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Hannah Arendt. The possibilities for and impoverishment of inclusive education. Introduction. Why is inclusion important ? How might we include persons within educational institutions? What does it mean to be excluded within and from educational institutions?

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hannah arendt

Hannah Arendt

The possibilities for and impoverishment of inclusive education

  • Why is inclusion important?
  • How might we include persons within educational institutions?
  • What does it mean to be excluded within and from educational institutions?
  • What sort of educational settings do we wish to include ourselves and others into?
why is inclusion important

Why is inclusion important?

Arendt and human plurality

to understand the world
To understand the world
  • ‘Men in the plural, that is men in so far as they live and move and act in this world, can experience meaningfulness only because they can talk with and make sense to each other and themselves’.
  • (Arendt, 1958: 4)
to become who we are by being with others
To become who we are by being with others
  • Arendt’s table: in a ‘common world’ we are positioned in a space that ‘relates and separates men at the same time’ (Arendt, 1958: 52).
  • To enter into a public space - what Arendt (1958) calls a ‘common world’ - is to realise ‘the human condition of plurality, that is, of living as a distinct and unique being among equals’ (Arendt, 1958: 178).
to realise our natality
To realise our natality
  • We are new in the world and we bring newness to the world – but only when we act and speak:
    • [A]ction has the closest connection with the human condition of natality; the new beginning inherent in birth can make itself felt in the world only because the newcomer possesses the capacity of beginning something anew, that is, of acting.
  • (Arendt, 1958: 9)
to realise our natality1
To realise our natality
  • Actions: 'disclose the "who," the unique and distinct identity of the agent' to agent themselves and to others (Arendt, 1958: 180).
  • But 'behaviour' reduces a person to ‘what’ they are, to the 'qualities' each individual 'necessarily shares with others' (Arendt, 1958: 181).
  • Arendt: ‘[T]he essence of education is natality’ (Arendt, 1968a: 174).
school and classroom cultures
School and classroom cultures
  • Schutz explores ‘the implications of Arendt’s model [of public space] for actual classroom practice’, and imagines a classroom in which teaching and learning is not ‘dominated by the teacher, or by a few articulate students’, but where, ‘the perspectives of all [are] … taken into account’ (Schutz, 2001: 101).
  • Students must ‘feel safe enough to be as honest as possible in their contributions’ (Schutz, 2001: 101).
  • The inclusive moment: the point at which the differences between us begin to make a difference to us.
what does it mean to be excluded within and from educational institutions

What does it mean to be excluded within and from educational institutions?

Arendt on ‘the rise of society’ and the ‘crisis in education’

the rise of society
The rise of society
  • Even ‘the smallest act in the most limited circumstances bears the seed of… boundlessness’ (Arendt, 1958: 190).
  • The desire to reduce 'uncertainty and to save human affairs from their frailty' fuelled an 'attempt to eliminate action' (Arendt, 1958: 230).
  • In the quest for ‘the feeling of certainty’ (emphasis in the original, Dewey, 1929/1960: 26), we replaced public concerns with private concerns.
  • We lost the ‘world’ that ‘lies in between people’ (Arendt, 1968b: 12).
the rise of society and exclusion in education
The rise of society and exclusion in education
  • ‘the functionalist quest for rationality, order, and certainty in the field of education’ (Skrtic, 1991: 153).
  • Arendt: ‘a science of teaching’ (Arendt 1968a: 183).
  • Greene (1978: 28): ‘technology of teaching’
  • Labour government: inclusion involves utilising ‘specialist expertise and resources’ (DfES, 2004: 25), because ‘inclusion must encompass teaching and curriculum appropriate to the child’s needs’ (DfEE, 1997: 44).
the loss of what is common in education
The loss of what is common in education
  • Labour government: inclusive education helps a ‘school become more effective at responding to the needs of individual pupils’ (DfES, 2004, 31).
  • 'personalised learning'
  • teaching assistants who provide students with one-to-one support
  • 'Individual Education Plans'.
Tony Blair:
  • ‘The need to differentiate provision to individual aptitudes within schools often took second place. Inclusion too readily became an end in itself, rather than the means to identify and provide better for the talents of each individual pupil’.
  • (Blair, 2001)
the loss of who we are replaced by what needs we are deemed to have
The loss of ‘who’ we are – replaced by ‘what’ needs we are deemed to have
  • Walt Whitman (1892/2000) reminds us that, ‘To have great poets, there must be great audiences, too’, and what is true of poets is true of all of us.
  • Arendt’s observation: ‘Nothing and nobody exists in this world whose very being does not presuppose a spectator’ (emphasis in the original, Arendt, 1971: 19).
  • Reduced to our ‘behaviour’, to ‘what’ we are, we are excluded within an educational setting.
arendt s view of schooling
Arendt’s view of schooling
  • Arendt: children ‘can thrive only in concealment’, while adults ‘need to be shown to all in the full light of the public world’ (Arendt, 1968a: 188).
  • ‘the essence of… educational activity… to cherish and protect… the child against the world’ (Arendt, 1968a: 192).
  • ‘[T]he function of the school is to teach children what the world is like and not to instruct them in the art of living’ (Arendt, 1968a: 195).
criticisms of arendt s view of schooling
Criticisms of Arendt’s view of schooling
  • A tension:
    • schools can and should be private spaces
    • force of 'the social’
  • 'learning is a way of being in the… world, not a way of coming to know about it' (Hanks, 1991:
  • 24).
  • Giroux: education must ‘be treated as a public good - as a crucial site where students gain a public voice and come to grips with their own power …’ (Giroux, 2002: 432).

