Critical School Geography, Education for Global Citizenship


Chapter One        Introduction 

This opening chapter outlines the core knowledge, or key ideas from political economy, that should be explored in the geography curriculum by the time students reach the age of 16.  These link sustainable development to radical global democratisation; highlight the undemocratic nature of neoliberal global capitalism; and prompt the examination of postcapitalist alternatives. Current UK debates on a green new deal and the ‘next nromal’ are examined before the chapter concludes by introducing Unesco guidance on education for sustainable development and global citizenship and considering the scope for such education in the national curricula of the UK.

Curriculum Unit One      Venezuela’s Bolivarian Revolution and its Impact on Healthcare

Students consider the potential and record of 21st Century socialism in Venezuela with particular reference to healthcare. Sustainable development goal  (SDG) 3 good health and well being and global citizenship education (GCE) topic 7 actions we can take individually and collectively.

Chapter Two                      Critical Geography, Critical Education

Geogaphy and education are products of modern society. This chapter introduces modernity and the critical theory that developed to explain its failure to realise its promise of liberty, equality and fraternity.. It considers how critical theory has shaped critical geography and education before turning to neoliberal reform of schooling that has marginalized critical education. The critical ideas of Marx and Foucault, shed light on spatial divisions of schooling, the focus of the associated curriculum unit.

Curriculum Unit Two          Spatial divisions of schooling 

This unit examines issues of secondary school provision, parental choice and social justice in one local authority area. The data presented is for Bedford Borough but is it hoped that teachers will research and use data for their own local area using the Bedford data as a guide. SDG 4 quality education, and GCE topic 8 ethically responsible behaviour.

Chapter Three                   Students, teachers, alienation and happiness

This chapter uses the concept of alienation to explore the reasons for students’ and teachers’ unhappiness. It examines evidence suggesting that many students and teachers find schooling an alienating experience leading to disaffection, misbehaviour, exclusions, and high teacher turnover. Rather than focussing on the indivdiual and teaching happiness, as the ‘happiness industry’ (Davies, 2016) suggests, schools should explore the social causes of  unhappiness as revealed by critical theorists such as the accelerationist Hartmut Rosa. He suggests that the speeding up of social life leads many to experience the world as indifferent to their true needs, and that the solution lies in changed forms of development that allow the self and the world to resonate with one another. The geography of happiness allows students to evaluate such ideas by using such measures of the OECD’s Better Life Index.

Curriculum Unit Three      Happiness and Equality: the UK and Finland compared

The geography of happiness suggests that in Scandinavian countries, with a different culture and an alternative form of capitalism, citizens and school students are happier. This curriculum unit focuses on SDG 10 reduced inequalities and GCE topic 3 underlying assumptions and power dynamics by examining Finland: the reasons why citizens report higher levels of happiness and well-being, and the role of schooling in fostering these.

Chapter Four                             Knowledge

What constitutes powerful geographical knowledge? This chapter seeks to answer this question by outlining the philosophies of knowledge that underpin modern and postmodern school geography. It makes the case for introducing students to dialectical and critical ways of understanding the world and suggests that critical realism should guide curriculum making so that they can relate everyday experience to underlying structures, processes and events. Reference is made to debates on powerful disciplinary knowledge and the Geocapabilities Project.

Curriculum Unit Four                   Homelessness: causes and solutions

Making curriculum underpinned by critical realism is illustrated by this unit which enables students to examine myths surrounding homelessness, pathways into homelessness, and its links with housing policy and the housing crisis.  SDG 11 sustainable cities and communities, and GCE topic 6 difference and respect for diversity.

Chapter Five                          Critical Pedagogy 

This chapter outlines the characteristics of critical pedagogy and its several approaches based on different critical theories. It then explores the links between critical pedagogy, inquiry based learning and the development of critical thinking. The focus then shifts to the changing nature of capitalism and work shaped by the rise of digital technology. These changes further challenge the ideology of work and schooling and point to post-work futures based on universal basic income and services. The need for trade unions to adapt to new realities in order to appeal to young workers is a theme of the chapter and related curriculum unit.

Curriculum Unit Five              The Future of Work

Curriculum unit five focuses on SDG 8, decent work and economic growth and GCE topic 9 getting engaged and taking action. It examines the role of trade unions in improving the quality of members’ jobs; the issues faced by young workers on average or below average pay; the future of work in the digital economy, regulation of the gig economy; and the policies unions and others might pursue to realise sustainable futures beyond work. The focus is on Europe and the UK with reference to relevant legislation on workers’ rights.

Chapter Six                                   Nature 

Teaching geogaphy in the anthropocene requires the integration of physical and human geography and the exploration of critical ideas about nature, sustainability, and the greening of capitalism and socialism.  This chapater links such exploration to the development of sustainability citizenship through the application of ecopedagogy.

Curriculum Unit Six                 Urban farming in Nairobi, Chicago and Bristol

Students engage with discourses of hunger, SDG 2 zero hunger and GCE topic 2 issues affection interaction and connectedness of communities at local, national and global levels, as they compare the solutions to hunger offered by the corporate global food system to those offered by locally based urban farmers.

Chapter Seven                     Space 

Chapter seven explores geographers’ understanding of space and how it is constructed by the global capitalist economy.  It deals with globalisation; associated poverty and inequality; theories of development; and post-colonial theory and pedagogy. School geography’s engagement with the Global Learning Programme is viewed from the perspective of post-colonial theory and the root narratives underpinning development education.

Curriculum Unit Seven     China’s Belt and Road Initiative and its impacts on the peoples of Xinjiang and East Africa

Stidemts learn how imperialism, colonialism and post-colonialism create connections between peoples;  consider China’s role in a changing world order; and use social media to listen in to the voices of post-colonial peoples. The focus is on SDG 9 industry, innovation and infrastructure and GCE topic 5  the different communities people belong to and how they are connected.

Chapter Eight                 Place 

This chapter explores how place is represented in critial urban, cultural and digital geographies. Through the lenses of left behind towns, immigration and students’ use of digital media, it introduces school geography’s role in promoting critical place pedagogy, media literacy and anti-racism.

Curriculum Unit Eight      Becoming a young British Muslim woman, the signifance of place

In this unit students explore the role of place in shaping the identity of young Muslim women. They learn about British Muslims; the stereotyping of Muslim women and the issues they face including Islamophobia. The geography of Islamophobia is then examined before students learn of strategies that young Muslim women adopt to keep themselves safe in public places and how digital technology is being used to combat hate crime on the internet. The focus is on SDG 5 gender equality and GCE topic 4 different levels of identity.

Chapter Nine                Democracy and Citizenship 

This final chapter returns to the themes of left populism and radical democracy introduced in chapter one.  Drawing on Mouffe’s theory of radical democracy and Ruttenberg’s notion of radical democratic citizenship education, it links the delivery of the SDGs to radical global democratisation and associated forms of ESDGC. It seeks the ‘big picture’ by suggesting that GCE should explore existing undemocratic forms of international relations and global governance and how these might be democratised. It concludes by linking radical democratic GCE to the existing literature of GCE and its potential to reform school geography in the ways the book has outlined.

Curriculum Unit Nine     Paying for the transition to sustainable development, the role of internationa tax reform

Curriculum unit nine focuses on international tax reform that involves closing down tax havens and taxing digital services.. Designed to explore issues of global governance and citizenship it draws on campaigning by the Tax Justice Network and articles by financial geographers. Exploring a ‘partnership’ on global governance between the G20, OECD, EU and UK, it focuses on SDG 17 partnerships for the goals and GCE topic one local, national and global Systems.