Citizenship in schools: the gap between theory and practice
Upon leaving school, young people are expected to play an active part as citizens in a democratic society. Are schools providing them with the tools to do this? Citizenship is taught in schools, but to what extent is it practised? Many safety issues concerning student behaviour and student conflict confront school authorities. In what ways are students learning to take responsibility for the safety of their school environments? Generally, schools in New Zealand and in comparative jurisdictions continue to operate on a traditional authoritarian hierarchical basis. Within these structures students could rightly feel that schooling is something which is ‘done to them' rather than their being engaged as active participants. School authorities have a moral and legal responsibility to maintain a learning environment which is physically and emotionally safe and free from hostility. Traditionally reactive measures such as searching, drug testing and exclusion are used by schools with the aim of fulfilment of that duty. Research indicates that these measures have met with limited success in terms of school safety, and that in any event they may expose school authorities to challenge from students on the basis that their rights have been violated.
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