The ubiquity of the terms ‘diversity’ and ‘inclusivity’ becomes evident when we look at the numerous policy drafts, news items and academic papers/books that touch upon these terms. To the point that various institutions are using these ubiquitous terms as a means of ‘creating evidence of doing something’, while the contrary is the case: creating evidence of doing something is not the same thing as actually doing something (as thoroughly described by Sara Ahmed in her blog post entitled ‘Damage Limitation’, 2019). Education is one of these many institutions that is under scrutiny for not being inclusive and diverse, which has resulted in many attempts to ‘diversify’ the institution, in some cases more ‘seemingly’ successful than others.
Dutch secondary education has not escaped this scrutiny either. Conversations have been, and are being, held on diversity spanning from issues such as the problematics concerning textbooks (being not inclusive enough -or as in the case of history textbooks, being too one sided and Western focused), to conversations concerning ‘outwardly display of religiosity’ (as is the case with conversations about whether the hijab should be allowed or not inside the school walls). These are conversations that are touching on the institutional racist character of Dutch secondary education. Within this contextuality, this PhD project sets out to study how secondary education engages with (cultural) diversity in- and outside of the classroom(s), which is to say the engagement with the (cultural) Other. To study this engagement with diversity, this project operates on the notions of openness, performativity and (cultural) disposition amongst others. This project also sets out to comparatively study secondary education in the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, schools that are situated in ‘large’ cities, cities which have been selected due to their diverse populations (such as: Rotterdam, Amsterdam, London and Manchester).
Questions that are central in this PhD-project: (1) How do secondary education institutions in the Netherlands and the United Kingdom engage with (cultural) diversity on an institutional level? (2) How do secondary education teachers and students in the Netherlands and the United Kingdom perceive themselves in relation to the perceived ‘Other’, in relation to teaching material perceived as ‘diverse’, or ‘not diverse’, and what practices of openness do these teachers and students employ in classroom encounters?
This project is part of the larger Erasmus Initiative ‘Vital Cities and Citizens’ (VCC), which sets out to help improve the life in cities through three sub categories: ‘Migration and Diversity’, ‘Safety and Resilience’ and ‘Culture and Creativity’. One of the main objectives of the VCC Erasmus Initiative is to explore how social changes affect city life and how researchers from different disciplines can work closely together to identify the conditions for equal opportunities in life, safe living environments and harmonious co-existence for an increasingly diverse population.