In November 2016, I participated in a Next Frontier Inclusion Round Table Conversation in Genoa and Study Group in Reggio Emilia. On my desk, I have a notebook full of learnings and wonderings about inclusion and the Reggio Emilia approach to education.
The conversations throughout the week revolved around creating inclusive learning contexts, communities and cultures that honour the rights of every child and particularly those of children with special rights.
Every child has a right to an education. Of course they do. Maybe it was because I could never imagine having to argue this point that I had never really given much thought to it. Now I find myself trying to make sense of what is written in my notebook and how that is changing my responsibilities as an educator as I believe them to be.
Loris Malaguzzi was the founder of Reggio Emilia’s educational philosophy and he brought the rights of all children into the pedagogical discourse. He believed that children have the right to discover and keep intact their sense of marvel, curiosity and desire to learn. The Reggio Emilia educational philosophy protects that right of every child, credits every child with the ability and inclination to construct their own learning and values every child’s subjectivity and learning differences.
Visiting the schools and listening to and observing the educators of Reggio Emilia, one cannot deny the power and worth of an educational philosophy grounded in the rights and differences of children. I left Reggio Emilia contemplating the coherence and sense of simplicity with which the educators went about implementing what many would consider the most complex of tasks.
A couple of weeks ago, I started contemplating this again after an ad hoc philosophy session with some students. A student surmised that if someone has a right, then everyone else has a responsibility to honour that right (or something along those lines…). And therein lies the power of Reggio Emilia. In Reggio Emilia, the education of a child is considered to be the responsibility of the whole community – educators, health professionals, parents, politicians, everyone. And the educational philosophy of Reggio Emilia provides the inspiration, coherence and framework for the community to collaboratively honour the rights of its children.
Reggio Emilia is proof that if an educational system can articulate and align the rights of its children with the responsibilities of those charged with honouring those rights, a coherence of effort develops that can make the complex less difficult.