Review: Widening the Circle: The Power of Inclusive Classrooms

Widening the Circle: The Power of Inclusive Classrooms by Mara Sapon-Shevin, (Beacon, 184 pages, $16.00)

Widening the Circle argues that all learners—and teachers—contain multitudes. On that basis, inclusion of all students is fundamentally equitable, educationally beneficial, and morally imperative. Inclusion reinforces our democratic commitments, commitments that Essential schools in particular are poised to make or have made already. Fundamentally, an Essential school must be fully inclusive. Whether a school’s mission is sparked by the Common Principles or by a belief in inclusion, the result—a personalized, equitable school with high standards for all and meaningful teaching and learning—will be the same.

The first section describes a persuasive vision of inclusion in which “everybody plays and everybody wins,” employing personal and school-based insights to define and make the case for inclusion. The book’s second part portrays challenges and opposition to inclusion as failures of imagination. Part three discusses how to get inclusion right and how to do it well, focusing on community building, safety, communication, and more.

Sapon-Shevin promotes an expansive vision of inclusion that’s more than a benefit solely for people with unusual physical or learning abilities. Inclusion is a universal practice of accommodating individual needs through personalized relationships, unwavering commitments to equity, and practices such as personal learning plans. Sapon-Shevin concludes by describing how “teaching for all and to all” works when it’s done with respect, commitment to social justice, trust, and unwavering resolve.

Classroom Culture, Cooperative Learning