Educating the reflexive citizen: making a difference or entrenching difference?
AffiliationMelbourne Graduate School of Education
Document TypePhD thesis
CitationsBlack, R. (2012). Educating the reflexive citizen: making a difference or entrenching difference? PhD thesis, Melbourne Graduate School of Education, The University of Melbourne.
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© 2012 Dr. Roslyn Black
Young people’s democratic participation is the focus of a growing body of education policies and practices. These purport to enable all young people to be reflexive citizens with the agency to direct their own lives as well as to ‘make a difference’ in ways that improve the democratic fabric of society. These purposes remain both remarkably resilient and under-examined. At an historical juncture when forms of democracy are changing but inequality remains rigidly entrenched, this lack of critique renders some young people particularly vulnerable to governance by educational agendas which have little to do with either democracy or agency. This thesis explores the ways in which young people are constructed as reflexive citizens through their schooling and what this means for young people who are subject to structural or socioeconomic inequalities. It investigates how Australian education policy constructs young people’s democratic participation and what discourses of ‘youth’ and ‘citizenship’ inform this construction as well as how this construction mediates the experience of participation for young people in two Victorian schools located in low socioeconomic communities. Methodologically, this thesis draws on a critical discourse analysis of recent Australian education policy as well as case research in two government secondary schools located in outer Melbourne and rural Victoria. Theoretically, it is grounded in education and youth sociology, drawing on concepts of governmentality, reflexive modernity and critical pedagogy. This thesis reveals the deep ambiguities that accompany some young people’s experience of participation as well as the contradictory forces that shape the practices of educators. It also offers some fresh ways of understanding the role of schools in enabling young people’s democratic participation as well as young people’s capacity to see themselves in enabling ways.
Keywordsyouth; education; sociology
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