Archive for January, 2010

Inclusive Excellence: The Prologue

Let me start by saying the Inclusive Excellence (IE) is a brilliant, but old, concept.  It is something I have been moving for years.  Ask my students.  Be that as it may, it is a great concept.

It sits on the premise that everyone is included – gets to participate without sacrificing academic excellence.  Wonderful!  Great!  Brilliant! 

Now the job starts. The first part is “inclusion.” How do we, as a culture, move to a state of inclusion without first achieving readiness?  We do not include anything (new foods, new music, a new child…) without a readiness to include.  Otherwise, it is an imposition.  Let’s say you get pregnant without having planned to do so; you may learn to love and enjoy the pregnancy, but if you were not ready for it, it initially is an imposition.  Regardless to what it is, there must be a process of readiness to engage if (a) proper learning is to take place, and (b) you are expected to participate in that newly learned behavior.  Consider any developmental process –walking, reading, driving….  It follows the same path. 

Readiness suggests a process of learning.  Learning is not tolerance.  We have tolerance.  We have lots of tolerance.  We do not have learning.  So we are not yet readied for inclusion.

Let’s look at the other side of the equation.  Excellence.  Remember, we are not sacrificing excellence – academic integrity.  Here too, we are dealing with the concept of readiness.  What is the commonly held or pervasive posture on the academic readiness of African Americans, Asian Americans, Caucasian Americans, Native Americans, Latino Americans, women, first generation college students, or foreign students from different cultural settings?  If these perceptions of readiness are different for different populations, then our ability to realize academic excellence as currently defined is suspect – at least.  This is because our conceptualization of academic excellence does not shift, but our perception of readiness to engage fully in that process shifts relative to the population that is the subject of our conversation.  I am arguing from the posture that the exclusion, or non-inclusion, of any one group is enough to define the process of IE as a “failure.”  We either include or we do not include.  There is no half-stepping here.  Given our criteria, we either demand excellence or we do not.            

There is clearly a shared perception of the unequal readiness of certain populations to satisfy the definition of “academic excellence.”  Current data put signature to that perception.  It does not mean that it is reality for all, but that there is enough evidence to offer support to the perception.

This is not about “why.”  That is a different conversation. 

Therefore in our goal to achieve academic excellence, we must take into consideration (a) this differential academic readiness and (b) the perception of lack of academic readiness.   Those are two very different yet related things.

Here is an example.  My son goes to a university.  They think he is not academically prepared.  That does not mean that he is not.  It means that they think that he is not – and consequently, their behaviors toward him reflect that perception/perspective.

On the other side of the coin; he thinks that they think he is not academically prepared.  So his behaviors reflect his perception of their belief.  Any challenge to his academic integrity will be viewed through the prism/lens of his belief in their belief of his lack of readiness.  Makes sense?

So since these beliefs are different for different populations, we have to take a second look at IE.

I argue that we (a) look at IE from a socio-cultural perspective, and (b) employ IE from a strategic marketing paradigm.

I am not looking at IE from a social activism model.  It will not work! 

I am arguing that it is not “the right thing to do.”  That discourse if off the table for now.  We will get to it later.   Right now, I am arguing that our economic solvency demands we engage in the IE model.  It is to our economic peril if we do not lead on this issue.

The question becomes, “How do we marry a socio-cultural perspective with a business-marketing model?”


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