23 SES 08 C, Policy Development in Diverse Contexts (Part 2)
This study aims to critique the currently dominant outcome-based approaches to civics and citizenship education. In the context of ever-increasing colonization of education policy by the imperatives of the neo-liberal political thinking (Ball, 2007), we use Hannah Arendt’s conceptualization of politics as freedom to argue for an alternative approach to civics and citizenship education. First, we discuss a major challenge that the neo-liberal policy imagination poses to civic education today, namely the atomization of civics into a pre-ordained set of knowledge and skills that are transferrable through education and that can be measured through performance technologies. We further argue that by presenting civics as an individual undertaking with its aims set in future, the neoliberal discourse has managed to reduce the social to individual through a conversion narrative (McLeod, 2012). Thus, ‘the problem of civics’ is often presented as one of (youth) civic deficit in the neo-liberal political discourse. Education, then, is called upon to act as the solution to this problem by inculcating in the young the necessary civic knowledge and skills to make them ‘good’ future citizens.
In the conceptual section of this paper, we use Arendt’s definition of politics as freedom to argue for an alternative approach to civics and citizenship education. Arendt defines politics as an on-going process of communication that “arises in what lies between men [sic] and is established as relationships” (2005, p. 91). Politics, in this sense, refers to the shared in-between space where the back-and-forth of speech exchange takes place. This exchange uses language, as embodying humans’ faculty of rational reasoning, to create a space devoid of hierarchy where deliberation and discussion of different perspectives relating to the public life take place. As such, the prime objective of politics is not to achieve a set of outcomes external to the political process, but to keep open the arena for constant contestation, deliberation and action. Arendt identifies two pre-requisites to her conception of politics as freedom: plurality and natality. Plurality, according to Arendt (1958, p. 7), refers “to the fact that men, not Man [sic], live on the earth and inhabit the world”. That is, plurality underlines the condition of living with equal peers in a shared common world. Natality, on the other hand, refers to the possibility for new beginnings in the common world shared among equals. To be able to exist and act politically, thus, requires the presence of equal others who are capable of not only responding to other people’s actions and beginnings, but also taking their own initiatives.
Arendt, H. (1958). The human condition. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Arendt, H. (2005). The promise of politics. New York: Schocken Books. (Original work published 1958) Ball, S. J. (2007). Big policies/small world: An introduction to international perspectives in education policy. In B. Lingard & J. Ozga (Eds.), The RoutledgeFalmer Reader in Education Policy and Politics (pp.36-47). London: Routledge. Biesta, G. (2009). Good education in an age of measurement: On the need to reconnect with the question of purpose in education. Education Assessment, Evaluation & Accountability, 21, 33-46. McLeod, J. (2012). Vulnerability and the neo-liberal youth citizen: A view from Australia. Comparative Education, 48(1), 11-26.
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