Knowledge processes - Chapter 4: Learning Civics

Your story of nation

  • What story of nation were you taught at school? From memory, retell the short version of this story. In what respects does this story reflect the values of nationalism, neoliberalism or civic pluralism?

Changing times, changing the story of nation

  • Tell the archetypical ‘one people, one clear set of borders’ story of your nation, as if you were a teacher several decades ago. You may be able to find some old textbooks that tell this story, in a library or a second-hand bookshop. Who is neglected or left out of this story? How would these outsiders feel about this story while they were being taught it?
  • Contrast a contemporary, ‘politically correct’ story of the nation. Find some contemporary curriculum resources that cover the same history. How has the story changed or stayed the same? To what extent is the new view a ‘correct’ one, in your view? Who might dispute its ‘correctness’?

Speaking of citizenship

  • Create a glossary or wiki covering the key terminology of citizenship, including, for instance, state, civil society, citizenship, nationalism, fascism, communism, welfare state, neoliberal state, deregulation and civic pluralism.

Mapping power

  • Create a map of the institutions of the state and their relationships to civil society. Where does education it?

Multiple citizenship

  • What do you belong to? What roles and responsibilities do you have in the groups to which you belong? Draw a personal civics map, including the concentric and overlapping circles of your own multiple citizenship.

Big states

  • Reread George Orwell’s description of his experience of school earlier in this book. What connections can you imagine between this and his novel 1984?

See George Orwell’s School Days.

Small states

  • Research changes in wealth distribution, within and between societies, since the rise of neoliberalism. How successful has neoliberalism been on its own terms?

Big or small states?

  • What does the state do for education? What does education do for the state in the past, today and in the future?
  • Debate the ‘nanny state’ versus the ethics of self-reliance in the neoliberal state. What types of schooling are appropriate for each kind of state? Should the state interfere in education at all and, if it should, how much?

Understanding neoliberalism today

  • Write a neoliberal education policy for the schools in your region, then write a critique of this policy from the point of view of a political opponent. To assist you in this work, look at the education policies of both sides of politics in the community in which you live.
  • Take a country such as China, the United States, Australia or the United Kingdom. Describe the ways in which neoliberalism has influenced social and political change in recent decades. What has this meant for education?

Envisioning the future

  • Take an area of global concern, such as child labour, global poverty or climate change. How could you address these now via the processes of citizenship at a micro or local level, and at a global level? Devise a learning activity for students that will have the effect of making them feel empowered to act.
  • Write a school ‘Vision for Citizenship’ document. What should a school say about its role in shaping citizens for the future, and the actions it will take to achieve its citizenship goals?