Inappropriate schoolboys or active citizens? On educating democratic citizens in Danish primary school.

by Rasmussen, Lene Kofoed and Sigga Engsbro, University College Zealand, DK  

This paper presents one part of the analysis of a research project on the prevention of political radicalization in Danish primary school. The project is based on the assumption that a strong political culture in schools as well as the nurturing of political identities and active citizenship among the students can be a means to prevent political radicalization of these students later in life.

We will in this paper focus on boys as they are the main concern in the preventive measures taken against political radicalization. Thus, we explore the repertoire of behavior and opinions of the boys of 7th grade in the schools where we conducted fieldwork; which of their behavior and opinions are considered appropriate and which not? As the education researcher Gert Biesta has pointed out, schools that engage in the promotion of “good citizenship” often narrow it to a particular civic identity that mirrors the existing political order. If the democratic learning is about conforming to a narrow civic identity, some individuals will not be included. How do the 7th graders adjust to the wished-for identity and what happen when they don’t? Are they at risk of engaging in counter identities that are potentially destructive?

On the basis of this exploration of the intended as well as unintended political lessons learned by the 7th graders we will discuss whether schools by appropriating a less definite understanding of democracy and citizenship, can develop a more inclusive political culture? We will tentatively apply the notion of democracy put forward by the political theorist Chantal Mouffe. The question is whether her conflictual democracy based on agonistic struggle are better suited to include the “inappropriate boys” and ultimately render possible their active citizenship instead of provoking anti-democratic counter-reactions.



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