This is an article by Rachel Krust which is very relevant for Australian CCE teachers.
TLDR: We should be teaching civic participation in practice
All but the most minimalist conceptions of a true democracy envisage citizens voting and participating between elections on an informed and collectively considered basis. The Australian Curriculum adopts this vision insofar as it aspires to develop “active and informed citizens”. Under this model, citizens’ votes are cast on the strength of party policies, on which they have developed an informed and considered judgment, and they don’t rely mostly on heuristics like voting behaviour of family and peers, or simply their own historical voting behaviour. They also participate actively and on an informed basis between elections.
That’s not what Australian democracy looks like right now. While participation in some forms is increasing, we still vote and engage very much on the basis of heuristics and soundbites. The point here is absolutely not that people, especially young people, don’t want to engage more meaningfully; it’s that we’re not creating the right conditions and opportunities for engagement.
Part of the solution is to reimagine and better resource civics education in Australia. We should give the CCE curriculum more time. We should teach students to coherently evaluate and deliberate with their fellow citizens on current policies; evaluate parties and candidates; and perhaps most significantly, participate beyond elections, both formally and informally. We should do this by giving students opportunities to apply these capabilities in practice, talking and doing something about current local, state and national issues that affect them; preaching at students won’t work.
Read more here.
When was the last time you had the opportunity to work with other teachers around student voice and agency? Social Education Victoria’s Student Empowerment program for teacher professional learning is an opportunity for educators to explore research and practice in this area and to share resources, wins and dilemmas.
If you are:
· implementing student voice and agency projects and programs at your school;
· supporting student representatives or student leaders;
· supporting social justice, allies, politics or environment clubs;
· coordinating student action teams or community action projects;
· interested in learning more about student voice and agency;
· a learning specialist for student agency,
then this program is for you!
We are inviting you to participate in professional learning in student voice and agency through our Student Empowerment program. To start with, we are offering a free short course, beginning in Term 4, an online community of practice, newsletter updates and face to face PD. Find out more here. We are really happy to be able to offer this program free of charge due to funding from the Department of Education’s Strategic Partnerships Program.
In 2021, the Australia Talks survey reported that members of the public overwhelmingly acknowledged that racism remains a problem in our communities but stopped short in acknowledging that white supremacy was the force that guarded and enacted racist practice, politics, and discourse (Crabb, 2021). We’ve seen this disconnect at work in schools; in 2021, for instance, year 5 and 6 students in Sydney invoked powerful language and imagery to discuss Black Lives Matter (a potentially fruitful vector for discussing white supremacy), only for the school to go on the defensive in light of criticism from those including the state education department and the state minister for police that such discussion was inappropriate in its challenge of state and white supremacy (Chrysanthos & Baker, 2021). Elsewhere, the Senate voted in favour of rejecting critical race theory from the national curriculum in 2021 as a pre-emptive measure to exclude anti-racist thinking from curricular practice in schools.
Some of this resistance to anti-racism can be explained by way of the successful isolation of racism to interpersonal instantiations of racialized violence and exclusion, a containment no doubt exacerbated by the superficial inclusion work advocated by liberal multiculturalism and the carefully guarded proliferation of what Alana Lentin (2018) calls “not racism” that blunts meaningful anti-racism work. The former – liberal multiculturalism – has long been how schools have comfortably broached discussions of racism, trading in its logics of individual acceptance and good behaviour to the exclusion of less naïve critical work (Banks, 2004; Watkins & Noble, 2019). The effects of this are deeply challenging, given the mitigation of meaningful anti-racist work and the potential reproduction of what Banks (2017) calls “failed citizenship” in the school and broader community. There, remains then, problems with how we discuss racism.
