Teaching Geography in Secondary Schools: A Reader

By Maggie Smith | Go to book overview

17

Citizenship and geographical education

Edited by John Morgan, based on work by Paul Machon


Geography!

In Britain's schools, but interestingly not its universities, geography teaching is largely apolitical, working instead within long-established traditions that have underpinned the status quo. Contentious issues, if they are dealt with at all, are located in narrowly defined areas that inhibit the active involvement of pupils in the events themselves. There are exceptions to this, particularly in development education, environmental geography and the continuing debate about 'values' in geography. But such work is always limited by the choices teachers make within their own schools and the structural limits to choice such as examination syllabuses and specifications. But these exceptions remind us that geography does have the potential to convey the contentious and political. Its content, after all, describes distributions, locating and accounting for differences (in short is relational) with profound political implications - Dicken and Lloyd's 'access to goods and proximity to bads' (1980:281-361). Finally there is also geography's distinctive claim that here is a discipline that locks the use of natural worlds into the beliefs and actions of our social worlds.

The lack of experience that many geography teachers have in dealing with the political and contentious is a concern for citizenship education. One cause of this lack of experience is the way that disciplines are constituted - what is legitimate subject matter and what is not - and in school Geography politics is so often excluded. Subjects build boundaries around themselves within which an orthodox body of work develops and significant transformations occur to new concepts that cross those borders to become absorbed in another discipline. This, we argue here, now has to happen to the political concept of citizenship in geography.


This chapter

This chapter's concern is to reflect upon citizenship, a concept with the capacity (and now the opportunity) to 'cross those borders' and then to consider how citizenship may be taught through geography. The opening section provides a theoretical account of citizenship, locating the National Curriculum proposals in a particular liberal and democratic tradition, before turning to a brief critique of such

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