Education, Autonomy, and Democratic Citizenship: Philosophy in a Changing World

By David Bridges | Go to book overview

5

INDIVIDUALISM, COLLECTIVISM AND EDUCATION IN POST-TOTALITARIAN EUROPE

Felisa Tibbitts

INTRODUCTION

The unitary and collectivist outlook that largely pervaded education in the former Soviet Union prior to 1990 has been met with a reaction of ‘individualism’. Just recently, this impulse appears to be tempering. This ‘too and fro’ in the educational system mirrors the political and philosophical complexities that characterise the region as it struggles to grasp a notion of individualism that rejects collectivism but embraces living in community and tolerance.

In this chapter, I overview developments in political education in schools between 1990 and 1996, relying on my experiences as a project director for national civic and human rights educational projects in Romania, Albania, Estonia and Ukraine, and with broad exposure to the region. I also interviewed educationalists from Romania, Russia, Albania, Slovakia and Lithuania directly on the topics of individualism and collectivism in the classroom.

The reforms of the social sciences in the post-totalitarian countries of Central and Eastern Europe provide a microcosmic lens for examining philosophical and ideological struggles that may well be evident in other circles: academic, political and the artistic. Each of these areas will evidence such struggles in their own way. The educational sector is particularly revealing because the philosophical struggles (a) are semi-public, (b) demand timely resolution (in terms of textbook development and other educational policies), and (c) suggest a country or region’s view about what constitutes ideal citizenship in the long run.

This chapter merely introduces some of the core issues surrounding a very complex relationship between outlook, habit and need. Though the treatment of this rich and important topic is somewhat superficial, it at least provides an opportunity to introduce this subject as an area deserving further attention.


PRE-1989 COLLECTIVISM IN THE SCHOOLS

All countries organise schools to conduct political education, which may be defined as the development of competencies in thinking and acting in political

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