oa Journal of Education - The city, citizenship and education

Volume 40, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 0259-479X



The perfect city is a powerful idea which runs through the literature on social space. It begins, as far as we know, in classical Greece. Aristotle, for example, had much to say about the ideal city: it had to be situated in a particular place, close to the sea but not right at the seaside, it had to be of a certain size, and have a certain number of citizens, each of a particular age, sex and character, and certain tasks had to be fulfilled if the city was to prosper. The discussion continued into the period of Roman domination of Europe and centred on the �genius of Rome� and its capacity to embrace difference, its ability for �making the conquered into one�s fellows�. Much of the discussion of the city is, of course, the domain of architecture and urban planning. It is architecture that has most to say about the relationship between space, freedom and happiness. Architecture, according to Le Corbusier (Bauman, 1999), is a born enemy of all confusion, spontaneity and chaos. Reason alone is its master. In this paper I look at the city, not in its perfect radiant form, but in its messy, fetid and combustive guise, as a physical and discursive landscape upon which citizenship rights and responsibilities are fought over, shaped and generated. The city of this paper is like Blake�s London where, as he says, . . .every face I meet marks of weakness, marks of woe. In every cry of Man, In every Infant�s cry of fear, In every voice, in every ban, The mind-forg�d manacles I hear. How the Chimney-sweeper�s cry Every black�ning church appals; And the hapless Soldier�s sigh Runs in blood down Palace walls. I look at the place of education within this landscape, particularly its role in mediating citizenship rights and in producing amongst young people a sense of place and belonging. What pathways, I ask, do schools, and education in general, provide on the urban landscape for young people towards citizenship?

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