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The (Un)bearable Educational Lightness of Common Practices: On the Use of Urban Spaces by Schoolchildren

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Abstract

The present paper is about the author’s current research on children’s education in urban contexts. It departs from the rising offer of programmes for school children in out-of-school contexts (e.g. museums, libraries, science centres). It asks what makes these practices educational (and not just interesting, entertaining and/or audience building). Based on Biesta (2006a, 2010) theory of education, the author frames and analyses the educational characteristics of, and possibilities of articulating, in and out-of-school educational practices. This paper aims at understanding if the occasional outing from primary school premises promotes interruptions in the humanist foundations of school. In order to analyse relations between different institutions and professionals (to be) engaged in educational activities and programmes, Nóvoa (2002, 2009) essays will be brought to the discussion, namely his conception of the ‘Public Space of Education’—as a space where culture, education, arts, sports and leisure are shared responsibilities, and where diverse institutions are networked aiming towards societal pluralism. I argue for the possibility of using cities’ public spaces as contexts with a worldly quality to complexify children’s education. Nevertheless, I draw attention to the unbearable educational lightness that these practices may carry if they do not go beyond the praise of chance; as well as to their unsustainable weight if they perpetually repeat school’s normal orders and add up rational discourses.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Here I take the approach developed by Moss and Petrie (2002, p. 9), who define children’s services as “a particular understanding of public provisions for children: a very instrumental and atomising notion, in which provisions are technologies for acting upon children”.

  2. 2.

    As I will show further on, Nóvoa (2002) develops the idea of an «overflowing school» as its missions and goals have been increasing in the past few decades.

  3. 3.

    In this context, Nóvoa uses communitarism as a kind of sociological translation of Lingis’ rational community.

  4. 4.

    Author’s translation from the Portuguese edition of The Human Condition.

  5. 5.

    Author’s translation from the Portuguese original.

  6. 6.

    Author’s translation from the Portuguese original.

  7. 7.

    Here understood in the conventional understanding of a group of people sharing things.

  8. 8.

    Opposite to what happens with primary school teachers that are not supposed to teach more than 5 h a day schoolchildren should not waste any of those hours eight doing anything else but learning.

  9. 9.

    Heath and McLaughlin (1994) as well as Bekerman et al. (2006) highlighted the importance of out-of-school social and cultural experiences as a means of engaging with the world and of fulfilling personal and collective dimensions of our existence.

References

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  2. Bekerman, Z., Burbules, N. C., & Silberman-Keller, D. (2006). Learning in places. The informal education reader. New York: Peter Lang.

  3. Biesta, G. J. (2006a). Beyond learning. Democratic education for a human future. Boulder, London: Paradigm Publishers.

  4. Biesta, G. (2006b). What’s the point of lifelong learning if lifelong learning has no point? European Educational Research Journal, 5, 169–180.

  5. Biesta, G. J. (2010). Good education in an age of measurement: Ethics, politics, democracy. Colorado: Paradigm.

  6. Gerwitz, S. (2008). Give us a break! A sceptical review of contemporary discourses of lifelong learning. European Educational Research Journal, 7(4), 414–424.

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  8. Heath, S. B., & McLaughlin, M. W. (1994). Learning for anything everyday. Journal of Curriculum Studies, 26(5), 471–489.

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  11. Moss, P., & Petrie, P. (2006). From children’s services to children’s spaces. Public policy, children and childhood (4ª Edição, 2002 (1ª ed.). London and New York: Routledge Falmer.

  12. Nietzsche, F. (1885–1996). Assim falava Zaratustra. Um livro para todos e para ninguém. Lisboa: Círculo de Leitores.

  13. Nóvoa, A. (2002). O espaço público da educação: imagens, narrativas, dilemas. In: AAVV, Espaços de educação tempos de formação. Textos da Conferência Internacional (pp. 237–263). Lisboa: Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian.

  14. Nóvoa, A. (2009). Professores: imagens do futuro presente. Obtido em Maio de 2010, de Scribd: http://www.scribd.com/doc/37222542/Novoa-Professores-imagens-do-futuro-presente.

  15. Usher, R., & Edwards, R. (2001). Lifelong learning: A postmodern condition of education? Adult Education Quarterly, 51(4), 273–287.

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Correspondence to Elisabete Xavier Gomes.

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Xavier Gomes, E. The (Un)bearable Educational Lightness of Common Practices: On the Use of Urban Spaces by Schoolchildren. Stud Philos Educ 31, 289–302 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11217-012-9289-4

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Keywords

  • Pedagogy of interruption
  • Public space of education
  • Children’s education
  • Urban spaces