Relationship between democracy and civic education definition

Civic Education (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)

relationship between democracy and civic education definition

Keywords: civic education; learning democracy; political participation; young people generally accepted definition about civic education in political science, this . democracy approach is the close relationship between democracy and civic. In a constitutional democracy, productive civic engagement requires and ideas essential to constitutional democracy; Relationship between. the seminal report of the National Education Association's Committee on. Social Studies by Civic Education Through Democratic School Organization. 23 The statements below attempt to define the social studies and its goals in.

That does not mean, however, that democracy should be presented as utopia. Democracy is not utopian, and citizens need to understand that lest they become cynical, apathetic, or simply withdraw from political life when their unrealistic expectations are not met. To be effective civic education must be realistic; it must address the central truths about political life.

Its statement of purpose calls for more realistic teaching about the nature of political life and a better understanding of "the complex elements of 'the art of the possible'.

Civic and Voter Education

The sense that politics can always bring another day, another chance to be heard, to persuade and perhaps to gain part of what one wants, is lost. Political education today seems unable to teach the lessons of our political history: Persistent civic engagement-the slow, patient building of first coalitions and then majorities-can generate social change. Carter and Elshtain, A message of importance, therefore, is that politics need not, indeed must not, be a zero-sum game. The idea that "winner takes all" has no place in a democracy, because if losers lose all they will opt out of the democratic game.

Those parents believe that the way of life that they currently follow is not simply best for them but is best simpliciter. To introduce choice is simply to confuse the children and the issue. If you know the true way to live, is it best to let your children wade among diverse ways of life until they can possibly get it right? Or should you socialize the children into the right way of life as soon and as quickly as possible? Yet what about the obligations that parents, as citizens, and children as future citizens, owe the state?

How can children be prepared to participate in collectively shaping society if they have not received an education in how to deliberate about choices? To this some parents might respond that they are not interested in having their children focus on participation, or perhaps on anything secular. What these parents appreciate about liberal democracy is that there is a clear, and firm, separation between public and private, and they seek to focus exclusively on the private.

Citizenship offers protections of the law, and it does not require participation. Liberal democracy certainly will not force one to participate. However much critical thinking plays in democratic character, active participation requires something more than mere skills, even thinking skills. Coleman to refer to the value that is inherent in social networks see, e. The political scientist Robert Putnam subsequently argued that democracies function well in proportion to the strength of their social capital and that social capital is declining in the United States It is the use--or ability to use--social networks to address common problems, such as crime.

Sampson finds that the level of collective efficacy strongly predicts the quality of life in communities Sampson, If governments and communities function much better when people have social networks and use them for public purposes, then civic education becomes important and it is substantially about teaching people to create, appreciate, preserve, and use social networks.

A pedagogical approach like Service Learning see below might be most promising for that purpose. These problems are endemic and serious, sometimes leading to environmental catastrophe and war. Ostrom, however, discovered many principles that allow people to overcome such problems. She wrote, At any time that individuals may gain from the costly action of others, without themselves contributing time and effort, they face collective action dilemmas for which there are coping methods.

Some aspects of the science of association are both counterintuitive and counterintentional, and thus must be taught to each generation as part of the culture of a democratic citizenry. Ostrom Ostrom believed that these principles could be taught explicitly and formally, but the traditional and most effective means for teaching them were experiential. She argued that the tendency to centralize and professionalize management throughout the 20th century had deprived ordinary people of opportunities to learn from experience, and thus our capacity to address collective action problems had weakened.

Along with her husband Vincent Ostrom, Elinor Ostrom developed the idea of polycentric governance, according to which we are citizens of multiple, overlapping, and nested communities, from the smallest neighborhoods to the globe. Collective action problems are best addressed polycentrically, not reserved for national governments or parceled out neatly among levels of government.

As president of the American Political Science Association and in other prominent roles, Ostrom advocated civic education that would teach people to address collective action problems in multiple settings and scales. Proponents debate precisely what qualifies as deliberation, but there is a general agreement that the discussion should be inclusive, free, equitable, and in some sense civil.

In practical terms, deliberative democracy implies various efforts to increase the amount and the impact of public discussions. See Gutmann and Thompson for an example of a sophisticated treatment that draws on many earlier works. Concretely, that means that people should develop the aptitude, desire, knowledge, and skills that lead them to read and discuss the news and current events with diverse fellow citizens and influence the government with the views that they develop and refine by deliberation.

