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 from the presentations and seminars I attended. Click here to read part 1.
David Kerr provided a summary of approaches to citizenship education across the 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. He suggested 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 the 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 middle class students generally 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 attenuated 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 and 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.