Citizenship, enterprise and learning: harmonising competing educational agendas

John T. McCormack
2008 London Review of Education  
The potentially conflicting demands being made of schools to teach a curriculum that stimulates both active citizenship and an enterprise culture amongst young people is the subject of Ross Deuchar's latest book. Whilst the concept of enterprise in education has traditionally been associated with capitalist economics (centred on the profit motives of private enterprise), citizenship education, by contrast, has focussed on the selfless contribution of individuals to the common good.
more » ... good. Consequently, attempting to teach a curriculum that encourages both an enterprise culture and active citizenship presents many teachers with a particular challenge. Aimed principally at an audience of teachers (with a series of reflective exercises at the end of each chapter), Deuchar's book attempts to reconcile these potentially conflicting agendas by encouraging teachers to take a broad interpretation of the concept of 'enterprise'. Instead of accepting as given a narrow, market-oriented definition, Deuchar suggests teachers address the concept more imaginatively, looking, for example, at how the principles of enterprise (including creativity, resource management and problem-solving) can be utilised in a context of active citizenship and the common good. However, Deuchar does make the point that, for any programme of civic education to be effective, it is necessary to start where pupils 'are at', i.e., their own perceived self-interest, and link this with the common good. In addition, effective teaching of citizenship also demands that classroom activities focus on the inculcation of dispositions, rather than the teaching of abstract concepts, and that schools develop a whole-school approach to democracy -something that, according to Deuchar, many risk-averse professionals in education have difficulty with. The book begins by drawing attention to the potentially-conflicting agendas of citizenship education and teaching for enterprise. Following a background chapter that elaborates on the historical and political context within which both subjects emerged as educational priorities (at least in rhetorical terms, if not in reality), the book then sketches three different approaches to the teaching of enterprise -individualist, collectivist and 'third way' -before reporting on the findings of a longitudinal study involving a number of case study schools in Scotland. Deuchar reports the prevalence of a communitarian approach amongst teachers responsible for 'enterprise', with most placing social and moral responsibility as a benchmark for measuring the degree of enterprise culture in the classroom. As a result, in many cases the potentially conflicting agendas of individualism and collectivism were 'comfortably reconciled' (49), and indeed the book suggests that, over time, teachers (and pupils) redefined 'enterprise' as a means of promoting priorities associated with the active citizenship agenda. Deuchar reports, for example, a shift away from an exclusively profit-driven, capitalist model of enterprise to one that stressed the importance of teamwork, listening to others, and taking collective responsibility. Moving on to consider the issue of democratic schooling within the context of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, the book argues that many school councils are tokenistic and risk-averse, focussing on relatively mundane, non-controversial issues, such as school dinners and uniforms. As such, they fail to inspire confidence in the benefit of 'democratic' participation. By contrast, Deuchar describes how one head teacher deliberately encouraged pupils to engage in classroom dialogue around sensitive issues such as teenage pregnancy, drug abuse, animal rights, the Iraq war, and the teaching of religion in schools. The same head believed that open dialogue with pupils around such themes contributed to the building of trusting pupil-teacher relations, and gave democratic participation a sense of meaning beyond mere rhetoric.
doi:10.18546/lre.06.1.11 fatcat:qtyd4dua2bdppguabikv2ckyle