Entry by Lauren Nader
Inclusion can be defined as ‘the act of including: the state of being included’ for example, ‘the act or practice of including students with disabilities with the general student population’ (Merriam-Webster, n.d). In addition to this, the term ‘inclusion’ can be defined as ‘the act of allowing many different types of people to do something and treating them fairly and equally’ (Cambridge Dictionary, n.d.).
In the sense of social responsibility, inclusion refers to including everyone so that no one feels neglected or segregated. Equality and inclusivity should be at the core of any group’s values and they should seek to ensure everyone feels involved and appreciated.
When reflecting on the history of ‘inclusion’, it is important to acknowledge that ‘initial discourses of social inclusion are widely attributed to having first appeared in France in the 1970s when the economically disadvantaged began to be described as the excluded (Silver, 1995). The preliminary uses of this new parlance appeared as a means to refer to a variety of disabled and destitute groups’ (Allman, 2013, p7). From this it can be gathered that initially the term ‘inclusion’ was used in the sense of one’s class in society. A clear divide was emphasised between the wealthy and the poor as the wealthy did not want to be placed in the same category as them financially and socially. In fact, ‘economically and politically powerful people initially seeded racist ideas in order to justify the policies and power relationships of their time. When those ideas took root, they helped feed new policies that the powerful few developed’ (Razza, 2018, p2). This is an example of how the upper white class of society promoted racist behaviour as they believed that those of colour were the lesser within society: that they would be at the bottom of the hierarchy of class.
Later on, the use of the term expanded into dividing those with disabilities from those who do not. Generally, it can be said that the term was always used because certain individuals among society did not want equality to exist. They always wanted to ensure that differences were acknowledged in the sense that they could be seen as better than others. It should be acknowledged that:
‘‘The European Union has recognised from its onset the need to achieve social cohesion, next to the development of an internal market. Tremendous social progress has been achieved since the Treaty of Rome in improving living conditions, well-being, life expectancy, education, and quality of life. However, at the start of the 21st century, more than 65 million people, around 18% of the European population, still live on the verge of poverty, earning only 60% of the national median income. The most vulnerable groups at risk of poverty are unemployed, elderly and disabled people’
(Vammaisfoorumi ry, n.d., p9).
The world should learn from its past that exclusion is completely unfair in its nature and damaging to the majority. It is vital to ensure that inclusion prevails so that more people will endure the opportunity to succeed in life. Society should not be built in favour of a certain group but instead should be accepting of all people regardless of where they come from.
Inclusion in relation to pedagogy and higher education within the UK
‘Social exclusion involves the lack or denial of resources, rights, goods and services, and the inability to participate in the normal relationships and activities, available to the majority of people in society, whether in economic, social, cultural or political arenas. It affects both the quality of life of individuals and the equity and cohesion of society as a whole’ (Levitas et al, 2007, p55).
The above source can be related to students within higher education because every institution consists of a diverse student population. Characteristics such as race, physical ability, age, financial status, and education history can all greatly differ and thus the university environment must be one that promotes inclusion. Every single student should feel welcomed by both students and staff when they are attending their university. Their success should not be determined by what they look like or what their occupation is but instead by their motivation to do well. Every student deserves a fair chance to perform well and therefore it is the university’s role to ensure they receive the support to achieve this.
The inclusivity of students of colour is a topic that should be discussed here. It was recently stated that ‘while the diversification of students on college campuses is a notable accomplishment, it does not erase the centuries of historical prejudice against students of colour’ (Best Colleges, 2021). Although universities are starting to change their policies and values to reflect diversity and inclusion, their work cannot stop there. HEIs need to work towards being spaces that are free from prejudice, stereotyping and harassment. In addition to this, universities should create extra-curricular activities such as events about Black History Month, Ramadan, Diwali, Chinese New Year, for example. These events can help them to champion inclusivity and bring about a culture in the academy which celebrates diversity.
Allman, D. (2013). The Sociology of Social Inclusion. SAGE Open, 3(1), 7.
Best Colleges (2021). A History of Exclusion for Students of Color. Best Colleges. [online] Available at: https://www.bestcolleges.com/blog/history-exclusion-students-of-color/
Cambridge Dictionary (2019). INCLUSION | meaning in the Cambridge English Dictionary. [online] Cambridge.org. Available at: https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/inclusion
Levitas, R., Pantazis, C., Fahmy, E., Gordon, D., Lloyd-Reichling, E. and Patsios, D. (2007). The multi-dimensional analysis of social exclusion. Bristol University of Bristol, 55.
Merriam-Webster (2019). Definition of INCLUSION. [online] Merriam-webster.com. Available at: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/inclusion
Razza, C.M. (2018). Social Exclusion: The Decisions and Dynamics that Drive Racism, 2.
Vammaisfoorumi ry. (n.d.). Disability and Social Exclusion in the European Union – time for change tools for change. Finnish Disability Forum, 9.
Hoffman, J., Blessinger, P., Makhanya, M. (2019) Strategies for fostering inclusive classrooms in higher education: international perspectives on equity and inclusion, United Kingdom: Emerald Publishing (solutions for universities regarding ways to increase their inclusivity)
Speetzen, A. (n.d.). LibGuides: Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion: What is Inclusion? [online] researchguides.austincc.edu. Available at: https://researchguides.austincc.edu/c.php?g=522627&p=7624731 (an informative website page about the meaning of inclusion)
The Ellis School (n.d.). Equity and Inclusion | The Ellis School. [online] Available at: https://www.theellisschool.org/life-at-ellis/equity-and-inclusion (an American high school website page explaining their annual diversity conference to encourage their students to have courageous conversations alongside their peers)
Questions to ask
- What does ‘inclusion’ mean to you?
- Do you feel ‘included’ in your institution?
- Have you ever experienced exclusion? If yes, what type of exclusion did you experience? If not, do you know anyone that has?
- What piece of advice would you give to someone who is currently experiencing exclusion?
- What could you do today to ensure inclusion for everyone?
Often prejudiced behaviour can lead to a mass amount of segregation of certain groups for example Black people and other people of colour, queer people, and people with disabilities etc. It is completely unfair that someone should feel alone because they do not look like most people in a certain area. Like if a Black student attended university in a predominantly white populated university then they should feel equal to their student counterparts instead of different. Differences should be celebrated as everyone is unique and this is what makes the world an interesting place. If different cultures meet then they should learn about one another rather than discriminate against and bully. Inclusion means that not one person should be made to feel worthless and insufficient within society.