It used to be exclusive. Education was something for the elite and wealthy; schools were founded to provide, at a cost that necessarily excluded a large percentage of the population, elevated status and superiority to the uneducated masses. Even once free public education was established, a difference arose between the wealthier families who could afford for their children to continue their education and the poorer families who needed their children to work. And when education became compulsory (first in Massachusetts in 1852, last in Mississippi in 1917), it was still geared toward “weeding out” students who were not likely to be college-bound. So it was kept exclusive, difficult, and “rigorous,” and no one had to argue that Latin had a purpose in that setting.
I am personally glad that the rhetoric and drive of school has shifted towards inclusion. I believe that every student can learn and has a right to learn, and it is my job to make sure that learning happens. I have known too many people who gave up because they did not fit the elite mold that schools pushed students into–even as recently as the 1990s–usually because of learning disabilities or poverty. It’s shameful. It’s wasteful.
I work very hard in my classes to make sure that all students have a path to success. Sometimes they fight me, because they are used to being ignored or allowed to fail, and I keep pressing them to succeed. Luckily I am extraordinarily annoying. I almost always win these struggles.
This shift towards inclusion means change for Latin; I am no longer considered a sine qua non member of America’s teaching force. I have to campaign for the viability of my subject, and if students don’t buy in to my class or feel welcome there, my numbers will plummet and I’ll be out of a job.
That’s not why my classroom is inclusive, it’s why my classroom MUST be inclusive.
My classroom is inclusive because I always wanted an inclusive classroom. I have always read language acquisition research, I have always attended any and all conferences, workshops, and training opportunities I could afford, I have always tried new things and taken chances with my classes, and I have always worked with my students to make them feel valued, important, and successful in my classes. No matter their creed, race, special needs, or economic background.
Teaching inclusively is necessary; moreover teaching inclusively is rewarding.