Unsafe Waters, Stolen Sisters, and Social Studies: Troubling Democracy and the Meta-Narrative of Universal Citizenship

By Tupper, Jennifer | Teacher Education Quarterly, Winter 2009 | Go to article overview

Unsafe Waters, Stolen Sisters, and Social Studies: Troubling Democracy and the Meta-Narrative of Universal Citizenship


Tupper, Jennifer, Teacher Education Quarterly


There is a propensity, when considering the meaning(s) of citizenship, to think in terms of universality and equality rather than difference and inequity (Arnot, 2006; Hall, 2000). In a North American context, citizenship often operates as a taken for granted status with the requisite rights and responsibilities associated with membership in a nation. In education, how citizenship is embedded in curricular discourses and how it is taken up by both teachers and students is influenced by a discourse of universality (Miller, 2000). Most often, citizenship is linked to democracy and informed by an overwhelming acceptance that democracy does indeed exist. Social studies, perhaps more than any other subject, is complicit in advancing this commonsense understanding of citizenship and democracy, and it is one that requires disruption to its very core. But where do we situate this disruption given the proclivity for standardization, accountability, and content coverage that is pervasive in social studies education? And where might we situate this disruption given the preoccupation of many educators with technique rather than interrogation?

In this discussion I attempt to do two things. First in questioning what is democratic about our (and here I am referring to Canada and the United States) current state of "democracy," I attempt to dispel (as I have previously--see for example Tupper, 2005; Tupper, 2006; Tupper, 2007 ) the veracity of citizenship as universal (essentialist notions of universal citizenship) that seems to permeate social studies curriculum documents, glossing over or rendering non-existent, historical and contemporary realities of individuals who have not experienced citizenship in equitable and just ways. This is what I refer to as the meta-narrative of universal citizenship contingent upon the 'truth' rather than the falsity of democracy, the 'truth' rather than the falsity of equality. Second, I argue that if we hope to move toward a more genuinely democratic reality in North America, we need to consider the role that teacher education can play, the principles and practices that guide our teacher education programs and how we might work with our students to interrogate their very understandings of citizenship and democracy, the cornerstones of what many believe education to be serving. 'Universal' citizenship must always be used as a category of analysis not only in social studies classrooms, but in teacher education contexts as well, because as Cherryholmes (2006) reminds us, "teachers choose a way of life for themselves and their students when they plan and teach" (p.11).

What's Democratic about Democracy?

I have, for many years, been working in the area of social studies education, both as a teacher and now, as an academic and teacher educator. My relationship with social studies has been a tumultuous one and I often find myself living in tension between what I perceive as social studies' ability to both empower and oppress. Often, these overlap and what might be empowering for some students and teachers, is in fact, oppressive for others. Social studies, more than any other subject, has become the sight for educating about citizenship and the ideals of democracy, and in some cases, educating for citizenship and for democratic practices (Adler, 2004; Avery, 2004). However, I believe that it is the former rather than the latter that dominates social studies education, despite (and perhaps because of) persistent calls for the education of democratic citizens. Where education and social studies fall short is in their entrenched assumptions that democracy is something that has already been achieved, that as educators we are working within a larger context of democracy (particularly in North America) that informs our practices and the curricula we are required to teach.

Yet there are those who argue that for many individuals, democracy does not and has never existed (Pateman, 1989) and those who go further in suggesting that democracy in its truest form continues to elude us, and as such should be treated as an aspiration rather than an accomplishment (Parker, 2001). …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Unsafe Waters, Stolen Sisters, and Social Studies: Troubling Democracy and the Meta-Narrative of Universal Citizenship
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.