Active Citizenship - a Means of Exclusion

Topics: Education, 20th century, Citizenship Pages: 8 (2612 words) Published: October 14, 2007
Assignment 2

ACTIVE CITIZENSHIP - A means of exclusion?

It has been claimed that schools should be ‘society's chosen agency for training for citizenship'. Discuss the link between citizenship and education and ways in which this relationship has changed over the 20th century.

Illustrate your discussion with reference to aspects of Australia education and students with disabilities.

ACTIVE CITIZENSHIP - A means of exclusion?

Although institutions such as the family and church play a significant role in preparing children for adult life, schools are Australia's primary training ground for its future citizens. Marginson (1997) claims that unlike other institutions, schools remain open to government intervention and social change (Marginson, 1997, p.5) and therefore enable the promotion of certain values, certain knowledges – all of which are determined by the government. This essay will argue that schools are thus clearly a training ground for citizenship, but differentially so. Society is made up of various groups – gender, race, ethnic, religious, socio-economic – each of which is positioned differentially in relation to the rights and opportunities available to them as Australian citizens. One such group is children labelled as ‘special' – children with disabilities. The purpose of this essay is to examine citizenship as it relates to education, and ‘special education' particularly, and the ways in which this relationship has changed over the past century.

According to The American Webster's Dictionary of Law, a citizen is "a native or naturalized individual who owes allegiance to a government and is entitled to the enjoyment of governmental protection and to the exercise of civil rights" ("Merriam-Webster's dictionary of law", 1996). Citizenship is the active state of being a citizen. Education is the knowledge and development resulting from the process of being educated ("Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of Law", 1996), whilst ‘special education' refers to education for students (as in the handicapped, learning-disabled, impaired) with special educational needs.

In 1860, the aim of public education was "to influence the whole body politic: to raise the standard of intelligence…to raise the State itself to the highest possible condition of moral and intellectual excellence" (Barcan, 1980, p.102). A focus on curriculum reform ensued in the years leading into the 20th century, with curriculum focusing not only on the acquisition of basic literacy and numeracy skills, but also on an "inculcation of morality, a sense of citizenship and a knowledge of the physical world" (Barcan, 1980, p.203). According to Marshall (1979) "the aim of education during childhood is to shape the future adult" (Marshall, 1997, p.229).

By making education free, compulsory and secular in the late 19th century (Barcan 1980), not only was the government ensuring a greater level of universal literacy, but at the same time, raising the moral standard of the whole Nation. It was thus recognised early in the 20th century that schools were a ‘moral training-ground' and that "literacy alone [does] not bring about a diminution of crime and citizenship require[s] more than the ability to read and write" (Barcan 1980, p.234). Moral objectives became important aspects of the educational curriculum – the development of character, the encouragement of a sense of active citizenship (Barcan, 1980, p.234).

In the early 20th century, active citizenship was depicted by Dr. Boyd as a comprehensive state - "the good citizen is the good member of society in all its aspects: good neighbour, good family man, good worker, good politician" (Boyd 1938, p. 191, cited in Marginson 1997, p.246). In this sense, citizenship was viewed as much more than knowledge about the way the government is structured, or a sense of ‘belonging' to a particular country. Rather, citizenship was seen to be an ‘action' – a forming of personal judgements, taking an...

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