Teachers’ Stories of Engaging Students in Controversial Action Projects on the Island of Ireland


  • Majella McSharry Dublin City University
  • Mella Cusack




Civic, Social and Political Education (CSPE) in the Republic of Ireland and Local and Global Citizenship (LGC) in Northern Ireland keenly promote students’ active participation in society. However, the purpose of this participation is not necessarily to encourage students to campaign for change in the present but rather that ‘students are given opportunities to engage in actions and develop skills that will contribute to their becoming active participatory citizens in later life’ (NCCA (2005) CSPE Guidelines for Teachers, p. 59). This often gives rise to a culture of passive citizenship and a tendency to focus on ‘action projects’ that are safe and self-contained.

This paper focuses on a five action projects carried out by a sample of teachers and students that may be considered ‘controversial’. In each case students actively campaign for equality and social justice, on local or global human rights issues and in ways that may be deemed controversial. It examines how the mainstream curriculum and school structures facilitate or impede this type of controversial action and explores the potential opportunities for greater engagement in such action through proposed curriculum reform.