Teenage citizenship geographies : rural spaces of exclusion, education and creativity
In September 2002 citizenship education became a compulsory element of the secondary school curriculum in England. This policy development launches new interest in the spatial politics of childhood and youth. With increased focus on teenage apathy and declining civic engagement, citizenship education centres upon creating future responsible citizens. Using questionnaire surveys, group discussions, photography, diary completion, as well as more innovative techniques such as a teenage-centred radio phone-in discussion and web-based media, this thesis focuses on a case study of 600 teenagers, aged thirteen to sixteen, living in a variety of rural communities in an area of Southern England. Within many representations of rurality, teenagers are situated between a 'natural, innocent childhood' in idyllic, close-knit communities and threatening and 'out-of place' youths. Such representations foster complex experiences of citizenship. This study, therefore, sets about examining themes of socio-spatial exclusion and political engagement. For some, the deficit of meaningful spaces of citizenship results in frustrated relations with key decision-makers. Others are engaged in their own practices of citizenship, devising creative ways in which to carve out and reconstruct everyday spaces and identities. Contributing to new geographical knowledge(s), this thesis concludes by calling for schools and (rural) communities to support and respect teenagers' own interests, needs, aspirations and current acts of citizenship in their own diverse spaces. Furthermore, it is argued that teenagers, as 'citizen s-i n-th e-p resent' should be provided with the opportunity to engage meaningfully with decision-makers as an integral facet of the political mainstream.