Generations, Agency and Youth Cultures: Futures on the Move

Speakers: Valentina Cuzzocrea (University of Cagliari); Carmen Leccardi (University of Milan, Bicocca); Maurizio Merico (University of Salerno); Luca Salmieri (Sapienza, University of Rome); Louis Volante (Brock University); Howard Williamson (University of South Wales); Dan Woodman (The University of Melbourne)

Date and hour: Thursday, June 3, 2021 – 2.15 pm-4.30 pm (go to the Conference program)

Today, young people all over the world face unique challenges in a constantly evolving global environment, where the urgency of the climate crisis in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic call for societal radical shifts while populism, unemployment, artificial intelligence, remote education and communication are affecting the ordinary daily life as we knew it. Some analysts fear the pandemic will spur a new kind of backlash against the very basis of global society, from migration to cooperation and interdependence, while others worry about younger generations’ abilities to overcome mass unemployment and economic vulnerability.

Economic, political and environmental crises are thus now fully part of the youth horizon: how are formal, informal and non-formal education going to support young people in moving forward positively and purposefully in their lives while simultaneously ensuring space for their autonomy, decision-making and voice?

Such general question contains intersected and multiple issues and applies across contexts as diverse as the role and relevance of democracy as educational content, the changing landscape of non-formal learning/education, the forging of future visions on politics, digital technologies and the media, youth educational transitions, youth experiences at work, the relation between consumerism and environmentalism, the widening of opportunities and constraints stemming out from cooperative learning and digital exchange tools.

Social research and youth studies are producing a wide range of analyses on these relevant issues, with the (re) emergence of broader theories and empirical inquiries directed towards the recognition and validation of non-formal education, the promotion of youth participation, and the deeper rethinking of youth policies.

The Special Session aims at bringing together outstanding scholars to consider and discuss these paramount questions and young people opportunities to inform and influence policy makers on the issues that are impacting on their lives. 

Re-inventing Education: a Dialogue between Sociology and Philosophy

Speakers: Stephen Ball (Institute of Education, UCL); Jordi Collet Sabe (University of Vic, Catalonia); Helen Gunter (Institute of Education, University of Manchester); Romuald Normand (University of Strasbourg); Roberto Serpieri (University of Naples Federico II).

Date and hour: Friday, June 4, 2021 – 9.00 am-11.15 am (go to the Conference program)

Education in times of crisis raises multiple questions about its current state and future. It brings out a strong public debate on educational values and social justice but also some ideologies carried by reformist or conservative agents who use this crisis as an opportunity for promoting social and political transformations. Philosophy feeds these discourses and disputes, sometimes giving (too) much voice to media philosophers who maintain a certain doxa and strengthen dominant positions and assumptions. Other philosophers, more discreet but more relevant, try to reconceptualize politics and society in getting inspired by great philosophers (Arendt, Derrida, Foucault, Deleuze) or elaborating new concepts (Butler, Mouffe, Honneth, Rancière). Beyond lenient doxa-sophists, as Pierre Bourdieu named them, what can sociology say in its relation to philosophy in terms of potentialities for renewing criticism, theorizing social justice and recognition, promoting emancipation through education? How can sociologies of education can draw inspiration from philosophy in a fruitful dialogue enabling them to gain reflexivity and understanding about the current crisis in education? Can they revive a project of social transformation as it occurred with the emergence of the comprehensive school? Do they have to justify new foundations for education as some sociologists by the past were close to the founders of the public school system? What alternatives can sociology of education propose to current neo-liberal and populist orthodoxies? Can they formulate new utopias and alternative discourses to expertise, consultancy, and futurology and the resurgence of a new positivism and scientism? What are the main concepts that make it possible to take a distance from conformist thinking while pointing out some contradictions and tensions between education and societies? The session will try to mobilize a philosophy or a philosophical concept to highlight the interest related to mobilize philosophy in the re-elaboration of sociological and critical thinking in education. 

Re-inventing Education: The role of comparative education

Speakers: Carlo Cappa (Tor Vergata, University of Rome); Steven Carney (Roskilde University and Comparative Education Society in Europe); Robert Cowen (Institute of Education, UCL); Donatella Palomba (Tor Vergata, University of Rome), Paul Morris (Institute of Education, UCL)

Date and hour: Friday, June 4, 2021 – 5.15 pm-7.30 pm (go to the Conference program)

Within the framework of the general theme of the Conference, the Special Session will discuss the role that comparative education can have in “Re-inventing Education”, with special attention to the question “Education for what”, which in turn inevitably implies the question “What sort of education”?
In these moments of incertitude which are shaking our world in multiple ways, comparative education can play, with an historical as well as a prospective outlook, a particularly incisive role. Not only because, due to its very nature, it is especially equipped to consider phenomena in their international dimension and to read critically global dynamics, but also because it is historically linked with crucial moments of educational change.
The origins of Comparative Education go back to an historical period – the beginning of the 19th century – when the relationship between education and society underwent a radical transformation (perhaps the most radical one that ever happened in the western world); a transformation which led to the systematisation of educational institutions, linked in an unprecedented form to national politics and policies. These patterns became one of the privileged themes within comparative studies in education.
In their subsequent developments, comparative studies measured themselves, decade after decade, with the vicissitudes of nation states, and the relevant shifts that the status of many of them – hegemonic, peripheral, semi-peripheral… – has experienced in international relationships and then within the dynamics of “globalisation”. And now?
Today, many signs warn us that we are facing once more a transformation of the relationship between education and society that is in turn epoch-making, shaking former convictions and calling into question the notion of system and the coordinates according to which we are accustomed to think.
It is for comparative education– although certainly not only for it – to try to elaborate new coordinates for reflecting on “education for what” – as the Conference asks – but also on the nature of the “education” we are talking about, and the new features it may develop, two centuries after the first answers to these questions were offered by this field of study.