Democracy and citizenship

 Theoretical background

“Citizenship education in the late 1990 reached the top of the political agenda as a result of a number of civic and social concerns. A range of research data appeared to confirm what many have already assumed or suspected: that there were deteriorating social and cultural conditions in England and that political and voluntary participation in the affairs of society was in decline.

It was found that community networks were breaking down and that there was less trust of and responsibility to neighbors and even less trust in the institutions of society itself. This breakdown in social norms was especially marked among the young and manifested itself in anti-social behavior, increased truancy and exclusions from schools, high teenage pregnancy levels and increased alienation from the political process of democratic society.

Moral and civil values appeared to be lacking in school pupils and there was much discussion of a ‘social recession’ or ‘deficit in civil society’. Citizenship education was recognized once again as a possible solution to these social ills.” From Teaching citizenship in the secondary school James Arthur and daniel Wright

Teaching Democracy in schools

Recently the Government has been starting to crack the whip to implement teaching democracy in school. There are some shortcomings to the education of citizenship in schools. The most obvious warning being, “The last place to seek advice concerning democracy is from a government of any description,” or indeed a government education system.

While the Crick report and literature designed to guide teaching staff offers a wide view of the concerns of citizenship in a democracy, the teaching of such matter in school will be compressed into an already stuffed curriculum and begs the questions.

How do you assess a teacher’s ability to ‘teach’ citizenship? How do you assess the student’s ability to understand what it means?

How do you keep Government bias out of teaching citizenship?

Such as Tony Blair’s Partners in Europe pack extolling the virtues of the EU which was sent to every school by Baroness Blackstone and the department of education and employment. So much for unbiased. And will a pro EU Government highlight the cutting back of democracy that is inherent in a pan Europe?

How much of this learning will reach or be exercised in the community? How do the unemployed feed into such knowledge? The teaching of citizenship in schools could end up mearly as an academic exercise unless it is backed up, shared, and experienced, in the community. As the educator John Dewey proposes, “it’s not what you learn but how you learn” and could be added where you learn. And the last question. How do you teach democracy in an undemocratic institution, such as a school.

Understanding Democracy and Citizenship Workshop

As has been mentioned before People send their kids and parents attend dance class, drama class, and art classes. Less than 1 per cent of these children will take up dancing acting or art as a full time career yet classes are crowded because they are enjoyed.(Papanek) The idea of understanding citizenship and democracy is to make the subject interesting and enjoyable and explore it at street level. Through the exploration of architecture, culture and the environment for example, for while most of us do not take up professional dancing, or indeed architecture, we do all spend most of our lives in buildings and we all end up as citizens, educated or not. Therefore the closer the education is to the reality of the situation the more relevant the lesson.

Democratic creativity

Creative diversity of occupation was not too unusual some years ago, when the office worker became the amateur scientist, or cabinetmaker, in the evenings or at weekends. Although his is not to be confused with the modern or contemporary condition, where a person has to take on three different jobs to make ends meet and hates each one of them. Which has the same debilitating effect of the person who has no job and does nothing at all. The awareness of the therapeutic and creative stimulant of such diversity experienced both in my work and social activity is what made me decided to use it to formulate a course, workshops, and discussions concerning community awareness, citizenship, and the understanding of democracy.

As more and more people young and old are becoming disengaged from the world because they don’t know how to affect the deterioration they see happening around them. Having access to tools of conviviality, apparatus and sympathetic expertise helps and goes some way in build a respectful and creative community.

Democratic Architecture

“With the vast amounts of tax payers money spent by the authorities on public works, how then are the public expected to asses such public building projects in terms of their usefulness to the community. Architecture and design are treated as vocational subjects. Why are design and architecture not treated as social subjects early on at school? In a multi materialistic society the assessment of design quality in building and when purchasing goods, would be of economic and practical use to most people, after all people are born in buildings, and spend most of their life in them” (Pap.)

The aim of the workshops is to emphasize the value of community.To act, and through action gaining the confidence we all need to continue in our chosen path or day-to-day life. There are many ways to build confidence. From my own experience I know people respect you if you can fix things, doors, shelves, simple electrics and such like, and people who can fix things also respect themselves. It is important that people get involved and engaged in practical and meaningful things in their community and family life, as well as developing the skills that offer a voice in environment and community affairs. Especially in an unwaged environment. And it is also important that people in full employment realize that they have much in common with those less financially fortunate than themselves as citizens in the democratic process, in stemming a modern poverty that robs even the well off of the ability to do things for themselves



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