Tag Archives: citizenship education

Citizenship education: confronting inequalities (part 2)⤴

from @ curriculum for equity

by Gary Walsh

This is the second part of a series of blogs I wrote after the NECE 2019 conference (24-27 October, Glasgow) in which I summarise the key points that I took from the presentations and seminars I attended. Click here to read part 1.

David Kerr provided a quick summary of approaches to citizenship education across UK. He said that the emphasis on citizenship education has dropped from the educational and political agenda since 2010, and we need to ask why this is happening. It could be due to a combination of radical changes in the economy, the process of globalisation and the rise of populism. He asked if we should reframe citizenship education to suit current political context (that’s a clear YES from me) and if so, how do we do that?

Professor Bryony Hoskins introduced her book Education Democracy and Inequality, which details her research on participatory citizenship and knowledge acquisition. She found that, generally speaking, middle class students take up more participatory opportunities, and this lack of access to participatory citizenship is increasing inequality. She emphasised that the development of critical, active citizenship is required, and that we should not simply expect students to accept a form of citizenship that is defined by the economic roles they should play in society.

Next, Dr Daniela Sime spoke about her research on the Migrant Youth project: a study of identity, citizenship and belonging among settled Eastern European migrant children and young people in the UK. She said that identity formation is a constant process in flux that is currently being shaped by factors such as the Brexit ‘rupture’, neoliberalism and precarious employment. She outlined a theoretical view of citizenship that sees it in a holistic way, an ’embodied category’ that focuses on the lived experience of citizenship. Her research indicates that Brexit has increased feelings of ‘unbelonging’ among migrant young people, and that they have experienced an increase in racism as a result of the current political context. She concluded that citizenship education has a key role to play in (re)creating a sense of social cohesion.

Next I had the privelege of listening to Professor Kathleen Lynch talking about affective equality, gender and the intersectionality of injustices. She first outlined her understanding of the dimensions of inequalities. Inequality can be generated in the economic, cultural, political and affective systems. The economic dimension refers to inequalities in resources, wealth and income; cultural inequality is about respect and recognition where, for example, being feminine is defined as inferior; and political inequality refers to unequal representation, power and influence.

These dimensions are well understood in social justice theory, but Lynch argues that these theories tend to forget about the affective domain and relational inequalities. This is about inequalities in the level of love, care and solidarity in people’s lives. She gave examples of care work being lowly paid or unpaid, older people living in isolation, and women being the ‘default carers’ in society. Lynch argued that affective relations of love, care and solidarity matter because they are what makes us human. In her conclusion she argued that gender equality is about addressing masculinity as well as femininity; education has a key role to play in how we think about concepts such as gender; gender inequalities should be addressed intersectionally in ways that recognise politics, race, disability and sexuality; and neoliberal capitalism has resulted in rising inequalities which disproportionality affect the most vulnerable citizens, especially women, immigrants and young people.

All in all, it was a very thought provoking second day at NECE 2019. The final part of this blog series will discuss justice-oriented citizenship, racial inequalities and Global Citizenship Education.

Citizenship education: confronting inequalities (part 1)⤴

from @ curriculum for equity

by Gary Walsh

I recently attended the #NECE2019 conference – a yearly event organised by the NECE network (Networking European Citizenship Education). It took place at University of Strathclyde from 24-27 October. Live streamed recordings and other conference materials are available on the NECE website.

I decided to write a summary of the key points that I took from the presentations seminars I attended. It is not possible to cover everything from such a rich and diverse event here. I have split the summary into three separate blogs covering all three days. My thread of live tweets from the conference might be useful . These posts will hopefully be of interest to anybody who is keen to learn some more about the role of education in relation to citizenship, democracy, social justice and inequalities.

Darren McGarvey, author of Poverty Safari, kicked off the conference. His refreshing style was irreverent, honest, brutal at times, and perhaps a wee bit ‘ranty’. He spoke about his life and the views he has developed as a result of his background and his new-found fame – two massive parts of his life that clearly come into conflict. His background is one that includes poverty, drugs, violence, prison and hip-hop. He contrasted middle-class and working-class lives and attitudes, addressing the oft-contrasted individual and collective approaches to empowerment, saying that both approaches are needed. He spoke about the need for people to cross-pollinate, creating solidarity across social divisions, to walk alongside people without being scared or put off by how they dress or speak. He challenged the myth of social mobility and addressed the role of education in the achievement of social justice.

Next, Professor Anja Neundorf drew on her research looking at citizenship education and levels of democracy across Europe. She said that ‘inequality of voices leads to inequality of policy output’ and that people from socially deprived backgrounds tend not to be heard or represented in politics. This creates a feedback loop, leading to apathy, resentment and ultimately more inequality of voices. She claimed that people become active in politics due to knowledge and motivation, so civic education can compensate for lack of parental socialisation into political engagement. Her key messages were that we need to break the cycle of schools perpetuating inequality; she recommended compulsory civic education and quality teacher training in this area; and challenged attendees to consider how technology can be used to promote civic education and democracy throughout life.

Prof Anja Neundorf at NECE 2019 conference, University of Strathclyde, 24 October 2019

After listening to Darren, Anja and other inputs from day 1 of the event, a key issue in my mind was about the education system itself recreating inequalities in various ways. This contrasted in my mind with the title of the conference, ‘citizenship education confronting inequalities’. In addition to confronting inequalities it seems vital to me that the education system confronts itself. This can be uncomfortable territory. It involves recognising that education for social justice involves being ‘in and against the state’, prepared to recognise the dilemma of being an instrument of state policy while also retaining a critical view of the very system in which we work. Getting its own house in order in relation to social justice and democracy might be the most effective strategy that schools can pursue, despite being asked by policy makers to sort out society’s problems.

With that in mind, below are three ways that the education system can ‘confront itself’, which I offer here by way of conclusion to Part 1 of this blog series:

  • Representation: Working to achieve democratic, inclusive, equitable representation of voices from all sections of society. This means confronting educational myths of social mobility, ‘bad behaviour’ and ‘hard to reach’ parents.
  • Recognition and Respect: Recognising the aspirations, frustrations, struggles, lives, cultures, abilities and strengths of working-class families.
  • Redistribution of rights and resources. Recognising the urgent need to become human rights defenders. Meeting the radical challenge of justice-oriented citizenship (I ran a session on this at the conference – more about this soon)
  • Hope: Remaining hopeful while doggedly pursue the challenges above. To put it another way: seeking to grow roses in concrete.