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Youth work, social education, democratic practice and the challenge of difference: A contribution to debate

Batsleer, Janet (2013) Youth work, social education, democratic practice and the challenge of difference: A contribution to debate. Oxford Review of Education, 39 (3). pp. 287-306. ISSN 0305-4985

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Abstract

This paper highlights the contribution of theoretical discussions of social education in UK youth work to debates about ‘social pedagogy’, arguing that the analysis of power and difference, in particular the impact of gender difference, which has occurred in youth work is essential in discussions of ‘social pedagogy’ too. Since ‘social pedagogy’ has been discussed as a source for transformed visions of schooling, the paper extends and develops discussion of pre-figurative counter-practice and how it can be sustained through an engagement with difference, drawing especially on the work of Luce Irigaray. Ideas and practice associated with social pedagogy have been drawn on to illuminate a radical vision of the common school as a counter-practice to the neo-liberal credentialisation of schooling. Such approaches resonate strongly with so-called romantic models of youth work in the UK (Wylie, 201075. Wylie, T. 2010. Youth work in a cold climate. Youth and Policy, 105: 5–11. View all references) and their associated traditions of social education. The emphasis on the relational and the social in education might enable a fruitful engagement with feminist approaches especially that of the philosopher Luce Irigaray (1932–present) whose work forms the basis of the engagement with difference which is advocated here. Such an engagement with difference is essential to any democratic project which resists pressures simply to normalise, standardise and contain those involved in education.

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