Practices such as discussing and debating current events in school seem especially promising.

  • Citizenship Education for the 21st Century
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  • Civic Education

Boyteargues for the centrality of work to citizenship. We are not only citizens when we vote, read and discuss the news, and volunteer after school or work--which are all unpaid, voluntary activities. We are also citizens on the job; and even when we perform unpaid service, we should see our contributions as work-like in the sense that they are serious business.

Citizens do not merely monitor and influence the government per the theory of deliberative democracy nor serve other people in community settings emphasized in the idea of social capital ; they also literally build, make, and maintain public goods.

relationship between democracy and civic education definition

They do so whether they work in the public, private, or nonprofit sectors, for pay or not. Young people should gain skills and agency by actually making things together.

A good outcome is an individual who will be able to contribute to the commonwealth through her or his work. Albert Dzurwho holds a kindred but not identical view, emphasizes the importance of revising professional education so that professionals learn to collaborate better with laypeople.

The Good Person The qualities of the good citizen are not simply the skills necessary to participate in the political system. They are also the virtues that will lead one to participate, to want to participate, to have a disposition to participate. Citizens, that is, ought to display a certain kind of disposition or character.

As it turns out, and not surprisingly, given our perspective, in a democracy the virtues or traits that constitute good citizenship are also closely associated with being a good or moral person. Missing, he argues, is a central character trait, a disposition to participate. One group comprises political theorists such as Galston, Battistoni, Benjamin Barber, and Adrian Oldfield who often reflect modern-day versions of civic republicanism.

This group wishes to instill or nurture[ 7 ] a willingness among our future citizens to sacrifice their self-interests for the sake of the common good. The second group does not see democratic participation as the center, but instead sees democratic participation as one aspect of overall character education.

Central to the mission of our public schools, on this view, is the establishing of character traits important both to individual conduct being a good person and to a thriving democracy being a good citizen. The unannounced leader of the second group is educational practitioner Thomas Lickona, and it includes such others as William Bennett and Patricia White. It is difficult, comments British philosopher R.

Many advocates of character education are vague on just this distinction, and it might be helpful to propose that character consists of traits that are learned, while personality and temperament consist of traits that are innate.

The term comes from the world of engraving, from the Greek term kharakter, an instrument used for making distinctive marks.

relationship between democracy and civic education definition

Thus character is what marks a person or persons as distinctive. Character is not just one attribute or trait. Thus character traits are associated, if not synonymous, with virtues. So a good person and, in the context of liberal democracy, a good citizen will have these virtues.

Who determines what the good is? This might be problematic. What occurs when the set of virtues of the good person clashes with the set of virtues of the good citizen? What is thought to be good in one context, even when approved by society, is not necessarily what is thought to be good in another.

Should the only child of a deceased farmer stay at home to care for his ailing mother, or should he, like a good citizen, join the resistance to fight an occupying army? What do we do when the requirements of civic education call into question the values or beliefs of what one takes to be the values of being a good person? Hawkins County Board of Education just such a case occurred.

Should the Mozerts and other fundamentalist Christian parents have the right to opt their children out of those classes that required their children to read selections that went against or undermined their faith?

On the one hand, if they are permitted to opt out, then without those children present the class is denied the diversity of opinion on the reading selections that would be educative and a hallmark of democracy. On the other hand, if the children cannot opt out, then they are denied the right to follow their faith as they think necessary.

William Bennett pushes for the virtues of patriotism, loyalty, and national pride; Amy Gutmann wants to see toleration of difference and mutual respect. Can a pacifist in a time of war be a patriot? Is the rebel a hero or simply a troublemaker? Should our teachers teach a prescribed morality, often closely linked to certain religious ideas and ideals? Should they teach a content only of secular values related to democratic character?

These two approaches—a prescribed moral content or values clarification—appear to form the two ends of a character education spectrum. At one end is the method of indoctrination of prescribed values and virtues, regardless of sacred or secular orientation.

relationship between democracy and civic education definition

But here some citizens will express concern about just whose values are to be taught or, to some, imposed. At the other end of the spectrum is values clarification,[ 12 ] but this seems to be a kind of moral relativism where everything goes because nothing can be ruled out. In values clarification there is no right or wrong value to hold. There is no middle path that can cut a swath through imposition on one side and clarification on the other. Here students can think about and think through what different moral situations require of persons.

