25 SES 13 JS, Citizenship Education and the Child's Best Interest
Joint Paper Session NW 10 and NW 25
Over the last few decades, a strong welfare state has been built in Finland, equal opportunities for education have been increased and the country has opened into internationalization. The European Union has strengthened the preconditions and aspirations for people's mobility and integration in Europe. In today's Finland, society, culture and the general atmosphere are more diversified than before.
This presentation examines Finnish teenagers’ constructions of their cultural identities in the era of European integration. The project's starting point is that the social identities of young people are multi-layered and built in national and European contexts. (Ross 2015).
Anttila (2007, 114) describes identities as geographically bound circles inside each other. Regional identity forms the innermost circle for a man and beyond that the national identity surrounds the regional. The identity of Europe and the European Union is the widest. Attempts have been made to create and define a transnational identity and it has been debated politically and academically in the context of integration of Europeans states.
The nation can be socially heterogeneous, but the concept of identity has created an idea of a community with integrity and unified cultural features. When harmonizing the Finnish features there has been a stress on the linguistic and folk cultural symbolism (e.g. Korhonen 1993). In the Finnish context, in the creation of a nation, ethnic identity, ethnic awareness and common cultural features have been in focus (Liebkind 1994). According to Anderson (1991), the nation is a symbolic, fictitious community based on the shared mental image of the members.
In Finland the school is a key social institution in the life of young people, which modifies their social and cultural identity. The school trains young people for the citizenship of each era (Arola 2003, 4). The school produces and maintains national identity (Suutarinen 2000) and nationality (e.g. Gordon et al. 2001, 12). Over the past decades, the school has emphasized the construction of a strong common culture and unity (e.g. Gordon 2001, 30). The national curriculums of the basic education and high school education have been reformed to match the changes of society every ten years. Finland's national curriculums align young people's identity work with communities from local to global.
Young people's perceptions of national identity and European identity were investigated in a broad international study in diverse European countries. In Finland we focused naturally on Finnishness and being European. In the project qualitative methods were used to study the social and national identities of young Finns and their relationship for Europe. In this paper, the focus was on the cultural and social life of young people, in which young people's ideas are shaped by the social experiences of different generations, their own family and school.
The material of this study was collected in 2014 in Finland. The research material is a sample of today's complex and urbanized society. Most of the parents of the young people were both Finnish. In the families of one third of the participants one of the parents was Finnish and the other one or both were multicultural. The research material was gathered through small-group discussions with 67 students in lower and upper secondary education (a total of 11 groups in three cities). More than a fourth (18/67) of the participants had a transnational background. The research team analysed Finnish data and reported it as a research group. The small-group discussions were analysed by content analysis. Based on individual analytical readings, content analysis was performed as a group work. The material was examined through separate discussion topics and as a whole data across the topics. In the research, we answer the following research questions: 1) How do young people describe their parents 'and their own generations' perceptions of Finland and Finnishness? 2) How do young people construct their own national cultural identity and European identity? 3) How do societal issues appear in the young people's speech about school? In framing the content themes, the research team has utilized the concepts as tools in the analysis and when interpreting the results their Finnish background acted as a tool as well.
The findings show that the young people considered their Finnish identity clearly primary to the rather vague European one. The transnational participants identified themselves with individual emphases on the basis of one or two nationalities according the family background, or in more global terms. Young people see themselves as Finns by their cultural identity, but define their Finnish identity differently from the older generations. Their own Finnish identity includes openness and internationality, but they also have experience of diverse contexts and also racism. Youngsters’ Finnish identity extends the sphere of one’s life and action beyond the borders of a single country. Teenagers with a Finnish or foreign background or those with a Finnish background but grown abroad may identify themselves with one or two nationalities with varying emphases, and also globally. Global orientation came clearly up in the school students’ discussions. As a target of identification, also global citizenship was mentioned in these discussions. Mobility and travelling have broadened teenagers’ experiences of cultural diversity and also built cultural bridges. Information and communication technologies fade off geographical distances and enable teenagers’ mutual contacts even from far away as part of their daily life. European identity was not brought up as a target of cultural identification comparable to nationality. Membership in the European community was defined through the European Union. EU citizenship bears an instrumental value to the teenagers along with the common currency, traveling or wider study options. The current curricula encourage to global citizenship in consistence with the developmental objectives of the United Nations. The students expected the school to provide more multi-perspective discussions on societal issues. Schools with an international operation principle have dealt with racist attitudes, and according to student experiences there is less discrimination in these schools than in the ordinary schools.
Anderson, B. 1991. Imagined communities. London: Verso. Anttila, J. 2007. Kansallinen identiteetti ja suomalaiseksi samastuminen. Helsingin yliopisto. Sosiaalipsykologisia tutkimuksia 14. Korhonen, T. (toim.) 1993. Mitä on suomalaisuus. Helsinki: Suomen Antropologinen Seura. Arola, P. 2003. Tavoitteena kunnon kansalainen. Helsingin yliopiston kasvatustieteen laitoksen tutkimuksia 191. Gordon, T. 2001. Kuka voi olla suomalainen? – erot ja yhteisyys ”muihin” nuorten naisten ja miesten kokemana. Nuorisotutkimus 19 (1), 25–38. Gordon, T., Komulainen, K. & Lempiäinen, K. 2001. Johdanto. Teoksessa T. Gordon, K. Komulainen & L. Lempiäinen (toim.) Suomineitonen hei! Kansallisuuden sukupuoli. Tampere: Vastapaino, 10–16. Liebkind, K. (toim.) 1994. Maahanmuuttajat. Helsinki: Gaudeamus. Korhonen, T. (toim.) 1993. Mitä on suomalaisuus. Helsinki: Suomen Antropologinen Seura. Ross, A. 2015. Understanding the constructions of identities by young new Europeans. London: Routledge. Suutarinen, S. 2000. Kansallisen identiteetin opettaminen ja uuden vuosituhannen haasteet. S. Suutarinen (toim.) Nuoresta pätevä kansalainen. Jyväskylä: Koulutuksen tutkimuslaitos, 33–54.
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