In modern societies, the question of the good life is thoroughly privatized. This means that everyone has to judge for him- or herself what to do with their lives and how to lead (or not to lead) it. Teachers certainly are not meant to teach their pupils how to live or how to lead a life. Nevertheless, there can be little doubt that the globalized high-speed-world of late-modern societies requires a vast number of complex cultural competencies and dispositions for individuals to successfully cope with the challenges of everyday life. This article explores the hidden ways in which young people acquire their basic orientations, or their «moral maps», which define their patterns of living and action, the goals and aspirations as well as the strategies they pursue in everyday life as well as in long-term planning. The classroom and the schoolyard seem to be of overriding importance in this respect, for it is here that kids develop their strategies of recognition-seeking and distinction, their strong evaluations and their fundamental definition of existential problems, and finally their strategies for balancing long-term and short-term issues and selecting options.
Children’s everyday lives (re)constructed as variable sets of field bodies: Revisiting the exotic remote island – a case study
How do you study everyday life? Everyday life happens. It is solid and liquid, embedded and changeable. The article is based on fieldwork I conducted on an isolated island, where I was interested in how children play, interact with each other and use social media. I brought my son, a camcorder and seven small digital cameras with me, which I distributed to the children on the island. Using the visual and material perspective allows the researcher to incorporate slowness, details and minimal space in her work. And it makes it possible to work with different types of performative practices, where inter-methodic (person and method) as well as inter-material (person and materiality/surroundings) aspects are brought into play, and the patterns and dynamics of the social and cultural landscapes can be reconfigured. This article scrutinizes how the researcher (me) works with variable sets of «field bodies», how different kinds of knowledge are produced and constructed and how this kind of shared anthropology can open up parts of everyday life. It also shows how an ’exotic’ remote island can be understood as a privileged perspective on childscape and often forgotten aspects in everyday life.
The impracticality of «practical knowledge» and «lived experience» in educational research
The issue of social and cultural transformations is pressing. There are enough horrors in the world to want change. The problem of change, however, has haunted the human sciences since their institutionalization at the turn of the 20th century. Initially responding to The Social Question about the moral disorder and economic dislocations of the city, the quest today is for the practical (useful) knowledge that makes possible the Enlightenments’ cosmopolitan dream. That dream of change is expressed in PISA, the New Public Management. While the promise of finding the future is daunting and enticing my task is more limited. It is historical by asking about the conditions that make possible the notion of practicality. That designing is told in the name of the future is told holding the lifelong learner who lives in the Knowledge Society. Finding that future, however, is taken as science finding the useful knowledge that can help in planning to change everyday life that changes people. Three limits of such planning are discussed. One is the making of kinds of people as practices that exclude and abject in the impulse to include. Second and paradoxically, the principles for making the future conserve rather than challenge the existing frameworks that govern the present. And third, the expertise of designing people to create an inclusive society produces a hierarchy and inequality. What seems practical and useful is, at least in terms of social commitments, impractical! The remaining question is whether it is perhaps time to (re)vision the human sciences.
Waiting for change: enduring educational outcomes
A key to understanding the relationship between education and transformation lies in perceiving the ways in which it is possible for youth around the world to make sense of their everyday lives in a rapidly changing world. Taking the view that education is not only about what it does but who it addresses, it is imperative to understand the lived experience of young people. This is possible on two registers: that of locality that is central to the lived experience of young people and of social capital as an outcome of the social and cultural resources available to youth. How do young people reflect on themselves and their futures? On what social forces and personal dilemmas are these based? And how are these grounded in the local as much as in the global both in the nature of the experience as well as in the articulation of it? The underlying premise of my article is that the experience of persistent inequalities as a consequence of personal trajectories and social institutions is central to the experience of youth as is their participation in an increasingly changing global scenario. I focus not so much on the promise that education holds out but on the outcome of education for young people in the spaces that they inhabit in diverse societies.