As citizenship scholars and educators, our answer to the problems of racism noted above and their (lack of) consideration in schools likely involves an element of civic work and participation. Frustratingly, however, citizenship often has to contend with school and institutional climates that are resistant to critical work (see earlier Sydney and Senate example) and/or citizenship work has to contend with its own epistemic and conceptual shortcomings that make anti-racist citizenship a challenging prospect (Merry, 2020; Sabzalian, 2019; Smith, 2022). Herein remains a critical problem for citizenship education: the negotiation of school and community contexts that may dull critical citizenship work in favour of more tepid “personally responsible” civic work, the consequence of which is a potential foreclosing on citizenship action as a vector for meaningful anti-racist work (which, as noted above, is already subject to foreclosures). There exists, thus, an echoing of the problem with challenging racism: institutional structures and epistemological limitations that might prefer simpler, reductive and potentially acritical renditions of civic and anti-racist action. Yet, we know that citizenship work is possible, particularly in its critical form, supporting the creation of activist citizens who challenge systemic issues and their regulatory power and influence over lived experiences (Heggart, 2020). Indeed, scholars have highlighted how citizenship educational practice and theory can help to support learners as they work to foster inclusions and resistances to dominant homogenizing narratives (Lash, 2021; Starkey, 2021).
The two preceding paragraphs may read as fatalistic (with some space for optimism). However, the recognition of these challenges opens up a new (required) space for consideration:
How do we successfully marry anti-racist and citizenship work together to bolster more critical explorations that can support the contention of racism and the activism needed for citizenship?
It is this central question that guides this special issue where contributors are asked to speak to the “wicked problem” of racism (Came & Griffith, 2018) and the place of citizenship theory and practice in supporting activist responses to racism.
Potential Themes and Prompts
Final Papers are expected to be between 5,000 – 8,000 words. They will be published in a special issue of The Social Educator.
Banks, J. (2004). Approaches to multicultural curriculum reform. In J. Banks & C. McGee Banks (Eds.), Multicultural education: Issues and perspectives (pp. 242–264). John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Banks, J. (2017). Failed citizenship and transformative civic education. Educational Researcher, 46(7), 366–377.
Busey, C., & Dowie-Chin, T. (2021). The making of global Black anti-citizen/citizenship: Situating BlackCrit in global citizenship research and theory. Theory & Research in Social Education, 49(2), 153–175. https://doi.org/10.1080/00933104.2020.1869632
Came, H., & Griffith, D. (2018). Tackling racism as a “wicked” public health problem: Enabling allies in anti-racism praxis. Social Science & Medicine, 199, 181–188.
Chrysanthos, N., & Baker, J. (2021, April 21). How pictures of BLM posters on a classroom ceiling ignited a media storm. The Sydney Morning Herald. https://www.smh.com.au/national/nsw/how-pictures-of-blm-posters-on-a-classroom-ceiling-ignited-a-media-storm-20210421-p57l2c.html
Crabb, A. (2021, May 31). Australia Talks shows we agree there’s a lot of racism here, but less than half say white supremacy is ingrained in our society. ABC News. https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-05-31/annabel-crabb-analysis-racism-australia-talks/100172288
Heggart, K. (2020). Activist Citizenship Education: A Framework for Creating Justice Citizens. Springer Nature.
Lash, C. (2021). Multicultural citizenship education as resistance: Student political development in an anti-immigrant national climate. Teaching and Teacher Education, 105, 1–11. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tate.2021.103405
Lentin, A. (2018). Beyond denial: ‘Not racism’ as racist violence. Continuum: Journal of Media & Cultural Studies, 32(4), 400–414. https://doi.org/10.1080/10304312.2018.1480309
Merry, M. (2020). Can schools teach citizenship? Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education, 41(1), 124–138.
Sabzalian, L. (2019). The tensions between Indigenous sovereignty and multicultural citizenship education: Toward an anticolonial approach to civic education. Theory & Research in Social Education, 47(3), 311–346.
Smith, B. (2022). Effecting anti-racism in citizenship: Challenges, possibilities, and a necessary re-consideration. The Social Educator, 40(1), 3–15.
Starkey, H. (2021). Classroom counternarratives as transformative multicultural citizenship education. Multicultural Education Review, 1–16. https://doi.org/10.1080/2005615X.2021.1964266
Watkins, M., & Noble, G. (2019). Lazy multiculturalism: Cultural essentialism and the persistence of the Multicultural Day in Australian schools. Ethnography and Education, 14(3), 295–310.
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