Lying to the young is wrong.

Proving to them that lies are true is wrong.

Telling them that God’s in his heaven

and all’s well with the world is wrong.

They know what you mean. They are people too.

Tell them the difficulties can’t be counted,

and let them see not only what will be

but see with clarity these present times.

Say obstacles exist they must encounter,

sorrow comes, hardship happens.

The hell with it. Who never knew

the price of happiness will not be happy.

  • (Yevtushenko, 1962)
  • In an inclusive educational institution, diversity more than breathes: diversity is the institution’s life-breath.
  • Arendt, H. (1958) The Human Condition (University of Chicago Press: Chicago)
  • Arendt, H. (1968a) Between Past and Future: eight exercises in political thought (Revised edition, New York: The Viking Press)
  • Arendt, H. (1968b) Men in Dark Times (New York: Harcourt, Brace & World)
  • Arendt, H. (1971) The life of the mind (London, Harcourt).
  • Blair, T. (2001) Speech to the Conference of School Leaders at 10 Downing Street, 12 February [Online] http://www.number-10.gov.uk/output/Page1580.asp [02/04/04]
  • Dewey, J. (1929/1960) The Quest for Certainty: A Study of the Relation of Knowledge and Action, in: J. A. Boydston, (ed.) John Dewey The Later Work, 1925-1953: Volume 4: 1929 (Carbondale and Edwardsville: Southern Illinois University Press)
DfEE (1997) Excellence for all children: meeting special educational needs (London: Stationery Office)
  • DfES (2004) Removing Barriers to Achievement - The Government’s Strategy for SEN (London: Stationery Office)
  • Giroux, H.A. (2002) Neoliberalism, Corporate Culture, and the Promise of Higher Education: The University as a Democratic Public Sphere, Harvard Educational Review, 72.4, pp. 425-463
  • Greene, M. (1978) Teaching: The Question of Personal Reality, Teachers College Record, 80.1, pp. 23-35
Hanks, W. F. (1991) Forward, in: J. Lave & E. Wenger, (Eds.) Situated Learning: Legitimate Peripheral Participation (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press)
  • Skrtic, T. M. (1991) The Special Education Paradox: Equity as the Way to Excellence, Harvard Educational Review, 61.2, pp.148-206
  • Slee, R., Weiner, G. and Tomlinson, S. (Eds) (1988) School Effectiveness for Whom? (London: The Falmer Press).
  • Schutz, A. (2001) Contesting Utopianism: Hannah Arendt and the Tensions of Democratic Education, in: M. Gordon, (ed.) Hannah Arendt and Education: Renewing our common world (Colorado, Westview Press)
  • Whitman, W. (1892/2000) Prose Work (Philadelphia: David McKay) [Online] www.bartleby.com/229/. [23 May 2005]