Rethinking school, rebuilding society

Rethinking school, rebuilding society

‘It’s unchangingly nonflexible to separate “school” from problems with a particular teacher’, a student recently admitted to me. Young people’s experiences of school moreover play a key part in how they wits society. Untied from those students who shoulder family responsibilities or have one too many run-ins with the law, for most, school is the primary and only intermediary between them and the state. It is therefore vital for schools to urgently promote the principles of citizenship.

Photo by Ivan Aleksic on Unsplash

However, schools have washed-up very little to put such principles into practice for decades. Generations of people finger shredded from democratic values considering they do not see their practical relevance. Yet school life can serve as a fantastic incubator for democracy. It offers young people the opportunity to explore their right to express themselves, their right of defence and their right to a pearly hearing, while lamister stuff judge and jury, and working together instead.

The role of schools in this matter should go without saying. But, in practice, teachers imparting their knowledge governs everyday school life. At a time when rights and modus operandi are in jeopardy, education for democracy becomes an plane increasingly crucial mission; as that social yoke has been weakened, our relationship with society has wrenched lanugo in a fundamental way. A practical education in citizenship can be a powerful step towards tackling many of the issues that the COVID-19 slipperiness has exacerbated. Ultimately, when it comes to developing a long-term joint response, there’s no largest instrument than education.

Protective rules and laws

According to Rousseau, laws are one of the most important features of democracies. Collectively drawn up, they oversee versus tyranny and provide the ways to write any problems that may arise. Yet this notion of the law’s role has been in ripen for some time now. The process between the initial vote and legislation coming into gravity is so lengthy and influenced by so many factors (e.g., trade union, political and systemic) that the resultant law no longer feels like a true expression of the unstipulated will. Laws have come to resemble ramified masses of lawmaking and tend to be experienced as “castrating constraints” to be circumvented, rather than as instruments of empowerment for both the individual and society at large.


This vendible first appeared in La Revue nouvelle 2/2021.

The current health slipperiness has washed-up nothing to modernize the situation. For officials to respond rapidly to the crisis, laws have had to be drawn up without parliamentary debate. Moreover, these emergency measures have been fast-changing, in many cases contradictory, inadequately explained and, ultimately, poorly received. Tensions between citizens and the law have increased, eroding people’s willingness to comply. It is now increasingly imperative than overly to pay sustentation to the processes that safeguard constructive law-making, while supporting the importance of discussing and providing education on the role of rules.

In schools, this ways moving yonder from the classic, stuffy set of rules, those uncounted pages of randomly organized bullet points that are seldom tabbed upon other than for pupils to reprinting out as punishment, or as grounds for excluding or expelling them. We need to take the time to largest diamond school rules that are both educational and constructive. Helping students to grasp the wider role that rules play in fostering social harmony is vital, as is teaching them how to elaborate and transmute rules.

Education as site of justice

Who among us has not protested ‘it’s not fair’ when discussing a teacher, a visualization or a punishment? Who hasn’t experienced the strength of this feeling? Who hasn’t reeled at the chasm between the scale of the injustice and the value of time school leaders set whispered to deal with it? During the COVID-19 crisis, the list of injustices has expanded drastically: it’s not fair that some people have a garden while others are locked lanugo in a cramped space devoid of peace and quiet; it’s not fair that there are far increasingly restrictions in some neighbourhoods than others; it’s not pearly that only some pupils have their parents there to help them; and it’s not fair that some people are well fed while others have no supplies left in the fridge.

So far, the scrutinizingly systematic awarding of ‘pass grades’ last June has staved off this sense of injustice. The time flummox is ticking, however. All young people have seen their learning affected, but there are huge social differences. When the towage system returns to normal – perhaps as early as this June – it’s highly likely that schools will see grade inequalities widen.

Mitigating the impact of all the injustices that the pandemic has compounded will take time. Along the way, schools will inevitably have a role to play, given that classroom experiences strongly condition young people’s world views. If we want to build a pearly society, we must educate students on how to go well-nigh this. As pupils return on a full-time basis, schools will moreover have to contend with the pandemic’s negative effects on student mental health – and the resultant deterioration of their interpersonal conduct. Schools will have to enforce their rules wisely to ‘rebuild’, confronting the disciplinary challenges ahead, addressing student relationships to rules. When dealing with self-mastery issues, they will have to take the time to ask questions and listen to those students involved, including what they say in their defence. Schools must develop restorative justice frameworks. If, conversely, they fall when on the all-too-frequent method of exclusion, the end of lockdown will not reduce the ‘it’s not fair’ list.

Diversity as an asset

Illustration by Martin Grand via Ecole Citoyenne

Have you noticed that in times of crisis, diversity becomes a much increasingly sensitive topic? When wronging strikes, it is human instinct to squint for a scapegoat, a symbolic culprit usually plucked from the list of those who are ‘alien’ to us. Meanwhile, for those on the receiving end of discrimination, times of slipperiness spell multiple woes. They have to grapple not only with the tangible effects of poverty and precarity but moreover with this mounting wall of rejection. Unsurprisingly, Black Lives Matter was the first movement to yank people onto the streets last May, compelling them to shed their coronavirus fears in support of a rationalization they saw as urgent: equality and respect for minorities. Nor is it any surprise that, during the worst peaks of the pandemic, social media was increasingly inundated with wiseacre stereotypes and identity-related prejudices, in an unhealthy response to widespread feelings of distress and anxiety.

Governments, in underestimating the value of the arts in their wastefulness of priorities, have aggravated this situation. In the squatter of life’s challenges, originative expression represents a fundamental instrument of resilience, a symbolic rallying point, a way of articulating problems and possible solutions. Depriving ourselves of this salvation is tragically counter-productive. It is upper time that cultural democracy made a comeback. Every form of creative endeavour capable of giving symbolic expression to our shared problems and identities that have suffered should be encouraged. As well as providing the ways to laugh in the squatter of present adversities, the arts can both take us out of ourselves and help us reflect on new circumstances.

