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Inclusive education has a broad definition that is not complex to understand, it is broad so that professionals are able to implement their own type of inclusion policies and procedures. Children spend most of their life in school and other educational settings, so it is understandable that most inclusion policies are written for them. Each educational setting has their own definition of inclusion and the policies and procedures they are required to follow to maintain an inclusive education. In educational settings, inclusion is ensuring that every child and young person receives equal opportunities, these opportunities can be achieved in different ways if they are provided with them. The history of inclusive education first started when the Community living movement was mobilised in the 1950s. Originally, it was commonly believed by society that children with special needs were unable to learn and develop, meaning that they were excluded from education & educational activities. This lead to an uprising of parents creating their own schools in basements and churches to provide their children with an education, as they understood that even with developmental disabilities, their children had great potential to learn. This movement grew and in 1955, an organisation was created that eventually developed into BC Association for Community Living, now known as Inclusion BC. This organisation fought for the same rights that other children had to an education, for their children with special needs. Eventually, the government took responsibility and agreed that public schooling should be available for children with special needs. Today, however, the progress that has been made for inclusive education threatens to be ruined, there has been reduced funding for many educational settings which in turn means that facilities are no longer affordable and cannot accommodate to those that require them. Furthermore, there are other obstacles that effect the implementation of inclusive practice today. These barriers can include; social class, attitude, physical barriers, teachers and curriculum. I am going to be discussing and going into detail about social class as an obstacle in addition to the effects it has today and how underpinning theories have played a key role in our understanding of social class.
The labels provided to social classes in the 19th century were created so that the system could produce a systematic way to describe the relationship between the different job roles of individuals, those jobs were industrial workers, managers and owners. The upper class tended to stand outside the tension and issues of social classes, this was due to their aristocratic heritage and affiliations that allowed them to be apart from society. In a class of their own, they have their own rules and etiquettes that would never have been the same for those belonging in middle and working class. There were theories and ideas created that acknowledged the divide between society, Karl Marx, a world renown social scientist and theorist, was one individual whose ideas had an outstanding impact on sociology and the subjects involved with it. His theories and views have encouraged the study of how one’s social class greatly effects their life, as well as the influence that social class has on their experience and opportunities in life. Marx’s ideas allowed the ongoing argument today that still occurs between social classes, the varying differences between the two and the problematic inequality that occurs because of social class. Marx was an avid believer that if an individual belonged to the upper class their life consisted of nothing but leisure and abundance whereas those belonging to the working class suffered poverty and hardship.
An example of the wealthy having different laws and rules for their social class, is when Robert H. Richards, DuPont heir, admitted to sexually assaulting his 3-year-old daughter. Due to his social class, the judge gave him a suspended sentence as he would not ‘fare well’ in prison (Tadeo, 2014). This example reiterates Marx’ view that the upper/elite class are able to control every element of society. Richards is not expected to pay any money towards the child he abused and is only on probation. If a working-class individual had committed the heinous crime, would the punishment have been the same? How are children and young people supposed to learn to accept each other for who they are, and to not dismiss someone because of their class when they are taught that being wealthy allows you to get away with horrific crimes? If anything, it encourages bullying, resentment towards classes and extreme social exclusion. Belonging to a higher social class strongly influenced the sentence that Richards received, his position in elite society allowed him to escape jail with only probation. Professionals are majorly at fault here for allowing Richards social class and the influence of his title to be excused. When working with higher levels of society, children no longer become the focus of professional’s investigation. It is believed that to provide children with protection, professionals need to strip away class and other impending factors that can affect the protection that they receive, this enables all children and young people to receive the same services and help. This reiterates my argument Marx’s theory having a profound influence over the way professionals treat middle and upper-class abuse investigations. Professionals focus on the luxuries that the children have within their environment, they do not make the child the point of their investigation and what their wealth can get them.
There are differing opinions towards Marx’s approach, however. Max Weber, for example, although he supports Marx’s theory, he does not fully agree with it. Weber believed that an individual’s social class is measured by their ‘market value’, so, the level of education, natural talent, skills and acquired knowledge. By having these skills, Weber concluded that the individual would receive more life chances and job opportunities that would increase their standard of living as well as improve their social class position. This can be somewhat applied to the sets that children are put in in school. Weber’s theory about their knowledge acquired enabling then to receive better opportunities is shown when those in higher sets in primary school are given the opportunity to take the eleven Plus. As well as the eleven plus, lower sets in maths are only given the chance to achieve a C whereas the higher sets are given the chance to achieve A*s. Regardless of the grades achieved, professionals understand that ‘subject sets’ can also cause controversy.
