03 SES 03 B, Curriculum & Citizenship and Sustainability
The aim of this paper is to explore the possibilities of agonistic educational practices as a way to educate a critical global citizenry. This paper is based on empirical work conducted in the UK involving primary, undergraduate and postgraduate students, educators, and researchers. We invited these groups to an interactive workshop to discuss global citizenship. In devising the workshop, we drew on the work of Ruitenberg (2009) and her application of Mouffe (1999) in attempting to promote an agonistic approach to democratic education. Activities aimed at foregrounding conflict and destabilising consensus. In this paper, we critically reflect on the workshops and consider pedagogical contributions to a critical approach to global citizenship.
Educating for Global Citizenship (EfGC) has been a priority in the UK since the turn of the 21st century. Research by Marshall (2009, 2011) found that two key agendas for global citizenship have framed educational activities in the UK: a) preparing students with specific work skills to be competitive in the global market, and b) promoting emotional and empathetic connections to issues of social justice. However, her research also showed that in practice, there is a false dichotomy in that, despite good intentions, neither approach significantly engaged with the roots of inequalities locally or globally and hierarchical positions of power remained unchallenged. Building from this critique, a significant amount of scholarship has promoted a “critical” approach to EfGC (e.g., Andreotti, 2006; Lapayese, 2003; Swanson & Pashby, 2016). Further, the new United Nations Sustainable Development Goals include educating for global citizenship. As all UN signatories are required to respond to the SDGs, there is a particular importance of mobilizing a critical approach in the UK. UNESCO (2015) has produced materials to support the mainstreaming of EfGC, with key aims including “develop values of fairness and social justice, and skills to critically analyse inequalities…” (p. 16). Thus, given these trends in scholarship and practice, there is a call for an approach that engages with rather than glosses over the complex relations of power at the heart of what it means to relate to others as citizens. This is, indeed, a central imperative for democratic education (Sant, Lewis, Delgado & Ross, In Press).
There is a question, however, regarding how ‘democratic education’ can be defined. For those defending deliberative forms of democracy (Habermas, 1984; Gutman, 1987), democracy can be understood as creating spaces in which power relations are neutralized and ideal speech situations can emerge (Habermas, 1984; Kapoor, 2013). Democratic education in this sense aims to facilitate these neutral spaces and educate students into conflict resolution practices (Ewert, 1991). In contrast, those defending agonistic and conflictual forms of democracy (Mouffe, 1999; Laclau, 2007; Ranciere, 2006) argue conflict and power relations can never be neutralized. Power and antagonism are ineradicable, and democracy is “an unstable and volatile element which deals in disruption and conflict rather than stability and consensus” (McDonnell, 2014, p. 50). Further, ‘agonism’ understood as engaging with antagonism and disagreement is essential to democratic politics (Mouffe, 1999). Democratic education is not centred on conflict resolution but rather on the “creation and maintenance of political channels for the expression of agonistic conflict” (Ruitenberg, 2009, p. 274). In this respect, democracy is understood as being essentially educative in itself (Biesta, 2006).
In this research, we draw upon conflict-centric theories of democracy (Mouffe, 1999; Laclau, 2007; Ranciere, 2006) and the later development of these theories in the field of education (Biesta, 2006; Ruitenberg, 2009). We consider the extent to which the workshops created spaces for agonistic and conflictual democratic education by foregrounding conflict in discussing issues of global citizenship and explore pedagogical possibilities.
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