(Re)constructing the Nation? Representations of Public Housing in School Geography Textbooks, pp. 3 of 14

Imagined Nation: Geography Textbooks and Nation Building

Within educational literature, it is largely accepted that formal schooling is integral to social reproduction (Apple, 1979; Bernstein, 1990, 2003). Bernstein (1990, 2003), for example, was conscious that the enterprise of education is neither neutral nor objective, and that types of curriculum and forms of pedagogy directly reproduce middle class groups’ social identities, cultural aspirations and values. More recently, interest regarding the role of specific subjects in the production of desired social and national identities has grown. For example, history textbooks have been an important site of contention between competing historical narratives in the construction of a Japanese national identity (Bukh, 2007). An edited volume of essays by Schissler and Soysal (2005) deconstructs the ways in which school textbooks in different European nations depict national identities in relation to European and global citizenship.

In her review of the spatial content in education by geography researchers, Thiem (2009) observes that nation building projects are an important part of formal geographic education. One of the ways in which this occurs is through the production of geographical imaginaries of the nation. For instance, commentators in the United Kingdom (UK) like Ball (1994) and Hall (1990) were highly critical of the 1991 National Curriculum for Geography, arguing that school geography harkened back to outmoded notions of British empire. Radcliffe (1999) observed that geographical skills like cartography have also been used by states to reinforce national territory, with citizens forced into limited identities through the discursive power of these boundaries. These suggest that the content of school geography, rather than being neutral and objective, is in fact complicit in the processes of social reproduction. In fact Ross (2000) suggested that rather than describing the world, geography lessons construct the world for students.

An Inspiring Quote

"[Open-mindedness] includes an active desire to listen to more sides than one; to give heed to facts from whatever source they come; to give full attention to alternative possibilities; to recognize the possibility of error even in the beliefs that are dearest to us."

~ John Dewey, How We Think

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