Spring 2008


D. Mattheou


Violence at schools has become a ‘subject-matter’ for much of contemporary sociological thinking and policy making process. However, it is our belief that this issue requires more tentative and careful investigation in theoretical and empirical terms in order to provide a better understanding of the corresponding social practices. Otherwise distorted “images” and explanations of violent ‘facts’ emerge as by-products of scientific inquiries which hinder access to the scientific knowledge of social affairs and cause multiple misapprehensions and over-estimations of behaviors, practices and attitudes under examination. Therefore the paper’s scope focuses on certain theoretical and methodological issues, imperative to be dealt with when researchers are occupied with the social investigation of violence in general and violence at schools in particular.

The paper attempts to address the European initiatives on the social recognition and the prevention of  bullying and school violence. Research data from many European countries about the youth victimization in the school environment are discussed. Copying policies and preventive strategies of bullying and school violence are analyzed in the national, regional and local level. Peer mediation programs are positively evaluated. The prevention of youth victimization is in the core of the criminal social policy.

School violence  concerns a certain category of crimes that are committed in school area and it must not be confused with anti social/ criminal acts of students taken place outside school.

Individual, collective, school, social, cultural, economic characteristics are interweaved inside classroom on the basis of  game ans challenge psychology.

Social- family fund, ecological factors, internal school functions could form either peacefulness climate or lawlessness climate ( ex.street gangs, bullying inside school area ).

The connection between school violence and social exclusion or the split of social “tissue” constitute a fact. The same applies to conflict situation as well, because of the general absence of confidence in institutions and values.

As a cause and an effect of school failure or a desperate venture, school violence uses its own language and its own symbolisms and it is established gradually as a traditional practice.

The infant traumatic experiences, the violence as a survival lesson, the school mal-treatment, moral pretensions and demonologies, social reasons/excuses, populism and modernized nihilism policy, (school) justice’s value and the observance of the rules and limits from everyone are called to approach and handle the phenomenon ( school violence ).

However, first of all we should distinguish myths and realities concerning school violence, that means we must define it exactly and determine the background culture and release it from television representations. The researchers do not always agree with definitions such as violence, intimidation, aggressiveness, school mal-treatment while the suggested policies are moved in all the prevention levels. From the moment, however, that students themselves consider the punishment of certain behaviours necessary that means that the violence representation of all these who are involved and the negotiable character of interventions should become an object of special research    

( far off aphorisms and generalizations )

The beginning of the millennium is a historical time that in many societies participation in education systems is massive and access to information and knowledge is immensely wide. These are the ‘knowledge societies’ of our era which have succeeded in creating a majority of literate, informed and educated citizens, a sin qua non condition for vibrant democracies. However, according to prominent studies, these are the same societies in which democracy has come to a state of decline. Why civic life is impoverished at times that information and knowledge generation as well as education, in its various forms and manifestations, are expanded and continue to expand more than ever before? The research industry on ‘civic engagement’ and citizenship education, developed since the last decade in North America and in Europe is not asking this question despite the fact that the commissioning of this stream of research signifies a political concern to address it. Neither much of this research nor the mainstream debate on citizenship education are placed in the context of contemporary political developments whereas issues about the relationship between those developments and current modes of knowledge transmission and acquisition are hardly touched upon.

This paper tries to address these issues with particular reference to the European Union, but not to a specific country. The paper argues that the source of the ‘crisis of democracy’ lies in the overall prioritisation of economic competition over democratic participation at both national and transnational levels. It also argues that the ways that knowledge is selected, organised and distributed both in and out of educational institutions is weakening rather than strengthening democratic citizenship. The first section of the paper points to policies of de-democratisation occurring in national and transnational contexts; the second section discusses the impact of the current modes of information and knowledge production and diffusion on active citizenship; and the third section reflects on the relation between contemporary education reforms and the current debate and initiatives for citizenship education.

Throughout its analysis the paper argues that notwithstanding popular discourses about the global spread of democratic values and the role of lifelong and ICT-based learning in advancing societies, democratic citizenship is in a stage of regression. The current version of globalisation has placed societies in a trajectory of relentless economic competition which supersedes any substantial development of democratic participation. Despite the wide legitimacy and the accelerated expansion of electoral democracy in the world, core decisions are being taken by/within transnational networks of economic and political power which define citizens’ reality but they are inaccessible to their participation. However, with the decisive help of ICT, knowledge is accessible in an unprecedented extent, but it is fragmented, commercialised, instrumental, highly specialised and it obscures political opinion. Recent education reforms are reinforcing these modes of knowledge organisation, as education systems are being aligned to policies of economic competitiveness. Curricula, on the one hand, emphasise the formation of skills related to the new economy, and, on the other, they are stressing the re-formation of, allegedly threatened, cultural identities. Citizenship curricula are being requested to transmit values considered necessary for individuals to build social capital in order to associate with each other in a well-functioning market society, rather than to reinvigorate democratic participation. Participation in educational decision making is displaced by management methods imported from the private sector along with evaluation mechanisms and outcomes-driven pedagogic modes which standardise teaching and learning policies and practices.

The paper concludes that the main direction that contemporary knowledge selection, organisation and distribution in and out educational institutions is taking is not pointing to an enlivenment of democracy as a political regime of deliberation and critique amongst citizens who are enabled and entitled to make decisions about the orientation of their societies. On the contrary, education, in its formal and informal dimensions, is aligned to the prevalent project of our age which is to create and sustain economically powerful ‘knowledge societies’ rather than vibrant ‘knowledge democracies’.

The focus of this paper is educational, political and comparative. The paper argues that whilst extensive comparative research has been undertaken in the East and West, there is still a dearth of research and literature which develops a broader understanding and compares East with East. As this paper argues, one of the main reasons for this has been the paucity of research methodology to analyse and grasp the several indigenous ideas and practices on political or citizenship education which are accessible to scholars at the universal level. Using an interdisciplinary methodology this paper compares two Asian thinkers who have contributed to peace and education: Tsunesaburo Makiguchi (1871-1944) who was an educator in Japan, and the Indian political leader Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948). This paper highlights their political and educational creativity by focusing on their contributions at national and international levels and the longer term significance of their respective political ideas.  The creativity of both thinkers is analysed by contextualizing their contributions from their respective historical locales. The paper reviews their specific influence on civic movements both at home and abroad, and concludes by discussing issues related to political or citizenship education for the 21st century. The paper argues that studying the contributions of thinkers like Makiguchi, Gandhi (and other such thinkers) is useful in advancing our understanding of inter-cultural relations, and issues of equity and social justice. Further, such studies can enable readers to acquire critical understandings of the field of politics and complexities of political processes in contemporary societies.