Even critical thinking, however, requires students to be critical about something. That is, we must presuppose the existence, if not prior inculcation, of some values about which to be critical. What we have, then, is not a spectrum but a sequence, a developmental sequence. Character education, from this perspective, begins with the inculcation in students of specific values.

But at a later date character education switches to teaching and using the skills of critical thinking on the very values that have been inculcated. This approach is in keeping with what William Damon, an expert on innovative education and on intellectual and moral development, has observed: The process, therefore, would consist of two phases, two developmental phases.

Phase One is the indoctrination phase. Yet which values do we inculcate? Perhaps the easiest way to begin is to focus first on those behaviors that all students must possess. Every school, in order to conduct the business of education, reinforces certain values and behaviors. Teachers demand that students sit in their seats; raise their hands before speaking; hand assignments in on time; display sportsmanship on the athletic field; be punctual when coming to class; do not cheat on their tests or homework; refrain from attacking one another on the playground, in the hallways, or in the classroom; be respectful of and polite to their elders e.

From the ethos come the requisite virtues—honesty, cooperation, civility, respect, and so on. Here the lessons are more didactic than behavioral. One point of civic education in a democracy is to raise free and equal citizens who appreciate that they have both rights and responsibilities. Students need to learn that they have freedoms, such as those found in Bill of Rights press, assembly, worship, and the like in the U.

Basic Civic Education —

But they also need to learn that they have responsibilities to their fellow citizens and to their country. This requires teaching students to obey the law; not to interfere with the rights of others; and to honor their country, its principles, and its values.

Schools must teach those traits or virtues that conduce to democratic character: So we inculcate in our students the values and virtues that our society honors as those that constitute good citizenship and good character. But if we inculcate a love of justice, say, is it the justice found in our laws or an ideal justice that underlies all laws? Obviously, this question will not arise in the minds of most, if any, first graders.

As students mature and develop cognitively, however, such questions will arise. So a high-school student studying American History might well ask whether the Jim Crow laws found in the South were just laws simply because they were the law. Or were they only just laws until they were discovered through argument to be unjust? Or were they always unjust because they did not live up to some ideal conception of justice? Then we could introduce Phase Two of character education: Judgment is based on weighing and considering reasons and evidence for and against propositions.

Judgment is a virtue that relies upon practical wisdom; it is established as a habit through practice. Judgment, or thoughtfulness, was the master virtue for Aristotle from whose exercise comes an appreciation for those other virtues: Because young children have difficulty taking up multiple perspectives, as developmental psychologists tell us, thinking and deliberating that require the consideration of multiple perspectives would seem unsuitable for elementary-school children.

Peters offers an important consideration in this regard: The cardinal function of the teacher, in the early stages, is to get the pupil on the inside of the form of thought or awareness with which he is concerned. At a later stage, when the pupil has built into his mind both the concepts and the mode of exploration involved, the difference between teacher and taught is obviously only one of degree.

For both are participating in the shared experience of exploring a common world But the difference is always one of degree. Elementary-school students have yet to develop the skills and knowledge, or have yet to gain the experience, to participate in phase- two procedures that require perspectivism.

In this two-phased civic education teachers inculcate specific virtues such as patriotism. But at a later stage this orientation toward solidifying a conventional perspective gives way to one of critical thinking.

The first requires loyalty; the second, judgment. We teach the first through pledges, salutes, and oaths; we teach the second through critical inquiry. Have we introduced a significant problem when we teach students to judge values, standards, and beliefs critically? Students need to see and hear that disagreement does not necessarily entail disrespect.

Thoughtful, decent people can disagree. To teach students that those who disagree with us in a complicated situation like abortion or affirmative action are wrong or irresponsible or weak is to treat them unfairly. It also conveys the message that we think that we are infallible and have nothing to learn from what others have to say. Such positions undercut democracy.

Relationship Between General and Civic Education —

Would all parents approve of such a two-phased civic education? Yet the response to such parental concerns must be the same as that to any authority figure: Why do you think that you are always right?

DEMOCRACY(Educational Sociology)

This, however, presupposes that parents, or authority figures, are themselves willing to exercise critical judgment on their own positions, values, and behaviors.

