Religion and Schools in a Liquid World

By Peters, Frank | Journal of Social Sciences, July 1, 2012 | Go to article overview

Religion and Schools in a Liquid World


Peters, Frank, Journal of Social Sciences


Abstract: This study is an exploration of the changing contexts within which schools are required to function. As global borders have become more porous schools are challenged to deal with students from increasingly diverse cultural, linguistic and religious backgrounds, frequently in a political context that is explicitly secular or nondenominational. This perspective may not be perceived by all to be as "neutral" as is sometimes claimed. Our ever-developing technologies, more accessible than ever before, have eliminated many knowledge barriers and created unprecedented awareness of global movements and events. Fewer people live isolated from world affairs and this increased knowledge has created a greater sensitivity to human rights. A heightened "rights consciousness" has emerged, leading to demands in the areas of education, religion, tolerance and the manner in which these constructs are dealt with in schools. There is a growing awareness of the geopolitical dangers associated with fundamentalism, whatever their origins. This is allied to an appreciation that an educated populace contributes significantly to not only the economic well-being of individual nations but also exhibits the deeper knowledge and understandings essential to peace and harmony between peoples of differing backgrounds and diverse religious values and beliefs. In our attempts to further democracy, respect pluralism and develop more open and tolerant communities what policies will best inform practice in our schools? How can we prepare and support teachers and administrators so that the underlying values of these policies can be practiced and taught in our schools?

Key words: Negative globalization, consumption, disengagement, Intolerance, capabilities

INTERDECUTION

Over a decade ago the term "liquid" first appeared as a descriptor that might appropriately be applied in our attempts to capture some of the key elements of our emerging "post" postmodern society. First used by Zygmunt Bauman as a metaphor for our current world, he and others have used it extensively and influentially since the publication of Liquid Modernity in 2000. Smith (2010) points out that the flexibility and richness of the construct, among other characteristics, make it especially useful in our attempts to identify the defining features of our current-day society and the unique challenges that emerge as a result of how our society has emerged and configured itself. "'Liquid modernity' is an idea that penetrates quickly into the reader's mind. It is a profound and brilliant concept, both flexible and fertile" (p. 7).

The central element (if it can be called that) of our "liquid" world is, according to Abrahamson (2004) its "lack of stable institutions. There is no condition; everything is process" (p. 171). The world that Bauman describes is one in which barriers have been broken down and disappeared. For many, this provides a sense of freedom and empowerment and liberation. Bauman however focuses specifically on the problems that the removal of traditional structures creates. The traditional structures provided security and predictability that made it easier for many to cope. Furthermore he points out that essentially their disappearance should not be linked to any social movements across the world but rather to the need for the utmost flexibility in the money markets.

In today' world, which focuses primarily on consumption and consuming, there must be as little regulation as possible, as little constraint as possible to the free flow of capital and goods and services, if the neoliberal, consumerist dream is to be realized. Bauman's writings since the turn of the century invite us to examine and critique what he and others frequently refer to as "negative globalization," the hurtful and harmful consequences of globalization and the impact that it is having on the lives of countless millions around the world.

Bauman's writings and thinking have always been focused on "'the human consequences' of social development. …

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