“Check your beliefs at the door or get out”: The challenge for citizenship education in Canada

Thomas, T. (3 June, 2015). President’s Spotlight Session paper presentation at the meeting of the Canadian Society for the Study of Education, Ottawa, ON. 


This presentation reports on a study that used corpus-assisted (critical) discourse analysis in order to examine several online discussions surrounding the province of Québec’s proposed Charter of Values. Such an inquiry aimed to highlight the relationships and social configurations that were produced as a result of citizens’ interactions within one relatively unmediated and arguably heterogeneous virtual social space. Framed by radical democratic theory, this research supported an examination of which discursive configurations invited contestation and which did not, thereby revealing the role and consequences of power, authority, and control. Findings from this research reveal that online discussion were framed primarily by discourses of liberal democracy, tolerance, and the current security environment, which are deeply in tension with respect to themselves and to one another.  Significantly, any overt counter-discourse that challenged dominant conceptions of what it means to live in a liberal democracy was quickly delegitimized. Findings from this research project highlight the need for citizenship educators to engage with pedagogical strategies that open up spaces for contestation and conflict surrounding issues of privilege, belonging, and cultural difference.