Every Burned Book Enlightens the World – Ralph Waldo Emerson



I was discussing the piece I posted on yesterday’s blog about Hikari Ōe the musician with one of my PhD students this morning. During the conversation we briefly discussed the use of the blog as a means of increasing awareness about inclusive education and wider issues related to schools, and the ways in which we might involve others in a debate around a range of ideas. Whilst we reached no real conclusions we generally agreed that at times there had been interesting responses posted and that these had helped to shape my thinking and that of others in respect of some complex matters.

It has always seemed to me that simply posting words is probably not the best way to go about reaching an audience that has become used to a much more visual way of accessing information. Hence the use of photographs, video and music wherever available to illustrate points related to the day’s theme. My student agreed that this was helpful but then made a statement that has left me wondering about this approach on a number of levels.

“It’s a great pity,” she announced, “that my family would have been unable to listen to the music composed by Hikari Ōe because in ******* the use of You Tube is banned.”

Apparently her family is able to read anything written on the blog but cannot access the video recordings that I have posted. It seems that someone at government level in the country where my student’s family lives has deemed that access to freely available video materials is against the national interest. This revelation has been at the back of my mind all day until now, when I have a moment to sit down and reflect properly on what I was told.

Two questions in particular come to mind. The first is a practical one, if censorship is such that a particular form of media is made inaccessible to a proportion of the population, should I give more thought to how I communicate the themes with which I hope readers of this blog might engage? In one sense I suppose, if I know that there are some individuals who would like to access this material and do nothing to meet their needs, I am hardly being inclusive. It could be interpreted that such action excludes certain individuals from participating in this forum,  and one might therefore argue I am behaving in a manner contrary to the principles I have been advocating. However, I suppose I might contend that it is not me that is behaving in this exclusionary manner; it is those who have imposed a ban upon the particular media in question. I am more than happy to invite anyone to participate and have not denied access to anyone who wishes to express an opinion. Should I therefore modify my practice?

Having given this some thought I am not sure that I have fully come to a conclusion. As with most aspects of life I suspect that I need to find a compromise. I certainly have no intention of stopping my use of video materials if I think they are of interest and help to put across a point that I wish to make. However, I may well make a renewed effort to ensure that my use of words is in itself sufficient in stating an argument or making a case, so that those unable to access these materials are not significantly disadvantaged.

My second thought on this issue of censorship is much more general. I wonder what the individuals who make decisions about what access others can have to materials, such as those posted on this blog, would understand by the term inclusion? The history of education in many countries demonstrates that the exclusion of individuals from learning opportunities and the marginalisation of people who might appear too demanding, has often been founded upon fear and ignorance. If we allow such people access to learning won’t this only increase the demands they make upon us in the future? If we encourage the inclusion of individuals with disabilities, then who will be the next to seek an education? Will the Gypsy Roma start to demand their rights? Or the women? Or those from lower castes? If we allow the masses access to You Tube what will they expect next? A free press? democracy?

So, if you have been following this blog but have been frustrated by the fact that others have denied you access to some of the content, then I apologise. However, I hope that you will understand why I have no intention of ceasing to post materials that I hope will be of interest and accessible to the majority. But I will consider the ways in which I express my thoughts in an attempt to ensure that the message of inclusion is not over dependent upon the use of additional media.

It is highly unlikely that anyone who would wish to inhibit access to democratic discussion would ever  join in with these discussions of inclusion and social justice. But if you are one such individual, you are most welcome to this blog and if you choose to post a comment I will be pleased to share it with others.

As George Orwell said: “If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.”