04 SES 11 B, The Debate on Inclusion
This paper takes, as its starting point, an account given by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. of an evening in 1965 when he and his wife attended a musical event held at the integrated school where two of their children were students. During the course of the entire evening not a single note from what Dr. King (1967, p. 42) calls ‘the most original of all American music, the Negro spiritual’ was produced. King recalled how he ‘wept within that night’ for all the children, parents and teachers ‘who are forced to overlook the fact that the wealth of cultural and technological progress in America is a result of the commonwealth of inpouring contributions (King, 1967, p. 43). King’s reflections point to a significant distinction between exclusionary, monolithic school cultures and inclusive, pluralistic school cultures. King’s (1967) conception of the ‘complete life’ and the ‘beloved community’, considered in conjunction with Levinas’s (1969) analysis of ethics as responsibility, illuminates the primacy of the ethical relation in the formation of inclusive school cultures. In direct contrast to cultures that delimit, normalise or exclude, inclusive cultures are always becoming in accordance with this living responsibility. It is a responsibility that cannot be reduced to a code or a formula, since it always derives from the ability to respond to the Other. Where there are inclusive cultures in schools there are individuals who have moved from ‘the chains of a paralyzing self-centeredness’ and to a concern for ‘the welfare of others’ (King, 1963, p.71). In such schools, diversity is not celebrated, tolerated, or managed, for diversity is the very life-breath of their cultures, a breath that derives from the ethical response to the uniqueness and distinctness of the Other.
King, M.L. 1963. Strength to love. London, Hodder & Stoughton. King, M.L. 1963. Letter from Birmingham jail, in: Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr. (ed.) C. Carson. Grand Central Publishing. King, M.L. 1967. Where do we go from here: Chaos or community? New York: Harper & Row. Levinas, E. 1969. Totality and infinity: an essay on exteriority. Pittsburgh, Duquesne University Press. Levinas, E. 1985. Ethics and infinity Conversations with Philippe Nemo. Pittsburgh, Duquesne University Press. Levinas, E. 1999. Alterity and transcendence. London, The Athlone Press.
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