Consumerism, enterprise and charity: looking good, making money and assuaging guilt

Does the citizenship curriculum and/or education as a whole engender an attitude in children that our main social obligations are market driven such as consuming, making money (enterprise) and charitable giving (to assuage guilt)?

In an increasingly globalised and interconnected world all citizens should have an awareness and understanding of global issues, poverty and inequalities. Renner et al. summarise Paul Farmer’s conception of global inequalities ‘as falling into one of three categories: charity, development or social justice’ (2010, p. 44). They suggest that charity uses a deficit model where the ‘‘server’ operates on the ‘served’, using a deficit model, i.e. ‘they’ are seen as intrinsically inferior’ (ibid.).

Charitable campaigns, such as Red Nose Day, have become an integral part of many primary schools’ annual calendar. This feeds into the dominant discourse that charity through benevolence is seen as intrinsically ‘good’. In this model the ‘best’ response to these existing inequalities is to enact change through charitable donations of money and/or time.

When describing the Make Poverty History campaign, Andreotti criticises the fact that ‘the use of images, figures and slogans emphasised the need to be charitable, compassionate and ‘active’ locally (in order to change institutions), based on a moral obligation to a common humanity, rather than on a political responsibility for the causes of poverty’ (2006, p. 42). She then summarises Dobson in stating that ‘justice is a better ground for thinking as it is political and prompts fairer and more equal relations … being human raises issues of morality; being a citizen raises political issues’ (ibid.).

Does the current education system therefore prepare young people to adequately deal/cope with the major global challenges of the 21st century or does it simply, through a focus on a charitable discourse, contribute to the reproduction of Goffman’s concept of ‘civil inattention’ (1972, p. 385). What strategies do we employ to conveniently not see what is really going on in the world? Is this convenient blindfold applied by others or do we all apply it ourselves in order to cope with the enormous challenges and inequalities that exist in our world today?

Can a compulsory education system be subversive or does it simply contribute to us ‘becoming submerged in a new “culture of silence”’ (Shaull in Freire 2000, p. 33) whereby we focus our main social obligations on consuming, making money (enterprise) and charitable giving (to assuage guilt).

Haynes, J., Gale, K. and Parker, M. (2015). Philosophy and Education: An introduction to key questions and themes. Abingdon: Routledge.
Andreotti, V (2006) ‘Soft versus critical global citizenship education’, Policy & Practice: A Development Education Review, Vol. 3, Autumn, pp. 40-51.
Freire, P. (2000). Pedagogy of the Oppressed (30th anniversary edition). London: Continuum
Goffman, E. (1972). Relations in Public. London: Penguin
Haynes, J., Gale, K. and Parker, M. (2015). Philosophy and Education: An introduction to key questions and themes. Abingdon: Routledge.
Oxfam GB. (2005) Education for global citizenship a guide for schools. [Online] Available at (Last accessed 17/3/16)
Renner, A., Brown, M., Gina Stiens, G., and Burton, S. (2010) A reciprocal global education? Working towards a more humanizing pedagogy through critical literacy. Intercultural Education, 21 (1), 41–54.