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Citizens as Concerned but Knowledge-Poor Watchdogs: Attributions of Legitimacy to Social Actors in the Management of Biotechnology Issues

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Activist Science and Technology Education

Part of the book series: Cultural Studies of Science Education ((CSSE,volume 9))

Abstract

The concepts of participation and deliberation have been invested with strong symbolic weight in the field of science education and, more specifically, in the teaching of socio-scientific issues (SSIs). However, the teaching of socio-scientific issues has not yet emerged as the “natural” or “self-obvious” place for focusing attention on the socio-political management of socio-scientific issues. In the first section of this chapter, I outline a number of conceptual contributions originating in political philosophy, a field that has engaged in sustained reflection concerning the participation of ordinary citizens in the deliberations surrounding socio-political decision making. In the second section, I present the viewpoints of post-secondary/pre-university students (who are also training to become primary or secondary school teachers) concerning the management of socio-scientific issues. I also provide illustrations of how these students describe the roles played by various actors – citizens, industry, government, and members of the scientific community. In the third section, I identify the opportunities offered by these descriptions for redistributing legitimacy and re-examining the modalities of citizen participation in the management of socio-scientific issues.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    These students are enrolled in a CÉGEP institution. ‘CÉGEP’ is the acronym for Collège d’enseignement général et professionnel (in English, this means ‘General and Vocational College’). These institutions are unique to Québec, and is a mandatory step for secondary students pursuing university in that province.

  2. 2.

    It is important to note that, in this model, citizens do not constitute a monolithic group in terms of the power they exert whenever they participate in any phase of the management of socioscientific issues. A number of authors have argued (and, in some cases, illustrated) that social actors concerned with socioscientific issues move and act in a context of structural social inequalities. Money, social status and professional relations are all examples of elements that give them greater leverage in decision-making processes (Alsop and Bencze 2010; Kerr et al. 2007; Kleinman 2000).

  3. 3.

    A ‘Premier,’ is the leader of the political party that dominates (leads) the government in any province, like Québec, in Canada.

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Correspondence to Chantal Pouliot .

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Pouliot, C. (2014). Citizens as Concerned but Knowledge-Poor Watchdogs: Attributions of Legitimacy to Social Actors in the Management of Biotechnology Issues. In: Bencze, J., Alsop, S. (eds) Activist Science and Technology Education. Cultural Studies of Science Education, vol 9. Springer, Dordrecht. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-007-4360-1_29

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