Set ability classes have positive and negative effects on students. Complaints have been made that it is unfair to seclude the students from one another and ‘brand’ some smarter than others. In addition, these sets that children are segregated to often determine the social groups that they interact with, rarely ever leaving the ‘social set’. Bullying often occurs due to these sets and some may view it as a form of exclusion. John Hattie and Eric Anderman (2013) argue that although set ability groups in school do have benefits, they are mostly beneficial to higher achieving students due to teachers having higher expectations of those in higher sets and push them further than they would a student in a lower set. Those who support set ability groups argue that it is beneficial to lower set groups, however there is less evidence of this. Hattie and Anderman continue that children in a lower set group have their self-esteem and confidence knocked. In addition, they also state that other factors contribute to a child’s group set, one factor being from a poorer home, segregation based on social class. The theories of Weber and Marx allow professionals to understand the vast difference between social classes. Their knowledge gained from their ideas put together with other factors that can influence social exclusion allow them to support children, young people and their families more effectively, as they are more aware of the problems that may arise when belonging to specific social classes. Nevertheless, this can also mean that they are more oblivious to children suffering abuse who belong to middle and upper class due to the ideology that Marx has created, that they live a life of abundance and luxury.
The are other contributing factors that can influence the social exclusion of a child, young person or family. The United Nations (2018) states that many individuals think that poverty and social exclusion go hand in hand, that is not the case. People experience social exclusion based on their race, special needs and their sexual orientation. In cases like this, professionals must be able to recognise instantly when individuals are being excluded. The reason being that they are issues we have long since attempted to overcome and even created acts; the Equality Act 2010 and the Special Education Needs and Disability Act 2001 (SENDA), to help prevent discrimination and exclusion in society.
One other renown theorist, Pierre Bourdieu, developed his social stratification theory from the works of Marx and Weber. Bourdieu viewed social class as a society that people determined themselves to be in. It was not society who told them where they belong but the way they presented themselves and the taste they had in life, for things such as food and culture. At a young age, Bourdieu states that children adopt these dispositions at a young age and that if they enjoy foods that are fatty, heavy and cheap then they are likely to belong to working class whereas those that enjoy the consumption of exotic foods are belong more commonly to the higher end of society. Bourdieu built from the work of Marx that those who live a life of abundance and luxury, in fact, choose themselves to live that way, society did not determine it based on their wealth and prestige. Although Bourdieu acknowledges that these factors do contribute to the decision, he claims Weber’s view of one’s self actualisation plays an even bigger role in determining their place in society. Articles such as Lord Sugar’s claim that there is no poverty in the 21s century and 62% of people agreeing with his comment is a prime example of the ignorance that upper/elite class individuals have towards other social classes. For professionals to understand how comments like this influence children’s views and opinions, they must educate themselves on the matter. Professionals can address these types of articles in their education setting to teach children, young people and their families. Lord Sugar claimed that there is no such thing as poverty as the ‘working class’ have access to the luxuries that previous working-class societies did not have access to. Realistically, this is not the case, the upper/elite class have access to better facilities and items and so lower cost items and activities that are not seen as luxurious are cheaper and more affordable for middle and working class. The living environment for those from working class can have a severe impact on those within that environment. Many working-class families to not have access to the latest technology, some do not have access to constant electricity and are unable to afford the equipment needed to keep their back gardens child friendly and safe. In response to this, children take to playing outside with their friends who are sharing the same experience. However, this can lead to them being put in danger if they live in areas where there are main roads and busy streets. For professionals to provide children with knowledge about how to be safe, classes could be taught for parents about how to keep a child safe on the streets. In addition, they could also offer children road safety classes to allow them to be more sensible and alert when playing in the street. Furthermore, it is important to point out that not all parents are willing to cooperate with professionals regarding their children’s safety and so they can only go so far without the help of the family.
In conclusion, social class still holds extreme power and control over individuals that find it near impossible to break free of the chains of society. People have fought so hard for new policies and laws to be implemented for inclusion and equality, but we seem oblivious to the biggest form of social exclusion there is, the divide between the social classes, the segregation that it holds over society, how it tells people where they belong and the jobs we are expected to carry out. To break free of these chains, society must come together to realise that they are not defined by their social class, there is no need to define an individual.
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