-earth, practical characters in the Compact, with an eye toward their interpretation of evidence-based practices, argue that inclusion provides documented academic and social benefits for children with disabilities, and even for those without disabilities. Continuing, they maintain that there are additional benefits for teachers, staff, and administrators. Of course, the devil is in the details, despite the proliferation of publications proffering suggestions for developing an effective inclusive education program (e.g., D. Bryant, B. R. Bryant, & Smith, 2017; Friend & Bursuck, 2012).
From one perspective, inclusion is not only an educational issue but also a political one. As noted by Allan and Slee (2008),
Inclusive education is a political imperative and questions of who gets an education and the character of that education compared with others cannot be construed as apolitical. Closing down the discussion or maintaining the barricades in order to feel more confident about one's dogma is not constructive. The technical and political need not always be antithetical. We would argue that an open and respectful conversation about ideology, choices and the impact of these choices on the subjects and products of the research is timely.(p. 99)
On inclusion for d/Deaf and hard of hearing students, there has been research and a general discussion covering academic and social achievement (Antia, Jones, Luckner, Kreimeyer, & Reed, 2011; Antia, Jones, Reed, & Kreimeyer, 2009; Batten, Oakes, & Alexander, 2014), perceptions of teachers (Eriks-Brophy & Whittingham, 2013), interactions with peers (Xie, Potmesil, & Peters, 2014), and suggestions for improving the success of students in inclusive or mainstream settings (Luckner & Muir, 2002). I also have a few publications on inclusion: studies focusing on the perceptions of general education students at the secondary school level (Hung & Paul, 2006) and the perceptions of general education teachers and teachers of deaf and hard of hearing students in Saudi Arabia (Alasim & Paul, 2018b), as well as a research integrative review of [End Page 1] inclusion and d/Deaf and hard of hearing students (Alasim & Paul, 2018a).
Thus far, I have briefly mentioned that inclusion wears several hats: educational, political, and scientific. However, recently I had the opportunity to dust off and share some tidbits from my long-ago "philosophical" article on inclusion (Paul & Ward, 1996). "Inclusion and philosophical inquiry" is not an oxymoron—albeit, it could be argued that we need more scientific inquiry. To engage in a larger context for inclusion and diversity, enhanced by a philosophical bent, I had to do lunches with budding, rising-star, progressive philosophers.
Every now and then, I desire to mingle with academics half my age (well, more than half…), mostly to see if I am aware of current issues and perspectives in education. In addition, I can discuss some of my ancient ideas, which, as it turns out, might still be relevant—at least to my present company. My most recent encounter was with a young professor of educational philosophy, who certainly respected Plato and Kant as well as more recent thinkers. He and I both lamented the decline of philosophical inquiry in education, particularly in teacher preparation programs. In fact, I have heard this from my meetings with other educational philosophers in the not-so-distant past.
In any case, I informed my lunch partner—as I have other philosophers with whom I have dialogued—that I had argued (probably weakly) that Kant's categorical imperative from his Critique of Practical Reason (1788/1956) can and has been used to...