Contextualizing critical citizenship education

Critical pedagogy, which has strong links to the concept of critical theory as developed by the Frankfurt School, is a philosophy of praxis espoused by theorists like Paolo Freire, Henry Giroux, and Jurgen Habermas. While there are certain overlaps with the concept of critical thinking, Johnson and Morris sketch out the fundamental differences between the two. The characteristics particular to critical pedagogy are (1) an emphasis on the political and ideological dimension of knowledge production, (2) a focus on the collective, (3) a focus on understanding subjectivity in critical thinking, and (4) an emphasis on praxis (Johnson and Morris 2010, 81-84). For Paulo Freire (1983), the project of critical pedagogy centered on the dismantling and deconstruction of structurally imbalanced power relations through critique and analysis. Johnson and Morris (2010, 80) refer to Burbules and Berk's concise formulation of the distinction between critical thinking and critical pedagogy: "Critical thinking's claim is, at heart, to teach how to think critically, not how to think politically; for critical pedagogy, this is a false distinction" (1999, 50). In order to explore the imperative of political engagement implicit in critical pedagogy, we follow Johnson and Morris's use of the distinctive features of critical pedagogy as a basis to elaborate a theory of critical citizenship. As a term that attempts to capture the relation between the individual, the state, and society, citizenship potentially provides illuminating links between critical thinking and political engagement.

Various arguments have been presented in favor of a renewed emphasis on teaching civic engagement and social change in higher education (Furco 2010; Hartley, Saltmarsh, and Clayton 2010). Citizenship has reemerged in educational literature as an influential yet contested term, which seeks to place the connection between the individual and society at the heart of educational debates (Nussbaum 2002; Osler and Starkey 2003; Schuitema, Ten Dam, and Veugelers 2008). The transition from strictly nationalist conceptions of political power to more complex transnational configurations is reflected in changing conceptions of citizenship. Current interest in both national citizenship education (Enslin 2003; Ramphele 2001; Waghid 2004) and global citizenship education (Andreotti 2006; Johnson and Morris 2010; Nussbaum 2002) stems from the ongoing project of global democratization and liberalization. Rather than working to promote national loyalty, contemporary citizenship education focuses on the curation of common supranational forms of citizenship based on shared values of democracy, human rights, and tolerance (Johnson and Morris 2010, 77)

It should be noted, though, that we need to be careful not to simply replace one hierarchical system with another. An uncritical incorporation of a drive to globalization under the guise of "citizenship" could well result in unintended domination. Various thinkers have espoused the idea that the apparent cultural and human interconnectedness of globalization disguises the deepening social and economic divisions on a global scale (Sen 2004; Wallerstein 2004). Calls for transnational conceptions of critical citizenship that are based on "univer- salizable" democratic principles should, consequently, be treated with caution, as they might function at an epistemological level as another form of domination and symbolic violence.

 
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