Raising European Citizens: Constructing European Identities in French and English Textbooks
Department of Social Research, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland
Schools play a pivotal role in the formation of identities and in the political socialization of youth. This study explores the social representations of European integration in French and English school textbooks and shows how the social representations are discursively used to construct national and European identities. By analysing the history and civics textbooks of major educational publishers, this study aims to demonstrate how European integration is understood, made familiar and concretized in the school textbooks of the two influential but different European countries. The findings suggest some shared and some diverse patterns in the way the two European countries portray and construct the political project of European integration. These representations, constructed around French Europe in French textbooks and ambivalent Europe in English textbooks, share the images of a strong European economy and a French-led political Europe. However, they position themselves differently with respect to the United States, motivation for the European unification process and the significance of common values and heritage. In both countries textbooks draw upon memories that are important for group identity. While the French textbooks make European integration meaningful in reference to a shared post-war collective memory and to a cultural memory based on a more ancient idea of Europe, shared values and heritage, the English textbooks anchor it more strongly to domestic policy.