712.4 The future, democratic practice, and learning for global citizenship

Saturday, August 4, 2012: 1:15 PM
Faculty of Economics, TBA
Oral Presentation
Ani WIERENGA , University of Melbourne, Australia
In the twenty-first century, ecological, financial and social events increasingly draw attention to interconnectedness of human activity and all life on earth. Amidst heightened concerns about the future, social justice and sustainability, the idea of the global citizen is gaining currency, with the catch-cry: ‘think global act local’.

Recognising that no-one has been here before, and that none know with certainty how to make the shared futures work, within these emerging discourses all people might be positioned as learners. Evidence of shared confusion challenges long-held ideas like young people simply being citizens-in-the making, ready to slot in to a ready functioning society. It also goes to the heart of long-running debates about the nature of education: about whether knowledge is transmitted in ready made testable packages, or co-created and life-long.

This paper is based within a 7 year partnership with Plan International Australia and a 3 year research project funded by the Australian Research Council. The project investigated young people and global citizenship, and models of learning for global citizenship. We positioned young people and all who worked with them (NGO, Uni students, schools, teachers, researchers) as learners. Young people engaged across national, religious, and language boundaries to discuss and act on issues which concerned them.

This work involved a series formalized partnerships to intentionally create spaces for youth-led learning, at times disrupting familiar patterns of student- teacher, school-NGO, researcher-researched. Borrowing a phrase from phenomenologist, Schultz, in this type of work we ask people to sustain ‘thinking outside of normal’.  This invitation became deeply challenging to all who engaged.

This is also about deeply held power relations. New ways of relating require new kinds of practical and conceptual work to support them, and there is promise in the work of specific sociological theorists. This paper will highlight these findings.