07 SES 03 A, Promoting Social Justice
What pedagogies for our time and for the future? When public schooling fails its promise of democratization and educational success how can a liberating educational experience be implemented? This paper reflects on the project “Living School”, focusing on children construction of autonomy, management of risk, educational initiative and sense of cooperation. The project was created in Oporto (Portugal) by a group of mothers, fathers and other educational stakeholders who live nearby, who got together to take children education in their own hands. This project may be inserted within a worldwide transition wave led by great diversity of social movements (Giddens, 1990) and individuals that take a stance to affirm their needs and desires for their own world. If transition encompasses the increasing fragmentation of the subject of citizenship (Young, 1997; Stoer & Magalhães, 2005; Macedo & Araújo, 2014); if diverse and challenging local realities result from people’s mobility; if political and economic volatility require the capacity to act in a quickly changing world; if powerful and subtle top down forces shape and constrain the ways in which people live their lives; bottom up (re)actions challenge these forces and assert their own voices in a matchup of local and global citizenship (Arnot, 2009). There is a role for pedagogy in these processes.
As expressed in the project’s manifesto, the project “Living School” stands in the assertion of difference and critical thinking as conditions for social justice. The school, which makes a holistic approach to education, is self-managed, opened to the surrounding community and to the world; it is willing to grow with the people who live in it and transform it daily. Intergenerational ambiance, versatility and openness to diversity are added values to a polyvalent process of teaching and learning that stands on open communication, observation, curiosity, experiencing and creative imagination. Times to play and to do nothing are part of a curriculum defined and mobilized by children and supported by adults (i.e. parents and professional educators) who sometimes take children expressed interests to propose specific learning topics. Well-being, happiness and self-fulfillment in a loving relationship with others are in the horizon of an educational/social world that gives room to individual liberty and autonomy, equality and responsibility for the self, other-selves and Nature as our common home. The “Living School” Project asserts the uniqueness of each individual (Bernstein, 1996) and makes the best of the collective experience to take education in hands for the present and for the future. It gives room to experiential learning in an enriching environment opened to be explored. Students are given the opportunity to become the subjects and citizens of pedagogy (Macedo & Araújo, 2014).
This project contrasts the international North American and European tendency to standardize education that is expressed by the use of parameters and indicators in the PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment), the TIMSS (International Math and Science Study), the DIBELS (Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills) and so forth. Collateral consequences of this tendency are expressed in the increasing dissatisfaction, disengagement and school dropout, together with the intergenerational reproduction of social inequalities, the impoverishment of the population, and job scarcity and precariousness (Araújo, Magalhães, Rocha & Macedo, 2014). The paper argues that this parametrized harmonizing trend focusing on mathematical and language competencies seems to leave out individual and contextual differences, interests and needs and may contribute to promote social injustice and devalue interculturality. It also argues that the opportunity to relate to, and learn from and with others can foster equity and social justice (Gobbo, 2008). Therefore, community based self-managed projects may foster change including in mainstream education.
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