Youth’s Citizenship Education, Part 2 from AC4 Grad Student Fellow, Luis Rodrigo Mayorga Camus

Photo: A memorial built by students to remember a former student of their school who was executed during the Pinochet dictatorship.

Schools are complicated institutions. They have schedules, timetables, and closed rooms where people should be – and not be – at particular times. When this system ‘works’, one should be able to know where everybody is, with who, and doing what. Of course, human life is always more complex than that.

My time in the field, studying formal and informal citizenship education practices among Chilean high schoolers, led me to reflect on the particular position an ethnographer occupies inside a school. The school as a system does not allow for the existence of many ‘communicating vessels’. A student who leaves a class to go tell another student in the backyard what their classmates are doing in the classroom is an example of a ‘vessel’, but one that is not sanctioned by the school and who is, most of the times, resisted by it. As an ethnographer, instead, I was able to visit different spaces within the school I worked with, entering and leaving these according to my own interests. In this way, I ended up working as a ‘communicating vessel’ for teachers and students who were not allowed to move around with the same freedom.

I believe this has several implications for educational researchers. One of these is about the temporality experienced by the actors and how it differs according to their own ‘positions’ within this system. A History teacher who goes from one Social Studies class to the next one will experience certain ‘continuities’ – in the topics discussed in each class, for example – that students who go from a Social Studies class to a Math one and then an English one will not. An ethnographer going from one place to another in seemingly disarray, will have a different temporal experience too. Taking this into consideration has been, in fact, one of the main challenges I have faced with my research.

Photo: Students celebrating the Chilean National Day through ‘typical’ dances of the country.


Author: Luis Rodrigo Mayorga Camus, 2018 AC4 Fellow, who is pursuing a doctorate at Teachers College in Anthropology and Education focused on high school students in Chile who are taking initiative for more inclusive and non-sexist education. Rodrigo’s research in Chile examines how the student protests affect traditional citizenship education provided by the State, and produce several new informal citizenship education practices, both inside and outside the space of the school.

All photos provided by author.

Read part one from Luis Rodrigo Mayorga Camus’ reflections, here.

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