GREEK EDUCATIONAL PRACTICES AND A MISSING SENSE OF COMMUNITY: THE QUEST FOR SOCIAL CAPITAL AGAINST THE BACKDROP OF CRISIS
University of Ioannina (GREECE)
About this paper:
Appears in: EDULEARN14 Proceedings
Publication year: 2014
Conference name: 6th International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies
Dates: 7-9 July, 2014
Location: Barcelona, Spain
Abstract:Much research has investigated the potential contribution of education to social capital and a sense of community. In this paper I argue that certain practices that take place by law in Greek schools are detrimental to the cultivation of a sense of community in school and in the society at large.
Far from being only economic, the crisis of Greece is a crisis of democratic institutions, attitudes and values. Therefore it is important to promote civic growth, a sense of community and all those values that go under the name of “social capital”. While education is considered a key institution in creating social capital, the process is by no means automatic. It is clear that schools do not exert a positive influence just by being there. The degree and quality of their contribution to civic growth depend on what happens between their walls. There is evidence that certain institutionalized school practices are heading in the opposite direction and can be counterproductive to social capital.
In the paper I examine two sets of such school practices: (a) the yearly prize award to high achievers and (b) the yearly appointment of the highest school achiever for the role of flag-carrier in the student parade that take place twice a year on national day commemorations.
Both these practices rest on deep cultural values and in particular on a propensity to celebrate the “first ones”, and the “successful ones”. They share the same assumptions and promote the same cultural logic of competition of all against all. There is evidence both from research and the media that these practices have caused deep conflict within schools and local communities. In this sense they are not functional to the development of social capital.
Based on previous research and articles in the daily press I document some of the ways in which these school practices may be perceived by pupils, parents and teachers and I discuss the data through David Hume’s theory of human nature. Besides going against some basic declared goals of education in Greece, these practices have negative implications for the creation of social capital. Therefore I suggest that they should be abolished, as part of redesigning schools as communities.
Keywords: Greek schools, Awards assemblies, Competition, Social capital, Sense of community.