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

By David Bridges | Go to book overview

17

EDUCATION FOR DEMOCRATIC CITIZENSHIP IN SCHOOLS

Ken Fogelman

THE INCREASING ATTENTION TO CITIZENSHIP EDUCATION
Attention to and concern about education for citizenship appears to have increased in recent years throughout the world, at least in terms of the extent of discussion and the number of proposals put forward. Of course, some of the reasons for this vary from country to country, but it is possible to identify several common themes (see, for example, contributions in Timmer and Veldhuis 1996). These include concerns about:
• low levels of participation in local and national elections;
• a perceived rise in intolerance, xenophobia and racism;
• the apparent alienation and marginalisation of some young people from the mainstream of society.
In Europe there are two additional elements which give a particular flavour to the debate, namely the desire to promote understanding of and an informed debate on the development of the European Union; and the challenge to education of preparing young people for participation in the newly democratic countries of Eastern and Central Europe. Hammer (1995), though writing specifically about Hungary, offers a list of issues which can certainly be taken as more generally applicable to the former communist countries:
• the public’s lack of experience with public discourse;
• traditional reliance on state paternalism;
• the conflict between the notions of public and private;
• the lack of a sense of social-communal responsibility;
• the traditional role of the intelligentsia and political elites;
• the reluctance to embrace a pluralism of ideas;
• the weakening growth of public involvement in politics.

It would be wrong to suggest that all such issues are unique to the newly democratic countries in Europe or in other parts of the world. Conover et al. (forthcoming), for example, have written of the relative lack of public political discourse in Britain as compared with the United States.

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