This point underscores the need to involve other social institutions and persons in character education. Modern Forms of Civic Education In the United States, most students are required to take courses on government or civics, and the main content is essentially political science for high school students.

In other words, they use textbooks and other written materials to learn about the formal structure and behavior of political institutions, from local government to the United Nations Godsay et al.

relationship between democracy and civic education definition

The philosophical justifications for this kind of curriculum are rarely developed fully, but probably an underlying idea is that citizens ought to play certain concrete roles--voting, monitoring the news, serving on juries, petitioning the government--and to do so effectively requires a baseline understanding of the political system. Specific policies should result from a deliberative process to define the educational opportunities that all students must receive and to select appropriate outcomes for civic education — all overseen by a court concerned with assessing whether civic education is constitutionally "adequate.

All 50 states and the District of Columbia have adopted standards for civics as part of social studies Godsay et al, The logic of moving from question-generation to ultimately action suggests an implicit theory of civic engagement. In the subsequent sections, we examine some proposals for alternative forms of civic education that are also philosophically interesting.

Ideally, the students take their experience and observations from service into their academic work, and use their academic research and discussions to inform their service. Jerome Bruner, the renowned educator and psychologist, proposed that some classroom learning ought to be devoted to students creating political-action plans addressing significant social and political issues such as poverty or race.

He also urged educators to get their students out into the local communities to explore the occupations, ways of life, and habits of residence. Bruner is here following Dewey, who criticized traditional education for its failure to get teachers and students out into the community to become intimately familiar with the physical, historical, occupational, and economic conditions that could then be used as educational resources Dewey To bring them out of this private and passive understanding, nothing is better, as Tocqueville noted, than political participation.

The kind of participation here is political action, not simply voting or giving money. Another influence on service-learning is the theory of social capital, described above. If a democracy depends on people serving one another and developing habits and networks of reciprocal concern--and if that kind of interaction is declining in a country like the United States--then it is natural to encourage or require students to serve as part of their learning.

We can think of civic action as participation that involves far more than serving, voting, working or writing a letter to the editor. It can take many other forms: Youth Organizing is a widespread practice that engages adolescents in civic or political activities. That is a cognitively and ethically demanding activity that can be learned from experience.

The most promising pedagogy is to discuss current events with a moderator--usually the teacher--and some requirement to prepare in advance. Debates are competitive discussions. Simulations such as mock trials or the Model UN involve discussing issues from the perspective of fictional or historical characters. And deliberations usually involve students speaking in their own real voice and trying to find common ground.

For instance, should a teacher disclose her or his own views or attempt to conceal them to be a neutral moderator? What questions should be presented as genuinely controversial?

Most people would insist that slavery is no longer a controversy and should not be treated as such. But what about the reality of climate change? School as Community John Dewey argued that, from the 18th century onward, states came to see education as the best means of perpetuating and recovering their political power.

In other words, it is in democratic states that we want to look for the preparation of good persons as well as good citizens; that is, for democratic education, which in this context, to repeat for emphasis, is what is meant by civic education. Creating a democratic culture within the schools not only facilitates preparing students for democratic participation in the political system, but it also fosters a democratic environment that shapes the relationships with adults and among peers that the students already engage in.


Real problems, and not hypotheticals or academic exercises, are, Dewey argued, always of real concern to students. Book lessons and classroom discussions rarely connect with decision-making on issues that affect that community. The experiences that he wanted to promote were those that underscored healthy growth; those, in other words, that generated a greater desire to learn and to keep on learning and that built upon prior experiences.

One logical, and practical, possibility was to make the operations of the school part of the curriculum. Let the students use their in-school experiences to make, or help make, decisions that directly affect some of the day-to-day operations of the school—student discipline, maintenance of the grounds and buildings, problems with cliques, issues of sexism and racism, incidents of ostracism, and the like—as well as topics and issues inside the classrooms.

It is not surprising that Dewey wanted to give students experience in making decisions that affect their lives in schools. What is surprising is that so little democracy takes place in schools and that those who spend the most time in schools have the least opportunity to experience it. The significance of democratic decision-making within the schools and about the wider community—the making of actual decisions through democratic means—cannot be overstated.

As a propaedeutic to democratic participation, political action of this sort is invaluable. Of course, not everything in school should be decided democratically. There are some areas in which decisions require expertise—a combination of experience and knowledge—that rules out students as decision-makers.