A dilemma for inclusive education is one of quantity vs. quality. Is it more important to improve the quality of education for those students currently in school or to use resources to expand the number benefitting from education? From a human-rights perspective, there is no question that continuing to exclude some children from education, or from the regular education system, is discrimination and needs immediate rectification.

I often use a story to illustrate this last point.

My father grew up in the Great Depression. His family did not have a lot of money, but they knew that every Sunday evening the family would sit down together for a delicious meal. One Sunday, while the chicken was roasting in the oven, the doorbell rang and some cousins arrived for an unexpected visit. Of course my grandmother invited them in, hoping that they would leave in time for her to serve dinner to her family. She could smell the chicken as the skin got nice and brown. She waited, hoping the chicken would not get overdone, but the cousins could smell it too, and they stayed in their seats. Finally, my grandmother invited them to stay for dinner and they gladly accepted. Unfortunately, there was only one chicken, so as my father and his brothers walked to the table, my grandmother whispered to them that when the platter of chicken was passed around they should say they weren͛t hungry so that there would be enough for the cousins to eat. My father and his brothers dutifully passed the platter of chicken around the table and said they weren’t hungry. Then they sat and watched as their cousins enjoyed every morsel, licking their fingers so they wouldn͛t miss a bit but they knew that my grandmother had also baked an apple pie, and they waited for dessert to be served. After the empty plates had been cleared, my grandmother carried in the pie, placed it on the table with a flourish, and said: Now, anyone who wasn’ t hungry enough for the main course can͛t have dessert.

Unfortunately, that’s the story of too many people who have a disability. First they don͛t get the main course of education, health care and other supports, and then they can͛t get jobs, can͛t earn a decent income, and can͛t live in their own homes – the desserts that most people enjoy. Now if my grandmother had known the cousins were coming, instead of roasting the chicken she could have made a chicken soup and had enough for everyone. When I told this story in Mexico, one mother suggested that my grandmother could have made tacos. My grandmother had never heard of tacos, but the point is, everyone can figure out how to use what they have without excluding anyone.

Source: Inclusive Education in Europe: Putting theory into practice International Conference – 18 November 2013 Reflections from researchers


Diane Richler Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. Foundation