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Finding One's Place in the Republic: Educating for Citizenship in a Diversifying France


The school, France's traditional vehicle for integrating diverse populations into a national culture and fostering civic participation, has encountered difficulties in fulfilling its central mission as demographic shifts have given rise to competing conceptions of religious, cultural, ethnic, political and national identity. For French society the relevance and adequacy of a universal, liberal, assimilationist approach to integration has come into question. On pedagogical and curricular levels, an impersonal "banking model" of instruction and inflexible respect of disciplinary boundaries have impeded civic empowerment. Rooted in the emancipatory and progressive educational theories of Paulo Freire and John Dewey and the multicultural theories of James Banks, this study examines spaces in contemporary France, inside the school and out, where youth of diverse backgrounds are engaging in transformative citizenship education. Within the school, the research put forth here specifically targets history as a discipline that could be uniquely positioned to facilitate transformative citizenship. The study's findings should ultimately contribute to the establishment of educational structures and curricula that allow all students in heterogeneous societies to work together to express themselves politically and culturally, actively shaping the civic culture while expanding equality, access and participation.

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