Democratic Citizenship in Schools: Teaching Controversial Issues, Traditions and Accountability

Democratic Citizenship in Schools: Teaching Controversial Issues, Traditions and Accountability

Democratic Citizenship in Schools: Teaching Controversial Issues, Traditions and Accountability

Democratic Citizenship in Schools: Teaching Controversial Issues, Traditions and Accountability

Synopsis

In recent years, a greater emphasis has been placed on how nation states socialize and prepare the next generation of citizens. Schools have a key role in this essential educational process. Both citizenship and democracy figure prominently on education agendas around the world, in response to the considerable challenges facing many modern democracies. These challenges include concerns about political disengagement, devolution of political power, the implications of global interdependence, youth unemployment, and fears about the lack of social cohesion in increasingly diverse and complex societies. The state of research-, policy-, and practice-understanding in these areas receives continuing attention internationally, yet the connection between these three fields remains neglected. However, further progress in education for democratic citizenship is, in part, dependent on the search for structural understanding between them. The approach taken in this book is to integrate the three perspectives around three themes: Democratic Schooling, Teaching Controversial Issues, and Accountability. The scholars and school leaders who have contributed to the book do so from a wide international perspective. Democratic Citizenship in Schools is essential reading for policy makers, researchers, students, and practitioners who are keen to know about the way in which schools can develop democratic forms of citizenship - a most challenging and fundamental question for our times.

Excerpt

The relationship between democratic schooling and citizenship is an important discussion that has yet to be fully embarked upon. In our introduction to this collection we drew attention to a deliberative openness in the concept of ‘citizenship’ over time. Similarly, in his ‘meditation on democracy’, Bernard Crick—chief architect of the (still precarious) existence of the school subject of ‘citizenship’ in England and Wales—described the word ‘democracy’ as both sacred and promiscuous (Crick, 2000b [1996]: p. 191). He drew attention to its mutability of meaning, through history, and to its tendency to substitute for the plurality and contestation that lies beneath: ‘I do not find it helpful to call the system of government under which I live ‘democratic’. To do so begs the question. It can close the door on discussion of how the actual system could be made more democratic …’ (Crick, 2000b [1996]: p. 193).

The three contributions in this section also have a shared recourse in history as they unpack the meanings of democratic schooling. McCulloch explicitly uses the study of historical debates as a central means of coming to terms with our present ideas about democratic schooling. Murphy adopts past, present and future as a device for examining democratic schooling even in the relatively culturally coherent case of a single small nation. Moos refers back to ‘old wisdom’ in his account of democratic schooling in the face of a more recent accountability narrative (see also Pring’s extended discussion of democratic schooling in the themed section on Accountability).

There is a shared emphasis on how contested is the terrain of democratic schooling. Murphy uses examples from a wealth of experience to illustrate the complexities and contradictions of ‘democratic values’ like freedom, equality and fairness in school contexts. For example (and in an echo of elements of Plato’s critique of Greek democracy as mob rule), he . . .

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