Inclusion is making us all depressed

23rd June 2006 at 01:00
So you believe in a hierarchy of needs? For example, do you think that the needs of a well-behaved, academically bright, but lacking in confidence pupil are lesser than the needs of his equally intelligent (avoiding stereotyping here) but attention-seeking, aggressive classmate?

Or do you think that inside every belligerent, lazy git of a youngster there's a butterfly longing to emerge if only we can cultivate the optimum conditions and, since this guy's in your face and the other one isn't, then he who shouts loudest wins the competition to manifest the greater need?

If you are tactful, you will conclude that it's near impossible to rule on this one as there isn't a convenient unit of need that can be calculated and analysed. Interesting then that my union, the Educational Institute of Scotland, at its recent Dundee conference, has been calling for teachers to refuse to teach highly unruly pupils. Delegates heard that persistently disruptive youngsters are making life a misery for the vast majority of other kids and their teachers.

Few teachers would dispute this. There is no question that a minority of pupils with challenging behaviour patterns are holding to ransom the right of other pupils to learn in a trouble-free environment. This is happening in nearly all schools. What about the noble policy of inclusion then? Isn't it working? Sadly not. However admirable the theory may be, when it comes to the reality of it, finance and suitably trained staff are simply not sufficiently available to make it work. This is most regrettable as critics of inclusion are more than fully justified in dismissing it as nothing more than meaningless touchy-feely old tosh.

There is plenty of evidence of this. For instance, it used to be that telling a teacher to "F-off" was deemed to be offensive enough to warrant instant exclusion. Not any more: apparently, we should consider the intonation of the "F-off" - or so claimed an education officer in my presence. Well, this is laughable. When the effing and blinding urchin rudely tells his boss where to go, will his employer study the intricacies of the tone used or ponder over the exact look on the individual's face? I think not.

Maybe someone can inform me then just how inclusion works in the big bad world beyond the school gate. The brutal reality is that the workplace doesn't want employees who lack social skills, behave aggressively and who can't or won't understand that their negative attitude impacts on the well-being of others.

So, at the risk of having the usual onslaught of mail from in-service providers who don't presently teach but have the answer to all classroom problems, I do support my union on this one. OK, so we're advocating not teaching kids, many of whom have lives already blighted by the empty shells of their existence and whose parents don't give a damn about education, who will probably spend most of their lives lying in front of plasma screens in an ever-increasing downward spiral to hopelessness and despair.

But as a thinking, reasoning and caring profession, we have a responsibility to the needs of the many kids who sit in fear in their classrooms because we have legalised disruption and now call it inclusion.

Don't forget that some of the misbehaving entourage are middle-class brats who mercilessly mock their teachers and their fellow pupils.

It's true, too, that there are endless endeavours to support all the permutations of disruptive elements in Scottish schools. Empty political posturing, armies of social workers, rhetoric beyond your wildest imaginings, the wearied crock of tired old solutions dressed up as innovation. It is little wonder that many of us want to call a halt to this excruciating situation.

I wonder if there is a link between rising rates of depression among teenagers and the detrimental effects of inclusion. It's certainly time to kick-start reality.

Marj Adams teaches religious studies, philosophy and psychology at Forres Academy.

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