One observation that people around the world are sharing in the year 2020 is the importance of the word ‘Inclusion’. We have chosen our new theme in recognition of at least three ways in which a greater appreciation for inclusion, as a philosophy and as a way of life in our schools and community, has emerged.
First, the Inclusive Schools Network publishes the annual theme as a way of bringing students, educators, families together to celebrate the accomplishments of schools in increasing the membership of students with disabilities as full members of their school communities. Our celebrations balance appreciation for the progress that has been made with an honest evaluation of the hurdles that remain. Each year, the joyous examples of inclusive practices in schools around the world lift our spirits and increase our commitment to reaching a day when “inclusion” is fully embedded in our collective humanity.
As this year has progressed, we have an unusual vantage point for understanding an even broader meaning of inclusion. Across the world, we are experiencing a new form of isolation that is required in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Schools, shops, recreational facilities, and even basic outlets for direct social interaction are closed. We are now familiar with a new term: social distancing. For our own safety and the safety of others, we wear masks and restrict our outings and opportunities for gathering together. In the not too distant future, we will be able to celebrate our resilience in the face of difficulty and experience the joys of being included in a community that learns, plays, and works together.
Finally, on a worldwide basis, we have seen the true meaning of inclusion in the struggle for social justice. When we recognize the deep and, yes, inclusive meaning of the inherent right of every individual to be equal in the eyes of society, the law and in the opportunities life offers, we can appreciate that the movement to gain inclusion for children with disabilities is the same promise that must be realized for all!
Through our celebration of Inclusive Schools Week, December 7-11, 2020, let’s make certain that our definition of the term ‘inclusion’ is broad enough to encompass all aspects of the opportunities before us. ISN’s activities for celebrating each remaining month of this year will provide schools and communities with another vehicle for learning, growing and recognizing “The Time for Inclusion is NOW!”