14 SES 02 A, Dimensions of Rural/Urban Context-Oriented/Place-Based Education
Modern cities grew based on the annulment of the barrier that separated, in medieval times, the castle from the city itself, at the same time as, symbolically, a certain implicit hierarchy was annulled.
After World War II, one has seen a gradual return to this type of city: the cities’ historical nucleuses have been emptied of inhabitants, becoming spaces favorable to business and services; simultaneously, new suburbs are being built (destructured peripheries, with atypical housing, dependent of the city center for its survival).
The increase in the physical (and symbolical) distance between the place where one works/studies and the place where one experiences family and domesticity has contributed to a certain dichotomization between public space and domestic space, and to an increased importance and self-sufficiency of the house and of other urban spaces. Two fundamental conditions for the fruition of urban experiences seem, therefore, seriously menaced: time for leisure and a shared public space.
The cities’ colonization by automobiles is but another reflex of who is the typical (or model) urban citizen: a working and driving male adult. What kind of citizens are, then, the children and young people allowed to be?
Children/youngsters and adults make very similar evaluations of urban reality: both groups recognize that the city is a dangerous place, with too many automobiles which, in turn, do not respect pedestrians, that sidewalks are dirty, in a bad state or too crowded, that crosswalks are unsafe, that there is a lot of bad people around, etc. Nonetheless, the conclusions both groups draw are very different: adults tell children “Given that these are the conditions which prevail in the city, you should stay at home, and if you have to leave, I must accompany you”. Children/youngsters, on the contrary, say “Given that these are the conditions which prevail in the city, we must change them”. Children and young people do not settle and, from an early age, are able to interpret their own needs and contribute to changing their cities. It is worth hearing what they have to say and involve them in decision making processes. Metaphorically, it may be necessary to lower the view point of who looks at the city to a child’s eye level, in order not to overlook anybody.
- Edmunds, Holly (1999). The Focus Group Research Handbook. USA: McGraw-Hill. - Reay, Diane & Lucey, Helen (2000). «”I Don’t Really Like it Here But I Don’t Want to Be Anywhere Else”: Children and inner city council estates», Antipode, 32: 4, 410-428. - Tonucci, Francesco (2004, 5th edition). La Ciudad de los Niños. Un modo nuevo de pensar la ciudad. Madrid: Fundación Germán Sánchez Ruipérez. - Tonucci, Francesco (2005). «Citizen Child: Play as a welfare parameter for urban life», Topoi, 24, 183-195. - Tonucci, Francesco & Rissotto, Antonella (2001). «Why do We Need Children’s Participation? The importance of children’s participation in changing the city», Journal of Community & Applied Social Psychology, 11, 407-419. - Woolley, Helen (2006). «Freedom of the City: Contemporary issues and policy influences on children and young people’s use of public open space in England», Children’s Geographies, 4: 1, 45-59. - Woolley, Helen; SPENCER, Christopher; DUNN, Jessica & ROWLEY, Gwyn (1999). «The Child as Citizen: Experiences of british town and city centres», Journal of Urban Design, 4: 3, 255-282.
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