ERG SES H 10, Discourses in Education
Law at secondary level increased its space in the latest Swedish curriculum and formal requirements of the concerned subject teachers have been added. This study consists of a pragmatic discourse analysis of scientific literature, in order to investigate how the school subject law at secondary level is constructed. Purpose of my presentation is to disseminate discourses within scientific articles from the year 1976 to 2016. Drawing on subject educational theory, three research questions are posed to the literature:
(1) What is the educational purpose?
(2) What is the educational content?
(3) What educational method is used?
In an educational context, Almqvist et al. (2008) place moral as a part of the meaning making process. They define moral as socialization and personality development; where socialization is about our worldview, while personality development is about how we are supposed to behave and be. Learning the subject, socialization and personality development are not separated processes, they occur simultaneously. Different outcomes of the school subject law at secondary level are identified in the research articles. According to Addington (2016), there is a lack of civic knowledge and participation among adolescents in the United States, especially among the poor, immigrants, ethnic minorities and habitants in disadvantaged areas. A study shows that if students learn constitutional law, with focus on their rights and ways to empower themselves, civic engagement is improved and contributes to social inclusion. Pietrovito (1976) is in favor of socialization in legal norms as a means to encourage students’ ability to identify their values, interests and sources of power. Some researchers discuss law at secondary level as a means to prevent juvenile delinquency (Le Brun, 1990; Kamvuonias, 1994; VanderStaay, 2007). Based on the findings in this study, I argue for the need of further research on the school subject law at secondary level.
The analyzed research literature is selected by search in scientific databases, for example HeinOnline and ERIC, with keywords like law, legal, education, secondary, high school and content. In order to be included, the source must meet three criteria: (1) Only sources regarding the school subject law at secondary level are chosen, elementary and post-secondary levels are excluded. (2) The source must deal with at least one of the research questions. (3) Scientific quality is guaranteed by exclusion of all sources that are not peer-reviewed. Relevant titles are examined in detail, first by reading the summary and secondly by reading the entire paper and if criteria are met, the source gets incorporated into the review. Säfström & Östman (1999) argue that from a pragmatic position, the proper analytic method can be chosen based upon a studies purpose and research questions. In this study, discourses constituting the school subject law are to be identified. I draw on pragmatic methodology, when using Quennerstedt’s (2006) operationalization of pragmatic discourse analysis. All chosen articles have been systematically read and are coded in accordance with the three research questions regarding educational purpose, content and method. A pattern must occur regularly, over time as well as from different sources, to be recognized as a discourse. Finally, possible consequences of the identified discourses are considered.
Using purpose of the school subject law as starting point, three discourses have been identified in 21 scientific articles: (1) Teaching as a means to strengthen students’ role as conscious citizens in a democratic society; the citizen discourse (2) Teaching for life; the private utility discourse (3) Teaching as preparation for academic studies; the academic discourse The citizen discourse dominates ten of the research articles, covering the whole period of time from the year 1976 to 2016. Common content is knowledge of the legal systems role and function in society. A number of different legal areas are actualized; criminal law being the most common before the turn of the millennium, the period after is dominated by constitutional law. A variety of teaching methods are used, the most common is role play and another frequent phenomenon is cooperation between secondary and post-secondary levels. Some suggested teaching methods, within the moral dimension, are studies of women’s rights over time or to confront students with problems where law and morality are in conflict. The private utility discourse appears in five articles before the turn of the millennium. Even though the number of articles is limited, this category still shows diversity regarding content and teaching methods. A wide range of legal areas are represented, although family law takes a prominent position. Commonly mentioned teaching methods are discussions in the classroom and role play. No particular moral dimensions appear in this discourse. The academic discourse dominates two articles after the turn of the millennium; diversity can nevertheless be noted, with constitutional law and role playing as reoccurring themes. An example of moral content within this discourse is discrimination and a teaching method is the highlighting of colored lawyers and heroes.
Addington, Lynn A. (2016). Using constitutional law classes to adress the “Civic empowerment gap” among inner-city public high school students. Education and urban society, 48(9), s 807-826. Almqvist, Jonas, Kronlid, David, Quennerstedt, Mikael, Öhman, Johan, Öhman, Marie, & Östman, Leif (2008). Pragmatiska studier av meningsskapande. Utbildning & Demokrati, 17(3), s 11-24. Kamvounias, Patty (1994). Legal studies in secondary schools: The New South Wales experience. Legal education review, 5(1), s 21-46. Le Brun, Marlene (1990). Reflection on legal studies courses in Australian secondary schools: instrumental or liberal education?. Adelaide law review, 12(4), s 389-430. Pietrovito, Patrick J. (1976). Socialization in legal norms as part of a high school curriculum. The social studies, 67(2), s 73-75. VanderStaay, Steven L. (2007). Law and society in Seattle: Law related education as culturally responsive teaching. Anthropology & education quarterly, 38(4), s 360-379. Quennerstedt, Mikael (2006). Att lära sig hälsa. Örebro: Örebro Studies in Education, 15. Säfström, Carl Anders & Östman, Leif (1999). Textanalys. Lund: Studentlitteratur.
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