07 SES 01 B, Children and Youth Voices on Inclusion and (In)justice
The key research question for this paper is: "How can we understand children's engagement with ethics and social justice at school, and what implications does this have for forging socially just school futures and childhoods in contemporary, globalised Ireland?"
The paper involves in-depth conceptual and empirical analysis. The paper is situated within the intensification of public and political debate about pluralism and pro-Catholic discrimination in state-funded primary schools. Over 90% of state-funded primary schools are run by Catholic patrons. Irish education policy discourse has begun to offer the promise of a secular, pluralist school future, not by questioning the terms of the colonial, Catholic-favouring school patronage model, but by encouraging parents to choose alternative school patrons (such as the secular, equality-based Educate Together model) in areas of population growth. This approach, while appearing to draw on broader European secularist ideals of 'parental choice' and 'human rights' (Coolahan et al. 2012), actually leaves the Catholic ownership and management of the majority of existing schools intact. Futhermore, statutory intercultural guidelines issued in the past decade have not meaningfully tackled the majority Catholic nature of the system.
It is asserted that current Irish statutory approaches to school culture and change denote a form of liberal pluralism common in European intercultural education policy (Todd 2011) that elides the multiply differing dis/advantages, desires, tempos and spaces of children’s and adult’s lives. Drawing primarily on Deleuzian thinking, I argue against the implicitly hierarchical dichotomies (e.g. Catholic/Atheist) and moral essentialism that Irish and European liberal pluralism fails to challenge. Based on a qualitative study primarily with children, I put forward a political ethic of plurality as radically emergent in lived, complex and unruly relations of Life/existence. I draw on Deleuze and Guattari’s (1983; 1987) radical political work on ‘becomings’ to seriously engage, rather than attempt to control or shut down the joyous, unremarkable and difficult aspects of childhood’s multiple desires, expressions and exclusions.
'Becomings' take place beyond the confines of pre-defined (conservative, liberal or even ‘radical’ pluralist) moralities and linear developmentalist notions of childhood. I analyse two case studies of children’s experiences of schooling in terms of their religious and non-religious encounters, but also in terms of multiplicities of (a) classed, gendered and generationed exclusions and desires and (b) human and non-human forces in a technologically advanced, consumerist world.
First, I analyse the ethico-political potential of 'Lily', a Catholic white Irish working class girl attending a large town Catholic school, to alter classed and gendered religious and consumer norms that offer her contradictory messages about ‘growing up’, ‘being good’ and ‘looking good’. I then examine 'Cormac's' case, a non-religious boy attending a rural Catholic school, as becoming with images (microphones, stand-up comedy), and modes of embodied expression (vampire, alien, funny faces) to alter or reconceptualise the religiously essentialised, adult-led space of the local Catholic church. The analysis refutes any notion of children’s creative engagements with fantasy and modes of corporeal expression as politically futile, egocentric desires to be ironed out ‘as they grow’ (Ringrose and Renold 2012).
The various data (interviews, drawings) generated with Lily and Cormac (pseudonyms) - and their encounters with significant images, concepts, materials, peers, and us as researchers - demonstrate how corporeal intra- and interactions are alive with a limitless, immanent ethical potential. The specific potential is for these bodies – broadly defined - to become other (sense, perceive and experience intensities) with Life (multiple materials, images, technologies, concepts) in unique, plural, unforeseeable ways that creatively exceed or alter policy and public discourse ordering children’s development in temporally singular, linear ways according to morally pre-defined school models.
Butler, J. 2008. “Sexual Politics, Torture, and Secular Time”. British Journal of Sociology 59 (1): 1-23. Coleman, R. 2009. The Becoming of Bodies: Girls, Images, Experience. Manchester: Manchester University Press. Coolahan, J., C. Hussey and P. Kilfeather. 2012. The Forum on Patronage and Pluralism in the Primary Sector: Report of the Forum’s Advisory Group. DES. www.education.ie/en/Publications/Policy-Reports/fpp_report_advisory_group.pdf Deleuze, G. and F. Guattari.(1983) 2004. Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia (French: 1972). Translated by R. Hurley, M. Seem and H. R. Lane. London: Continuum. Deleuze, G. and F. Guattari. (1987) 2004. A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Translated by B. Massumi. London: Continuum. Kitching, K. 2014. The Politics of Compulsive Education: Racism and Learner-citizenship. London: Routledge. Kitching, K. and Shanneik. Y. (2015) Children's Beliefs and Belongings: A Schools and Families Report. Cork: Authors. Mouffe, C. (1993) 2005. The Return of the Political. London: Verso. Rasmussen, M.L. 2015. Progressive Sexuality Education: The Conceits of Secularism. London: Routledge. Ringrose, J. and E. Renold. 2012. “Teen Girls, Working-Class Femininity and Resistance: Retheorising Fantasy and Desire in Educational Contexts of Heterosexualised Violence”. International Journal of Inclusive Education 16 (4): 461-477. Smith, G. 2005. Children’s Perspectives on Believing and Belonging. London: National Children’s Bureau for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. Smith, D.W. 2007. “Deleuze and the Question of Desire: Towards an Immanent Theory of Ethics”. Parrhesia 2: 66-78. Todd, S. 2011. “Educating Beyond Cultural Diversity: Redrawing the Boundaries of a Democratic Plurality”. Studies in Philosophy of Education 30: 101-111. Youngblood-Jackson, A. 2013. Data-as-Machine: A Deleuzian Becoming. In Deleuze and Research Methodologies, edited by Ringrose, R. and B. Coleman, 111-124. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.
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