What is Inclusion?
by Jack Pearpoint & Marsha Forest
People genuinely ask us, "What
is Inclusion - really?"
We have found a simple way to answer this
question for groups and workshops. We explain that we believe
everyone already knows the answer. In their hearts and from their
life experience, people really do understand the difference between
Inclusion and Exclusion. They just need to be reminded
of what they already know. Then we say:
"Think of a time when you felt really
outside, excluded. What words come to mind?"
Generally words like these flow from people's
hearts: "awful, lonely, scared, sad, mad, unhappy, miserable,
"Now think of a time you felt really
welcomed, really included . How did you feel then?"
Answers are usually words like: "happy,
terrific, loved, great, wonderful, important, thrilled, warm,
The responses are universal. The answers
are the same for children of all ages, people of all lands, tall
& short, old & young, male & female. When people
are included, they feel welcome; they feel good; they feel healthy.
When people are excluded, they feel 'bad'.
the precondition for learning, happiness - for healthy living.
the precondition for misery, loneliness and trouble.
We know teenagers often choose to die -
rather than be alone. We know kids join gangs rather than be
seen as "outside" the mainstream. Belonging is NOT
incidental - it is primary to our existence. Thus, for us, Exclusion
kills - physically and/or spiritually. "Killing the
pain" of Exclusion is a learned skill. Adults often
choose a "living death" by numbing the pain with alcohol,
drugs, obsessions - to "override" the anguish of Exclusion.
the foundation of the house. It is not a guarantee, but rather
a precondition for the growth and development of full and healthy
That is how we "define" Inclusion
. Dictionaries also help. "Included" - as defined
in the Random House College Dictionary is an adjective meaning
"contained in; embraced".
In Roget's Thesaurus (4th Edition) - inclusive
of - means "with".
a wonderful word. It is about embracing humanity and figuring
out how we are going to live WITH one another in the challenging
years to come.