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Article

Dianne Gereluk

The dominant premise underlying contemporary educational theory and practice is that citizens are members of political communities who have inherent rights as part of that membership and concomitant responsibilities that inform their beliefs, commitments, capabilities, and actions as members of these same communities. How individuals govern themselves in relation to others within the political community is a primary aim of education in contemporary policy documents, aims, and objectives statements. Yet, despite the urgency and salience of students learning to live together in the face of social division and conflict, the framing of citizenship and ethics in schools varies at least as much as the different visions of what constitutes a good citizen in the first place. This lack of consensus is reflected in how and where citizenship is framed in schools, how it is considered in policy, and how it is interpreted and facilitated in classrooms. Various educational theorists have also conceptualized the notion of citizenship and its place in schools. The variety of perspectives on these questions underscores the difficulties that educators experience in navigating ethical challenges in an educational and social context, where citizenship has become a publicly contested issue.

Article

There is an integral and reciprocal relationship between democracy and education. Democracy is more than a political system or process, it is also a way of life that requires certain habits and dispositions of citizens, including the need to balance individual rights with commitments and responsibilities toward others. Currently, democracy is under threat, in part because of the shallow and reductive ways it has been taken up in practice. Understanding the historical relationship between democracy and education, particularly how democracy was positioned as part of the development of public schools, as well as current approaches to democratic schooling, can help to revitalize the democratic mission of education. Specifically, schools have an important civic role in cultivating in students the habits and dispositions of citizenship, including how to access information, determine the veracity of claims, think critically, research problems, ask questions, collaborate with others, communicate ideas, and act to improve the world. Curriculum, pedagogy, and organizational structures are unique in democratic schools. Developing an active, inquiry-based curriculum; using a problem-posing pedagogy; and organizing schools such that students develop habits of responsibility and social engagement provide our best hope for revitalizing democracy and ensuring that it is not simply an empty slogan but a rich, participatory, justice-oriented way of life.

Article

From colonial times to the modern era the United States has provided adult literacy and basic education (ALBE) for those adults seeking better work, a better home life for themselves and their families, greater educational achievement for their children, and engagement in civic duties for community development. In the Moonlight Schools of Kentucky, illiterate country folk learned to read and write to run their farms and towns better. In the cities, immigrants learned English and their civic duties as citizens in programs of “Americanization.” By the 1960s, civil and voting rights movements helped tens of thousands of African Americans learn to read and write so they could exercise their rights of self-government through democracy. In 1966, the United States established for the first time a national Adult Education and Literacy System (AELS) formed in a partnership of the federal and 50 state governments. From serving some 50 thousand or so adults in its early years the AELS enrollments rose over the next 35 years to around 4 million. Then, following the implementation of a National Reporting System with stringent performance accountability requirements, enrollments fell over the next 20 years to less than 1.2 million. But during all these years the AELS provided basic education aimed at achieving general educational outcomes and benefited from research and development projects leading to the implementation of special programs in which the basic skills of English language, reading, writing, and arithmetic were taught contextualized within the domains of workplace, health, civics, family, and digital knowledge. At the end of the first two decades of the 21st century, the AELS had seen its mandate extended from helping adults gain contextualized skills and knowledge, and the achievement of a secondary school level of education, to gaining access to postsecondary, college, and specialized certificate programs within a career pathway with recurring education and credentialing. There is increasing interest in moving forward with ALBE within a full “lifelong” and “lifewide” AELS.