Fragile Majorities and Education

Fragile Majorities and Education: Belgium, Catalonia, Northern Ireland, and Quebec

Translated by Michael OʹHearn
Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 272
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  • Book Info
    Fragile Majorities and Education
    Book Description:

    Are fragile majorities capable of opening themselves to deep-rooted and new ethnic and cultural pluralism? What role does education play in this process? Based on ten years of comparative research, Fragile Majorities and Education is a nuanced study of ethnic dominance, linguistic integration of immigrants, and diversity in education. Ethnic relations are often depicted in an oversimplified framework where a clear dominant majority exercises power over various minorities. In many societies worldwide, however, this model does not hold true. In some countries, two or more groups possess relatively equal power to control the state and impose their definitions of the nation, as is the case with Flemish speakers and French speakers in Belgium, and with Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland. In other instances, such as in Quebec or Catalonia, clearly identifiable majorities are nonetheless minorities at a larger nation-state level, which creates a situation of ambiguous ethnic dominance. Marie McAndrew analyzes and clarifies these complex situations through the lens of education as a means for both maintaining and transforming ethnic boundaries and identities. Deeply insightful and meticulously researched, Fragile Majorities and Education is a groundbreaking contribution to the field of ethnic studies.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-8806-6
    Subjects: Education

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-2)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 3-12)

    Ethnic relations is a field of study that has seen some very interesting developments in the last thirty years, including the role of education. First, researchers have critiqued reification, or the tendency to treat cultures and ethnic groups as if they were concrete things, and insisted on the importance of developing a more nuanced view of the dynamic character and multiplicity of identities. Second, researchers have somewhat abandoned, perhaps unduly, the traditional focus on education as a tool for the maintenance of minority cultures and identities in favour of studying its role in the transformation of relations and boundaries between...

    • 1 Controlling Oneʹs Own Institutions: Cultural Isolationism or Assurance of Harmony?
      (pp. 15-47)

      In most societies where an historic conflict exists between two groups in competition for majority status, there is little consensus as to the preferred institutional arrangements for the provision of schooling. In contexts such as these, the tight link between educational structures and the maintenance of group identities and loyalties is generally striking. Ethnic boundaries are maintained thanks to community control of a specific educational system or, at the very least, of a subsystem within it. Moreover, this control is often the result of considerable struggle.¹

      Within distinct educational institutions, cultural heritage and historic memory can be passed on to...

    • 2 Crossing School Boundaries and Rapprochement: Why? Under Which Conditions?
      (pp. 48-75)

      Even in societies with significant inter-community and educational divisions, there are always parents and students who decide to cross these boundaries. As we saw in the previous chapter, examples of this are numerous. Some are happy with specific activities aiming at rapprochement or even informal relationships during leisure-time pursuits. Others look for more structured approaches built on common schooling, integrated schooling when it exists, or, in other cases, an integration into the school system of the other community, unplanned by the authorities. The reasons people make such choices vary considerably. Some are looking first and foremost for immediate linguistic or...

    • 3 Teaching History: Can Memories, Knowledge, and Citizenship Competencies Be Reconciled?
      (pp. 76-108)

      Of all social systems of identification or stratification, ethnicity is the one most clearly tied to a belief in a real or imagined common origin. Other processes of communalization, such as those linked to gender or social class, rely partially on historical accounts about past oppression and present or expected liberation. But in neither of these are continuity and solidarity over time such crucial aspects, especially in modern societies. Indeed, while most markers of traditional ethnic belonging, such as language, culture, religion, and lifestyle have been radically redefined, the belief in a common historical trajectory becomes central to maintaining inter-group...

    • 4 Linguistic Integration and Equality of Opportunity: Complementarity or Tension
      (pp. 111-149)

      Whether or not they have already experienced a complex dynamic of ethnic relations, all societies that receive immigrants face common challenges. On the one hand, there is the challenge of assuring the integration of newcomers linguistically, socially, and economically and, on the other, the challenge of supporting the necessary transformation of the host society. These two highly polysemic concepts – the integration of one and the adaptation of the other – have given rise to numerous and recurring debates for the last thirty years or so. These debates have as much to do with the how far, that is, the...

    • 5 Adaptation to Diversity: A ʺNormalʺ Discrepancy among Normative Models, Practices, and Public Debate?
      (pp. 150-196)

      Following initial integration, equal participation by immigrantorigin populations in the host society entails, to a certain extent, the pluralist transformation of that society. Indeed, if newcomers fully exercise their citizenship, they will necessarily have an impact on the nature of the institutions that welcome them. What is more, to be more effective and inclusive, these institutions will often be involved, on their own initiative, in various forms of adaptation to cultural, linguistic and even religious diversity.¹

      Educational institutions are no exception to this rule. The normative positioning of most modern societies in favour of parental participation and accountability to the...

  7. Conclusion
    (pp. 197-202)

    In this book, we have dealt with openness to pluralism in Belgium, and more specifically in Flanders, Catalonia, Northern Ireland, and Quebec, societies that, despite their differences, can be characterized as living the common dynamic of ambiguous ethnic dominance. The relationship maintained by the group in the process of becoming a majority, what we have called a fragile majority, with the majority Other and the minority Other, was explored by examining diverse issues, such as the structure of schooling, rapprochements initiatives, the teaching of history, the linguistic and academic integration of immigrants, and the adaptation of school practices and norms...

  8. Notes
    (pp. 203-216)
  9. Bibliography
    (pp. 217-268)
  10. Index
    (pp. 269-280)