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Teacher interpretations of citizenship education: national identity, cosmopolitan ideals, and political realities

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Citizenship education typically focuses on the nation and citizens' supposed natural affinity to the nation-state. In this global age, this is challenged by cosmopolitans who propose a form of education which encourages a primary commitment to fellow humanity and/or the planet Earth. However, citizenship education has been re-emphasized by those who assert that in a globalized world and nation-states characterized by diversity, one requires a primary commitment to the nation-state. The latter group proposes a renewed focus on civic education which promotes national belonging and loyalty, often targeting, either explicitly or implicitly, students from minority or migration backgrounds. Within EU member-states, this binary between education for national and global citizenship is troubled by the issue of European citizenship and belonging. This article analyses the official citizenship curriculum for England and reports on qualitative research with teachers, designed to explore their perceptions of the curriculum and their students' needs as learner-citizens. The teachers reflect on local, national, European, and global dimensions of citizenship. Expressing concern about the ethno-nationalistic attitudes of some students, they work to engage with and extend students' experiences. The article proposes education for cosmopolitan citizenship to meet students' needs, whether their affinities are apparently fixed or flexible; local; national; global; or multiple.
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Keywords: European citizenship; citizenship education; cosmopolitanism; national identity; pedagogy

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Centre for Citizenship and Human Rights Education, University of Leeds, Leeds, UK

Publication date: 2011-02-01

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