I see you – do you?

Johanni Larjanko






It begins with the eyes. There is a saying that the eyes are mirrors into our soul. I think the eyes are the entrance portal to human life. We all want and need to be seen. Seen and accepted as we are. We humans are a social species. The fact that we still exist on this planet is largely due to our social skills. Collaboration, not competition, has brought us where we are today. And yet we are good at dividing ourselves. Into us and them. Me and you. 

Perhaps that is natural. I think most people would like to feel unique, or at least like an individual. The easiest way to get there is by setting up boundaries, identifying a border between what is me and what is everything else. We do this to find and define ourselves. The very moment we embark on this journey we run the risk of developing intolerance, hatred, prejudice and bigotry. This is where it becomes challenging, and adult education becomes important. To accept diversity is to understand that you are not threatened by what is different from you. This does not come easy.

This issue of AED is all about inclusion and diversity. It is a huge, difficult, and popular topic. A lot of adult education and development work concerns inclusion in various ways. While planning this issue, we came to realise just how wide the topic is. It seems the notion of inclusion is as diverse as the planet we live on. Of course that is a challenge that we couldn’t resist! On the following pages we look at the big picture and at local implementations. We explore the mechanisms and some solutions.

Sometimes inclusion is addressed as a system issue only. Designing an inclusive educational programme or a global policy initiative becomes the suggested remedy. Global action is necessary if we are to succeed. Adult edu-cation must be inclusive, for sure. But this is not enough. 

I say it starts with you and me. The most efficient way to exclude someone is by not seeing them. You don’t like beggars on the streets? You look away. Pretend they are not there. You dislike people with disabilities, persons with another skin colour, someone with a different sexual orientation? You ignore them. Our reasons for looking the other way are manifold, and sometimes quite understandable. Inclusion is not easy. If it were, we would have an inclusive planet by now. Insecurities, fear, poverty and inequality all play their parts. That is why we made this issue. Adult education has a role to play. And you have a choice to make. If you believe in inclusion, you have got to be prepared to fight for it. Also as regards your own prejudices. 

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