Citizenship in Our Place: Exploring New Zealand Young People's Everyday, Place-Based Perspectives on Participation in Society
Developing more active citizens has been a feature of policies in many nations in recent years. Educational curricula in particular have been viewed as an important way to deliver this goal. The revised New Zealand Curriculum (2007) is an example of this, with a vision to develop young people who will be confident, connected, actively involved, lifelong learners (p. 8) who will themselves “participate and take action as critical, informed, and responsible citizens” (p. 17). In this thesis, I explore how New Zealand young people are currently participating as citizens by examining their conceptions and practices of social action alongside those of their teachers. My approach draws attention to spatial and relational aspects of young people’s everyday, place-based perspectives on participation in society. The conceptual and theoretical framework underpinning this research is developed through Bourdieu’s analytical concepts of habitus, field and capital, and Mills’ (1959) “sociological imagination”. Participants in this research included 122 social studies students (n=122) aged between 14 and 18 years old, and their teachers (n=27) from four diverse secondary schools in New Zealand. Data collection included café-style focus groups with young people, as well as visual data generated by participation in Photovoice research. More traditional focus groups were also undertaken with social studies teachers at each of the four schools. Taking an everyday, place-based approach to youth participation opened up new and relatively unexplored landscapes of participation. Young people provided many examples of how they were “taking action” through formal opportunities (provided by their teachers, schools and communities), as well as informal ways, such as standing up against a bully, or reducing water usage. Through their identification of social issues that needed addressing, it was possible to see their citizenship imaginations at play. Social studies teachers played a significant role in shaping young people’s awareness of social issues as well as providing them with opportunities to take action on these issues. The findings revealed the enduring importance of young people’s everyday experiences of inclusion/exclusion within places, as well as the contribution of the participatory capital of their teachers, families and communities, in shaping their citizenship perceptions, imaginations and actions.