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Widening the Circle: The Power of Inclusive Classroomsby Mara Sapon Shevin
Synopses & Reviews
Widening the Circle is a passionate, even radical argument for creating school and classroom environments where all kids, including children labeled as "disabled" and "special needs," are welcome on equal terms.
In opposition to traditional models of special education, where teachers decide when a child is deemed "ready to compete" in "mainstream" classes, Mara Sapon-Shevin articulates a vision of full inclusion as a practical and moral goal. Inclusion, she argues, begins not with the assumption that students have to earn their way into the classroom with their behavior or skills, it begins with the right of every child to be in the mainstream of education, perhaps with modifications, adaptations, and support. Full inclusion requires teachers to think about all aspects of their classrooms—pedagogy, curriculum, and classroom climate.
Crucially, Sapon-Shevin takes on arguments against full inclusion in a section of straight-talking answers to common questions. She agrees with critics that the rhetoric of inclusion has been used to justify eliminating services and "dumping" students with significant educational needs unceremoniously back into the mainstream with little or no support. If full inclusion is properly implemented, however, she argues, it not only clearly benefits those traditionally excluded but enhances the educations and lives of those considered mainstream in myriad ways.
Through powerful storytelling and argument, Sapon-Shevin lays out the moral and educational case for not separating kids on the basis of difference.
"Designing inclusive education, Sapon-Shevin (Because We Can Change the World) suggests, is like planning a dinner party for a varied group of friends — lactose-intolerant, Muslims, vegans, etc. We could serve our usual dishes and force our guests to pick around... or we could plan the menu beforehand so everyone's happy. Similarly, education must be designed, from the outset, for universal accessibility. Then, rather than try to ignore difference, she argues, teachers should embrace it so children realize we are all different in different ways. Whatever our particular issue — whether we have Down's syndrome or cerebral palsy or autism or gifted intelligences — if we work together in an inclusively designed classroom we learn from one another, which promotes respect among children and social justice in our nation. When the 'gifted' and the 'special ed' kids are teaching one another in the same inclusive classroom, not only may those labels disappear, not only may school performance rise overall, but teachers won't have to hear that plaintive cry from the special-ed kids, 'Can I be in the play those kids are doing?' While Sapon-Shevin is earnest, her platform may seem delusional to a public school teacher with over 30 children in an overcrowded classroom." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
This text offers a passionate, even radical argument for creating school and classroom environments where all kids, including children labeled as "disabled" and "special needs," are welcome on equal terms. Sapon-Shevin lays out the moral and educational case for schools that do not separate kids on the basis of difference.
About the Author
Mara Sapon-Shevin is a professor of education at Syracuse University and the author of Because We Can Change the World.
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