Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Utopianism and Anti-Utopianism in the Ways Older Ethiopian Children Construct their National Identity and Implications for Social Studies Education
by Debele, Meskerem, Ed.D., University of Cincinnati, 2014, 378; 3685411
Abstract (Summary)

Using critical exploration method (Duckworth, 2006) and constructivist grounded theory approach (Charmaz, 2003), this in-depth qualitative research explores older Ethiopian elementary school children's conceptualization of their national identity. Twelve children between the ages eight and fourteen were recruited from one private and one public elementary school in Ethiopia. They were interviewed on their knowledge, beliefs, and attitude towards their country and their national in-group.

Their responses were analyzed in light of the age-old tension between utopianism and anti-utopianism—a tension that translates to the Tewahedo (Oneness, Unity) versus Dualism debate that became more visible in the 5th century separation of Roman Catholic and Oriental Christologies. The analysis showed that six children gravitated towards the anti-utopian (dualistic) cognitive orientation where as the other six showed a more utopian outlook of their society and their national identity. The two groups had deep differences in their perspective on twelve major areas. These were: on the value of money, on how they see being "human" in relation to being "Ethiopian," on the purpose of work and the public sector, on the what and why of technology, on what counts as valuable knowledge, on the cause and implications of inequality, on what counts as excellence, success, and victory, on nature/environment, on the balance between masculine and feminine principles in the social and natural world, on women and motherhood, on the sense of national continuity and the meaning of change, and on the nature and function of government. The children in the anti-utopian group saw these areas mainly from masculine, militaristic, and dualistic perspective of themselves, their society, their environment, and societal institutions.

The findings from the children's interview were further triangulated by analysis of grades three to five environmental science and social studies textbook contents and insights drawn from social studies teachers' interview. The textbook contents were found to have ironic, self-contradicting, and dehumanizing messages that likely sustain the anti-utopian distortions in the world outlook of the children in the anti-utopian group. The teachers also expressed doubt in their capacity or the curriculums' instrumentality to equip children against the threats of the kind of future (utopia) they hoped for the children (the country).

The bigger picture gained from the data analysis revealed that the political, social, economic, cultural, religious, and educational direction the 21 st Ethiopia is taking is heavily influenced by the dualistic impulse of the Greco-Roman pagan views (specifically, Gnosticism and Mithraism) in the twelve areas listed above. The study suggested twelve corresponding themes for alternative social studies curriculum organization that allows children to learn these topics from a Utopian/ Ethiopian/Christian perspective.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Plevyak, Linda C.
Commitee: Allen-Brown, Vanessa, Johnson, Marcus, Kershaw, Terry
School: University of Cincinnati
Department: Curriculum and Instruction
School Location: United States -- Ohio
Source: DAI-A 76/07(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Elementary education, Social studies education, Curriculum development
Keywords: Curriculum development, Elementary education, Ethiopia, National identity, Social studies, Utopianism
Publication Number: 3685411
ISBN: 9781321614084
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