Wednesday, July 30, 2014

That word Inclusive

In preparing for the Love to Learn Conference this week, all those little things that need to be done the week before the conference, I started thinking about why Teri and I started this eight years ago.  How we really felt there was a need for a really inclusive conference that focused on homeschooling and where everyone would feel welcome, and a part of the experience.  We provide the only secular conference, that I have researched (and I have researched every one that I see advertised), in North Carolina.  We are so passionate about this conference, even as our children have grown.  But in thinking about all of this it brought back the memory of an e mail conversation I had with a friend.  She wasn't a close friend at all but I considered her a friend.  This was a few years ago now, but at the time it really made me think about the words we use when we talk about homeschooling and "inclusive".  I wrote a blog post about it but, at that time, decided not to share it.  So this post sat in my "saved posts" box for all this time.  I think now I am ready to share and think more about what it is we do for the homeschooling community here in NC.

Here is the post from several years ago:

I had an friend this past week moderate a list post of mine, a list she had invited me to. It sparked much debate between the two of us, and has really solidified, in my mind, the ideas and questions I have had swirling around over the past couple of years, concerning the words inclusive, exclusive, and tolerate. Those are such vague terms to me and I know there are definitions, but the feelings behind those definitions seem illusive.

OK this friend, invited me to a regional homeschooling list, the list is for disseminating regional homeschool information, events and activities. This past week she sent along a link to a very conservative Christian conference. So I took the time to read through the web site, as I do with most e mails when I have the time. I could find nothing about that conference that was homeschool related. It was for Christians, and was about how to defend your faith to those around you. She said, in a private e mail to me, that it might be of interest to homeschoolers, that was why she posted it. So I sent along a link to a Peace Conference at a Dharma Center close by. That e mail was rejected because she said it did no uphold Christian values. The e mail exchange that followed allowed me to examine my thoughts and ideas about that word inclusive and the word tolerate.

All these years I have heard that to *tolerate* was a good thing, that I should want others to tolerate me. But that just didn't sit well with me, the feelings associated with the use of the word are not positive, not loving or caring at all. And then the word inclusive. I know many groups that say they are inclusive, until any one member wants to speak up. Then the word takes on a new definition. I know many Christians here tolerate me, even though they do not know my beliefs on many, if any, issues. For me the word tolerate has a more "putting up with" feeling when it is used. I feeling of "we know you are wrong and we are right but we will let you breathe this air anyway, as we feel you have a right to exist, just be sure to play by our rules." I don't know if I like the word inclusive any better but for me it has more of a positive intention.

For me it is OK that people do not believe as I do, it is OK that people do not want their children playing with my children because they don't agree with how I parent or live. It is OK with me that people don't want to "hang out" with me, really it is. There are people I don't hang out with as well, just too many differences to make it a joyful experience, and ya know, if it isn't bringing joy into my life then I really don't want to be a part of it. That isn't exclusive at all, IMO, that is life. We don't click and get along with everyone. But it is the feeling and intention. For me I believe that we all decide what is right for ourselves. I can't decide what is right for anyone else, even my own children. Only the individual truly knows what is right for himself. I do my best to provide a rich environment for my children and help them navigate this world, as they want me to. But they have to make final decisions for themselves. So many Christians here feel that they are right and others are wrong, so black and white, us vs them, divisive. That their way is the only way. Just like some homeschoolers do. They feel their way of homeschooling is right and other's is wrong. I truly believe that people do what is right for themselves and their families, that they have chosen the best path for them. I see many paths.

My acquaintance loves her "hole analogy". What she shared with me several years ago is that she is called by God to warn others about the "hole around the corner", the evil that is not Christianity (as her church sees it). That if she sees someone about to step into the hole it is her calling to tell you about it over and over until you see the hole as well. So I took her hole analogy and expanded on it for her.  This is my side of the e mail conversation, I did not want to share her e mails to me as she might not want that out on the Internet, so in consideration of her privacy here is my side:

"You are living outside the hole and loving every minute of it. I see you living outside the hole, I might say 'oh wow, look at her she is just living such a beautiful life, I don't want to be in that hole, don't even want to get near that hole. She told me there was a hole there but I don't even want to try life in the hole.'  Of course then I might say 'wow she is leading a great, beautiful life, but I still want to see what is in that hole...OK you are telling me about the hole, yes I hear you, but I want to try out life in the hole anyway.' And I may decide that what is inside the hole isn't all it's cracked up to be so I want to live, like you do, outside the hole. I may also decide that I love the hole. I love everything about the hole. Living in the hole is right for me, and I can see that living outside the hole is right for you. But you keep yelling at me that the hole is wrong, there is no light in the hole. And I say, 'sure there is light in here but it's coming in from over there, you just can't see it.'  You tell me that I am doomed if I keep living in the hole, that it is wrong, and I keep saying 'It's right for ME.' I see you living outside the hole and I know it is there. But you still see my hole as wrong, and I still see both inside and outside the hole as right places for different people.  I see us as equal, you don't see us as equal, you see me as damned. (personally I don't like the hole analogy as it assumes inequality to begin with).

You are telling everyone about my life, and how to protect themselves from people like me, again implying that my life is wrong. I want to tell people about my life, give them the opportunity to share in what it is I enjoy, but you stop that message short. Why, I don't know why? I personally think people are smart enough to decide for themselves how they want to live. But they should know what life is like everywhere to be able to make an informed decision. So I want to share what life is like for me. Why would that be so wrong? I am not saying the way you live your life is evil, I am not saying it is wrong, I am not saying your life is any less joyful, than my life is for me, it is just a different life. But I don't, and other's don't need anyone to keep preaching to them about the evils *of the hole*. Seeing my beliefs (or lack of) as bad, evil or wrong but allowing me to share the same air with you, is not my definition of inclusive. Seeing my life as an equal option, living your best life as an example of your beliefs, allowing people equal access to information, so they can make up their own minds, that is inclusive, that is equal. But you don't have to go out to lunch with me. Seeing my life as an equal, joyful alternative....just as equal and joyful as your life...that is inclusive. It is about the feelings and intentions.

I am not trying to change your mind, just trying to allow you to see where I am coming from, peek into my life for a bit. I am not out to hurt you or anyone. I know what you believe, have heard it over and over. I do see your life and your family and your beliefs as beautiful, and joyful and right for *you*. I just wish you could see other beliefs as just as beautiful and joyful and right for other people. "

I really feel for me, that my definition of that word inclusive means more than just "putting up with differences", for me it means seeing the individual as doing what is right for him/her, in this moment in time. And knowing that what is right for me may not be right for someone else, but is no less right, no judgments about you, attached. That is my idea on the word inclusive at this moment in time. Hopefully more thought, discussion, life experience will help me refine these ideas in my own mind.  And of course I reserve the right to change my mind as I choose.  Isn't life great! "

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