14 SES 09 A, Policies and Actions to Promote School-Family-Community Links - Communitarian Practices
It is clear that community and citizenship have been key factors in political debate for many years and this has been very explicitly so since at least the Clinton and Blair eras during which, respectively, Etzioni (1995) and Giddens (1994) advised about new ways of forming political frameworks or doctrines. It is not surprising in this changing political and constitutional context which affects the relationship between nations, states, individuals and social groups that there would be a greater emphasis on both citizenship and community. References to citizenship and community signal not only the ways in which change can be understood but also the means by which society intends to achieve equality and diversity whilst avoiding uniformity and fragmentation. In other words citizenship and community are both key concepts and social practices.
Policy makers, the media and others urge schools to ensure that young people recognize the value of community cohesion and contribute to its achievement. Teachers may assume that community cohesion can be achieved through learning from the formal curriculum (e.g. in citizenship lessons); through whole school projects (e.g. learning about business enterprise); and by community liaison (e.g. developing positive relationships with members of older people’s residential homes).
Through this process community cohesion is characterized generally, as part of a rather vague intention to improve society and students are often seen as part of the problem. Young people are seen as being in need of reform through the imposition of officially sanctioned forms of knowledge and types of engagement. As such students’ existing informal and officially unrecognized understandings and actions to create communities with peers and others may be disregarded.
We suggest that inappropriately vague understandings of community and negative perceptions of young people lead only to the failure of educational strategies to promote community cohesion. This paper is of a study to explore young people’s characterizations of - and actions for - community cohesion; contribute to an enhanced recognition by policy makers and others of the positive contributions that are - and can be - made by young people; and, make it possible for professional educators to take action that is more likely to have real impact in the strengthening of communities.
The research aimed to:
- ascertain activities for community cohesion that are managed by schools and to what extent these initiatives are perceived by students to contribute to their understanding and practice;
- ascertain how students characterise community cohesion and what range of community (both virtual and actual) activities they are engaged in within and beyond school;
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