For schools, this cultural democracy voucher entails rhadamanthine increasingly unshut to all forms of originative expression. In a multicultural society, people need the self-rule to express their identities. Schools must learn to welcome diversity through their doors both in terms of pupils’ suit and dietary choices, and the ways in which they think and form their opinions. Depriving minority cultures of spaces of recognition risks magnifying inequalities.

School as a place of debate

This brings us to flipside old chestnut, one as old as the question of citizenship itself: the art of debate, discussion and interchange, which fell out of vogue a long time ago in our classrooms. Is that considering ‘debate’ presupposes that teachers should relinquish their ‘font of knowledge’ hat and don that of the ‘curious interlocutor’ instead? Or is it considering oral expression draws on resources quite variegated from those our mass towage system relies upon? Whatever the reason, it’s upper time we re-educated students (and ourselves) well-nigh the value of exchanging ideas. This is essential if schools are to successfully navigate diversity issues.

On the most vital level, this tideway would enable schools to largest unbend student emotions, feelings and frustrations. It would help young people make sense of present challenges and what lies in store for them. Belgium and France, for example, have recently seen a resurgence of interest in speaking resources and initiatives. Such momentum could be built upon to empower increasingly schools to cultivate the potential of the spoken word.

Engaging with society through school

The most shocking miracle in schools is the level of student disengagement. Although they are only required to shepherd in person half as often, student absentee rates have doubled. Plane increasingly worryingly, home learning is struggling to take off. Very often, the weightier that teachers can hope for is that students are pretending to listen in front of their screens. When students do shepherd in person, teachers squatter a dilemma between delivering out assessments, which is complicated remotely, and forging superiority with the syllabus. We are witnessing a proliferation of problem situations and reported goof rates wideness the board.

This is potentially much increasingly than a temporary slow-down in learning. It could genuinely finish with a generation of young people disengaged from society on a massive scale. First, considering the measures taken to tackle the health slipperiness have weakened student ties both with their peers and sultana role models. And, second, considering young people can unmistakably see that, during this slipperiness plane increasingly than usual, they are stuff excluded from debates on issues directly well-expressed their future. They finger like their generation is stuff sacrificed.

As students return full-time, simply resuming lessons isn’t enough. Schools will need to listen to their students, pick them up wherever they currently are, and support them in their personal journeys of resilience and self-empowerment. Providing the educational polity with tools to make schools into harmonious spaces of interaction will be critical. Otherwise, slantingly the all-too-frequent problems of violence and bullying, swathes of pupils will join the once significant numbers of young people who leave school without qualifications.

Living in a new media landscape

Young people spend increasingly time than overly in front of their screens. Plane surpassing the pandemic, the Internet presented teachers with stiff competition. Current circumstances unhook an plane clearer message: when it comes to learning, virtual spaces are the ones we cannot do without; the school towers has been relegated to a secondary, scrutinizingly disposable, position. Schools urgently need the spaces and resources to educate students well-nigh New Media. Increasingly than ever, young people need to know how to search the web increasingly adeptly, how to take a increasingly hair-trigger tideway to the information they find and how to communicate powerfully within society’s new virtual realm.

Photo by Thomas Park on Unsplash

Not only equipment and classroom space but moreover school-wide practical implementation is essential – media education goes hand in hand with nearly all the issues so far discussed. School violence and bullying problems moreover play out online. Virtual spaces are the front line of identity tensions. Learning to debate is not just well-nigh the art of the spoken word. It encompasses images, videos, soundbites and podcasts. Split-up is now well-matured less in the street and increasingly on a raft of online games and platforms. Ultimately, educating students for citizenship involves developing, in the classroom and throughout the school, a lively range of initiatives, responses and strategies that enable them to thrive in this New Media landscape.

From ideas to joint action

Certain challenges act as starting points for rethinking the way schools operate. First, the semester of the school day could be treated differently. Clearly, the curriculum is important. However, increased telescopic is urgently needed: the syllabus could be put on hold; increasingly space could be carved out for dealing with problems, holding debates, implementing diversity initiatives; New Media and other elements that play a part in students’ lives could be incorporated. Given the limited value of time available, this task may plane midpoint re-examining how matriculation timetables and syllabuses are divided up.

This is a cross-disciplinary challenge, one which brings with it a second aspect: agility. Despite repeated efforts, our education system has remained unchanged over recent decades. In view of the issues stuff faced, there’s no longer a choice: educators immediately need strategies and resources to wilt increasingly agile. Agility is imperative: in teaching practices for education to evolve; between schools, so that they can transmute increasingly readily to welling needs; at an ‘intraschool’ level, so that every department can respond to the challenges it faces; and in terms of what is taught, with traditional subjects giving way in part to new skills.

One such skill involves teachers developing an volitional stance. Rather than standing as ‘master’ in front of their students, teachers must learn to work slantingly them. In part, teachers need to support students in searching out and processing information increasingly effectively, and in their personal development. Schools expressly need to embody citizenship values to help young people squatter today’s challenges: ranging from issues of violence and identity expression to new virtual landscapes. Nurturing cooperation in the classroom, developing truly representative spaces, taking the time to hold constructive debates and, crucially, using these discussions as a springboard for planning and whoopee would make schools model examples of the potential democratic systems have to devise solutions to health, climate-related and social challenges.

Since the whence of the pandemic, slipperiness response measures have divided society and pushed people remoter apart. It is only natural, then, that to rise to these challenges, we need to learn how to do better, together.


Translated and edited by Cadenza Academic Translations.