Steeped in the philosophy of John Dewey and framed by a progressive tradition, the Preservice Program in Secondary Inclusive Education emphasizes student-centered practices and the social construction of knowledge and conceives of teaching as complex professional activity necessarily embedded in particular moral, political, historical, economic, and cultural contexts. The philosophy of the program is simultaneously driven by the larger institutional conceptual framework for teacher education programs at Teachers College, which emphasize inquiry, curriculum, and social justice. We aim, therefore, to prepare teachers:
- To understand teaching as a recursive process of learning/inquiry,
- To conceive of themselves as curriculum developers and each of their decisions as curriculum, and
- To conceive of their work as vital to working toward socially just schooling in a diverse, pluralistic, democratic society.
We believe that inclusive education is not just about students with labeled disabilities but rather is fundamentally about all students and more significantly, about the cultural practices of schooling. Consequently, the full spectrum of challenges of contemporary schooling must be attended to in order to generate transformative action. We, therefore, necessarily interrogate and work to actively challenge the many sociocultural, institutional, bureaucratic, and interpersonal ways in which children and their families experience marginalization and exclusion (e.g., on the basis of race, ethnicity, social class, dis/ability, gender, nationality, sexuality, language, religious [non] affiliation, etc.). We simultaneously inquire into how such resistance can be translated into meaningful engagement with existing systems and schooling practices in order to effect change.
We also inquire into and seek to imagine creative alternatives to current schooling practices that frame poor, disabled, or other marginalized children as deserving of test-prep curricula and disciplinary practices based on behavioral control, rather than rich engagement with and exploration of the world. Such techno-rational approaches to education that aim to sort students into educational categories and apply received wisdom about best practices are obviously inadequate to the complexity of the challenges that face the inclusive educator. For this reason, we aim to support our preservice teachers to embrace the inherent ambiguities of teacher work; to fashion their inclusive pedagogies through their own commitments (as advocates for all children and youth) to curriculum inquiry, reflective practice, and the pursuit of social justice; and to conceptualize the work of inclusive educators as the complex intellectual, moral, theoretical, and polical work that it is.