Throughout the history of human civilization, various groups have been concerned about persons who are unable to maintain themselves on their own. The attitude towards disadvantaged society members at various stages of the development of states was different. Everything was decided by a community’s distinctive axiological viewpoint – a system of significant, stable, and useful concepts for its members. Social pedagogy has its roots in ethnographic, cultural, and historical traditions, as well as people’s customs; it is predetermined by the state’s socioeconomic development and is founded on moral, religious, and ethical concepts about human values and personality. According to Mollenhauer (1964) (cited in Eichsteller and Holthoff, 2011, p. 36), “anything which may be stated about social pedagogy may be meaningfully stated only in relation to this society.” Throughout most of Europe, social pedagogic principles have been important to the development of social work (Lorenz, 2008). However, despite the variability of social pedagogy across countries, Kornbeck and Rosendahl (2009) (cited in Eichsteller and Holthoff, 2011) state that there are still common values, principles, and conceptual foundations that define social pedagogy.
The history of social pedagogy can be traced back to ancient times when the idea of education as a social phenomenon evolved into conscious action. The transition from a primitive communal system to a slave-owning and a feudal one raised problems of upbringing, protecting children and the weak. During this period, in the course of education and training of social factors, ideas and traditions emerge. The separation of the social component from education coincides with the creation of the socio-pedagogical idea.
In the 17th and 18th centuries, the major scientific conceptions and ideas of social pedagogy, as well as its emergence as an important area of pedagogical knowledge, were created (Eichsteller and Holthoff, 2011). Social education evolves in tandem with social views about society’s structure. The concept of holistic learning or approach is the most important aspect in society’s progress. One of the most prominent figures of that time is Czech philosopher John Amos Comenius, also known as modern pedagogy education (Eichsteller and Holthoff, 2011). He compared the duty of a pedagogue to that of a gardener who cultivates the greatest possible growing conditions. “The proper education of the young consist in opening up their understanding to the outer world, so that a living stream may flow from their minds, just as leaves, flowers, and fruit spring from the bud on a tree” stated Comenius (cited in Eichsteller and Holthoff, 2011, p. 40). Another key figure and one of the founders of social pedagogy is the French philosopher Jean-Jacque Rousseau. He advocated for natural education and stated that learning should begin at the child’s level, that “the momentum for learning was provided by the growth of the person (nature) – and that what the pedagogue needed to do was to facilitate learning opportunities” (cited in Eichsteller and Holthoff, 2011, p. 36). It is important to mention other outstanding philosophers of that time, such as: Henri Saint-Simon, R. Owen, C. Fourier and J. Locke, who emphasized the importance of social control over school curriculum.
The main ideas of social pedagogy of the mid-19th – mid-20th centuries belong to the scientists of Germany. As Comenius, mentioned earlier, Pestalozzi emphasizes a holistic education by addressing “head, heart and hands” in harmony. “Nature forms the child as an indivisible whole, as a vital organic unity with many-sided moral, mental, and physical capacities”. Pestalozzi claimed (cited in Eichsteller and Holthoff, 2011, p. 41). The development of the socio-pedagogical theory was also greatly influenced by I. Herbart, F. Disterweg, P. Natorp, and others. The term “social pedagogy” was first coined in 1844 by a school pedagogue, Karl Mager (Eichsteller, G., and Holthoff, 2011).
Historically, individual casework models predominated in Anglo-American traditions; however, there has been a boom of interest in social pedagogy across the UK in recent years. While individual casework accentuates people’s deficits, social pedagogy distinguishes their possibilities. Eichsteller, G., and Holthoff (2011) state that social pedagogy “emphasizes the idea of human beings as full of potential and possibilities, as intrinsically precious and valuable – a notion that unites the various concepts of different thinkers.” (p.37). Social pedagogy is a complex, integrative science with outputs in practice at different levels and different areas. Like any science, it has its object and subject of study. At first glance, defining these categories is not so difficult. The process of human development in society, based on the full set of his social interactions, is the object, that is, the region of reality that this scientific investigation explores. This process comprises social development and socialization, which refers to an individual’s assimilation of societal norms and expectations. Citizenship, social responsibility, communication, social stability, mobility, and other human attributes are developed on this basis. These processes are also studied by other sciences, however, only social pedagogy analyzes the process of personality formation in a broad social context, encompassing all social influences. Social pedagogy explores ”the linked tasks of preparing individuals for communal and societal life and, at the same time, bringing society as a community to orient its culture and social life towards the personal developmental” (Lorenz, 2008, p. 634).
The subject of science expresses those essential specific connections, sides, and relations of reality studied by this science and helps explain, foresee, and change them in one way or another or influence the objects under study. From these positions, the subject of social pedagogy is social education, its goals, content, essence, principles, methods, and forms of implementation. In its modern interpretation, social education is understood as creating conditions and stimulation of human development, his social formation using all social influences. Thus, the object of social pedagogy is the holistic system of human social interactions. The process of personal-environmental interaction during all age periods of the personality’s being in various spheres of the microenvironment. “Through the positive experience of succeeding in their everyday life, people can develop a self-concept of being resourceful and resilient, thus feeling empowered to take over more responsibility for themselves and others” (Eichsteller and Holthoff, 2011, p. 36). Humanistic concepts like trust, appreciation, human dignity, and equality are at the heart of social education. It is founded on the concept that children, adolescents, and adults have enormous potential, are capable, resourceful, and engaged. Therefore, the main focus of social pedagogy is to empower children, youth, and adults to be self-responsible citizens who accept responsibility for themselves and society.
