Frontiers of Solidarity
no. 10_april 2021
The tenth issue of on_education reflects on the frontiers of solidarity. Like all crises, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought the topic of solidarity – and the lack of it – to the forefront of public debate. Educational debates, however, rarely engage with solidarity directly, explicitly, and deliberately; the revival of this notion in the social sciences has so far had little appeal in education more broadly. With this issue of On_Education we wish to open a discussion that explicitly engages with solidarity in and through education at its various levels: from the early years, through schooling, university, and beyond. What is the role of education in teaching, learning, shaping and practicing solidarity? And what solidarities are promoted via various forms of education? Are we growing more together or more apart in the current intersecting landscapes of educational individualism and privatization, informal and non-formal learning, media populism, anti-democratic tendencies and a growing society of the spectacle? With these questions and others that the authors of this issue address, we hope to widen current discussions of solidarity in education across disciplines, topics, and sociopolitical contexts.
The dramatic expansion and rising social significance of education integrates the world’s populations and elites under a common ontological frame and on the basis of common human identities rooted in educational status and cultural content. Education-based integration supports institutions of solidarity – large-scale organizational structures in national and global societies, and common cognitive and normative cultural materials. It also creates expanded grounds for conflict. In this essay, we review the matter.
Liking the Instagram post of a humanitarian celebrity, e-shopping from a charity shop or signing an online petition on Black Lives Matter have become popular forms of digital activism. While such activism, what I call post-humanitarian solidarity, has helped popularize important causes worldwide, in this paper, I argue for the need of a critical pedagogy that also alerts us to the limitations of this form of activism. It is, in particular, the synergy of corporate humanitarianism with the entertainment industry and platform capitalism that such critical pedagogy should focus on, raising questions about the political and ethical implications of post-humanitarian solidarity and the kinds of global publics it gives rise to.
In most countries, the education system seeks to instill two kinds of solidarity: a thick sense of national solidarity with one’s co-citizens, and a thinner sense of global solidarity with all of humanity. Many commentators argue that we need to rebalance these two forms of solidarity, de-emphasizing national solidarity and re-centering global solidarities. More radical commentators argue that we should abandon ideas of national solidarity entirely as inherently exclusionary and outdated. I will suggest that we in fact need both kinds of solidarity, although our conception of education for national solidarity needs to reflect our multicultural realities.
The article looks at competing conceptions of solidarity. The main focus lies on the universality or partisanship that is associated with moral obligations stemming from solidarity. It appears that the reference to a ‘solidum’, or a uniting commonality, is crucial to understanding solidarity. In the article, solidarity is defended as a morally significant relation that is wider and more inclusive than direct or intimate relations of friendship, love or loyalty, but simultaneously narrower and more exclusive than universal notions of justice or humanity. Due to their basis in uniting communalities, relations of solidarity are normatively dependent, i.e. the moral content of the shared identifications that ground solidarity determine its moral valence.
In times of crisis, an increasing number of voices are being raised calling for solidarity. It can therefore be assumed that the ability to behave in solidarity is of public interest and should be cultivated. Can and must solidarity then be an educational goal and in what way could it be implemented? A first step in answering these questions is to determine the content of the concept of solidarity, which has been interpreted in many different ways. In this article, I follow Simon Derpmann’s understanding of solidarity in order to propose a pedagogical view based on it. Consequently, two educational goals can be named that are conducive to the cultivation of solidarity: First, moral identity as the assurance and commitment to one’s own moral convictions, and second, the ability to collaborate in order to pursue shared and common goals with others. Finally, there remains the question of whether solidarity has an intrinsic value for the education of subjects, or whether it is a political endeavor that has no educational ethical justification in pedagogical debates
In this article, the authors locate examples of solidarity in the structures and practices of two educational institutions in Northern California. Applying a taxonomy of solidarity drawn from Gaztambide-Fernández (2012) to two schools’ responses to Covid-19, the authors delineate serendipitous acts of solidarity from intentional and deliberate solidarity praxes that have been deepened during the pandemic. This article sheds light on possibilities to reimagine educational solidarity post-Covid in order to further the process of humanizing education and advancing greater equity and justice.
In this essay I am addressing the question of whether solidarity is something that can be taught. It is based on experiences from my field research on NGOs working on education in the West African Republic of Benin and in Germany. What does it need for someone to become solidary, and what does it take to grasp the politics of solidarity? What happens to solidarity when it is instrumentalized, when solidarity campaigns are transformed into a ‘competition of care’? I understand solidarity to be first and foremost about relating to others, from a certain power position, driven by a common cause, while acknowledging the differences between those who show solidarity, and those they show it for. Solidarity as a relational process is as much about oneself as it is about the other and the relation in between. Inspired by the pedagogy of resonance and ChangeWriters methods for relationship work, I argue that as an educational practice and subject, solidarity needs to be experienced, reflected on, shared, discussed, and thus understood in its personal and political dimensions. For this to happen on a larger scale, we would not only need to let go of an instrumental vision of solidarity, but also of an instrumental vision of education.
This essay details the processes through which English universities reinforce existing social class divisions while at the same time extending access for populations that had historically been excluded from universities. Practices commonly referred to within higher education policy as ‘widening participation’ that purport to show solidarity with previously excluded student populations, we argue, function to maintain not diminish inequalities. While the meritocratic ideals underpinning the social mobility narrative of widening participation encourage economic and employment aspirations as prime motivations for applying and entering university, widening participation has not coincided with meaningful mobility. Through an analysis of major shifts in higher education policy, we argue that categorisations of the ‘disadvantaged’ student are manufactured to assist universities to fund and legitimate themselves as vehicles of social mobility. In this context, we argue that a precarious legitimacy exists because social mobility operates within a wider culture of embedded class privilege, and this is constantly managed by state regulatory frameworks which reshape and repurpose universities to fit a neoliberal meritocratic image of the larger society and the role of universities within it. Ideas of ‘disadvantage’ service solidarity not with the ‘disadvantaged’ but with educational service providers, as they offer a target for the promotion of neoliberal meritocracy. In the course of this, class differentials are reinforced by channeling ‘disadvantaged’ and ‘advantaged’ students into different niches of the labour market, preserving existing inequalities, and sorting graduates into winners and losers.
Solidarity is a complex, abstract, multifaceted concept that may be unpacked and used in a variety of situations, ranging from socio-economic and political contexts to the currently salient pandemic context. Defining solidarity, either in theory or in practice, requires connections to other less abstract ideas, which are more familiar to people. In this paper, I examine the way in which the concept of solidarity is defined and explained in a Romanian social studies textbook for 6th graders. My analysis focuses on two metaphorical framings of solidarity found in the textbook, namely ‘solidarity as exchange’ and ‘solidarity as assistance’. I discuss these examples of metaphors of solidarity in the context of broader discussions surrounding the construction of the intercultural society (of which solidarity is a crucial value) in textbooks.
This paper analyses the solidarity relations among European Union (EU) member states in the first phase of the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020. The pandemic affected European countries differently and also questioned the problem-solving capacity of the EU in such an unprecedented crisis. Based on the European solidarity tracker data collected by the European Council for Foreign Relations, I reconstruct the solidarity relations between the member states. I demonstrate that the EU receives most of the solidarity attention from almost all member states. Moreover, publicly declaring solidarity and showing actions of solidarity are closely linked to each other in this time period. Experiencing and observing the pandemic across Europe has crucial implications on how solidarity as relation can be taught, included in future curricula, and discussed between teachers and students.
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