Both terms “radical social work” and “social pedagogy” refer to a comprehensive approach that integrates theory and practice. The main purpose of radical social work is to use social work skills and expertise not only to serve the disadvantaged but also to create the circumstances for the formation of a socially just society. According to Marx (cited in Turbett, 2014, p. 54), what makes radical approaches different is “an emphasis on identity politics is divisive and inhibits the solidarity between oppressed groups that, is considered essential for radical practice. It is on this basis that we can draw positives from the various anti-oppressive strands.” Social pedagogy promotes human welfare and alleviates social problems. Thus, as well as a social pedagogy, radical social work aims to affect personal and social change.
Radical Social Work theory is considered modernist; however, both social pedagogy and radical social work approaches were rooted in the 19th century. “Marxist-based Radical theory roots lie in the nineteenth-century Enlightenment that saw all things as contributing to a whole” (Turbett, 2014, p. 32). Radical social work representatives believe that the state serves specific dominant interests in society and that it is unable to have a neutral or humanitarian role in the lives of its unprotected citizens. Following the preceding viewpoint, it means that the social worker is a conductor of oppression and discriminating policies and that his actions strengthen the stigmatization processes in society. “The pursuant of Radical theory will take an essentially Marxist view that the problem with society is its economic class base and that this requires challenge if the problems and issues of clients are to be resolved” (Turbett, 2014, p. 32). Both radical and non-radical social adherents believe that the social worker must understand the distribution of forces in society. They see his role as resisting oppressive politics; they see struggle methods as professional methods of changing the relationship between social work services and their users: the services must transfer their strength and capabilities to the users.
Another important job of the radical social worker is to pay attention to the public and draw attention to discriminatory phenomena that society overlooks. Such as the rights of children and adolescents, women, minorities, and others, as well as the disparities in subjective expectations that community has in respect to diverse social, age, gender, and national groups. It is also critical to raise public awareness of the experience and reality of unintentional, unconscious prejudice and oppression in society. Despite all disparities, both theories seek social change, and, as a result, “the person within” is the most essential resource to the social professional (Eichsteller and Holthoff, 2011).
Over the past few decades, primarily radical social work movements have emerged in England. According to Lavalette and Ferguson, radical roots in the UK can be traced in social work back to the nineteenth century (cited in Turbett, 2014, p. 34). The first wave developed in the 1970s from the unorganized socialist movement, and its adherents felt that an affluent state could improve the lives of the poor and socially disadvantaged (Turbett, 2014, p. 34). Social problems were seen as a product of society, explained by structural class inequality in this movement. Previously, social workers considered that the issues stemmed from individual inadequacy or pathology and family dysfunction rather than poverty and disparities in life opportunities. Individual labor, in which the blame for the problems, was placed on an individual’s shortcomings, was neutralized by public social work and group work. The movement emphasized civil rights, particularly the right to free social security, and the formation of progressive political alliances among the general public, consumers, labor unions, interest groups, and political parties. This movement was chastised for failing to address racial and gender inequality and the difficulties of socially marginalized groups such as the disabled, the elderly, and LGBTQIA communities. However, over time, with the social pedagogy development and its influence, the social approach faded into the background. Nowadays, there has been massive progress in social pedagogy in the UK.
While initially focused on residential child care, social pedagogy’s principles are increasingly recognized as applicable across health, social care, and educational contexts in the UK.This shift contributed to the construction of a view of the child as resourceful, active, creative, and capable; a picture of children as active participants in their own lives, valued for both their concerns and their abilities. In newly formed welfare systems, these viewpoints emphasized the preponderance of strengths-focused programs with a preventative orientation. A wide range of social pedagogy qualifications is currently offered, ranging from Level 3 certificates through undergraduate and master’s degree programs.
The Social Pedagogy Professional Association has been operating as a professional center for social pedagogy in the United Kingdom. It has produced standards for social pedagogy and standards for education and training as an affiliate. “Instead of representing society by telling their clients what is wrong with their behavior, decisions or attitudes and what needs to be fixed in their relationships, social workers will represent their service users’ perspectives on social structure, social institutions and social constructions” (Krumer-Nevo, 2016, p.1794). A holistic approach that evaluates the process and becomes a solution stayed relevant in the UK over the last years. Combining both creative and pedagogical ways radically impact organizations across the country.
Eichsteller, G. and Holthoff, S. (2011) ‘Conceptual foundations of social pedagogy: A transnational perspective from Germany’, Social pedagogy and working with children and young people: Where care and education meet, pp.33-52.
Krumer-Nevo, M. (2016) ‘Poverty-aware social work: A paradigm for social work practice with people in poverty’, British Journal of Social Work, 46(6), pp.1793-1808.
Lorenz, W. (2008) ‘Paradigms and politics: Understanding methods paradigms in an historical context: The case of social pedagogy’, British Journal of Social Work, 38(4), pp.625-644.
Turbett, C. (2014) ‘Radical Theory’, in Turbett, C. (eds) Doing radical social work. Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 28-58.
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