ERIC Identifier: ED410176
Publication Date: 1997-01-00
Author: Patrick, John J.
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse for
Social Studies/Social Science Education Bloomington IN.
Global Trends in Civic Education for Democracy. ERIC Digest.
Since the 1980s, there has been a global resurgence of democracy. In various
regions of the world, people of different countries and cultures emphatically
have approved of democratic principles and practices. And they have recognized
that effective civic education is an indispensable means to the establishment
and maintenance of democratic ideals and institutions.
During the 1990s, there has been an unprecedented global dissemination of
information about the theory and practice of democracy and civic education for
democracy. Nine trends have broad potential for influencing civic education in
the constitutional democracies of the world.
TREND 1: CONCEPTUALIZATION OF CIVIC EDUCATION IN TERMS OF THREE INTERRELATED COMPONENTS
Educators throughout the world are recognizing
that civic education is teaching and learning the principles and practices of
democratic governance and citizenship. Its interrelated components are civic
knowledge, civic skills, and civic virtues.
"Civic knowledge" consists of fundamental ideas and information that learners
must know and use to become effective and responsible citizens of a democracy.
In general, civic knowledge includes principles of democratic theory, operations
of democratic governance, and behaviors of democratic citizenship. In
particular, it involves concepts and data about democracy in the learner's
country and comparisons with other countries.
"Civic skills" are the cognitive operations that enable the learner to
understand, explain, compare, and evaluate principles and practices of
government and citizenship. There also are participatory skills that involve
actions by citizens to monitor and influence public policies and the resolution
of public issues. Together, the cognitive and participatory skills involve the
citizen's use of knowledge to think and act competently in response to the
ongoing challenges of democratic governance and citizenship.
"Civic virtues," the third essential component of civic education, are the
traits of character necessary for the preservation and improvement of democratic
governance and citizenship. Examples of civic virtues are respect for the worth
and dignity of each person, civility, integrity, self-discipline, tolerance,
compassion, and patriotism.
TREND 2: SYSTEMATIC TEACHING OF CORE CONCEPTS
Civic educators are systematically teaching concepts about democratic
governance and citizenship. They are emphasizing the criteria by which one
identifies instances or non-instances of fundamental concepts, such as
constitutionalism, representative democracy, and individual rights. And they are
teaching students to use the criteria to organize and interpret information
about political institutions and behavior.
TREND 3: ANALYSIS OF CASE STUDIES
Teachers are requiring students to apply core concepts or principles to the
analysis of case studies. Thus, students may demonstrate that they understand a
concept by using it correctly to organize and interpret information in a case
about the political behavior of individuals and groups. Case studies may also be
about legal disputes decided by judges or juries in a court of law. The use of
case studies brings the drama and vitality of authentic civic life into the
classroom and demands the practical application of academic ideas to make sense
of the data of civic reality. The content of case studies often is taken from
the pages of daily newspapers, weekly news magazines, or televised
TREND 4: DEVELOPMENT OF DECISION-MAKING SKILLS
Case studies of political and legal issues are used by teachers to develop
decision-making skills of students. The issues raised by case studies are
occasions for decisions by citizens. Learners are taught to identify occasions
for decisions, to examine the alternative choices and the likely consequences of
each choice, and to defend one choice as better than the others. This is an
especially effective way to teach students how to apply their cognitive skills
to the realities of civic life.
TREND 5: COMPARATIVE AND INTERNATIONAL ANALYSIS OF GOVERNMENT
The global resurgence of constitutional democracy has
aroused interest in the comparative method of teaching and learning about
government and citizenship. Teachers are requiring students to compare
institutions of constitutional democracy in their own country with institutions
in other democracies of the contemporary world. The expectation is that this
kind of comparative analysis will deepen students' understanding of their own
democratic institutions while expanding their knowledge of democratic
principles. Further, this kind of comparative analysis is likely to diminish
ethnocentrism, as students learn the various ways that principles of democracy
can be practiced (Hall 1993).
TREND 6: DEVELOPMENT OF PARTICIPATORY SKILLS AND CIVIC VIRTUES THROUGH COOPERATIVE LEARNING ACTIVITIES
Teachers are emphasizing
cooperative learning in small groups, which requires students to work together
to achieve a common objective. Through this cooperative learning activity,
students develop various participatory skills and the civic virtues associated
with them. Learners involved regularly in cooperative learning situations tend
to develop such skills as leadership, conflict resolution, compromise,
negotiation, and constructive criticism (Slavin 1991). And they develop such
virtues as toleration, civility, and trust (Stahl and VanSickle 1992).
TREND 7: THE USE OF LITERATURE TO TEACH CIVIC VIRTUES
Civic educators have recognized that the study of literature, both fictional
and historical, exposes students to interesting people who exemplify civic
virtues in dramatic situations. The characters in these stories, therefore, may
become role models for students. At the very least, they are positive examples
of particular civic virtues that can help students understand the meaning and
importance of morality in civic life. Sandra Stotsky, an expert on using
literature to teach civic virtues, stresses the educational value of exposing
learners "to characters who exhibit such traits as courage, hope, optimism,
ambition, individual initiative, love of country, love of family, the ability to
laugh at themselves, a concern for the environment, and outrage at social
injustice" (1992, 1).
TREND 8: ACTIVE LEARNING OF CIVIC KNOWLEDGE, SKILLS, AND VIRTUES Civic
educators are involving students actively in their learning of knowledge,
skills, and virtues. Examples of active learning include systematic concept
learning, analysis of case studies, development of decision-making skills,
cooperative learning tasks, and the interactive group discussions that are
associated with teaching civic virtues through literary study. Intellectually
active learning of knowledge, in contrast to passive reception of it, appears to
be associated with higher levels of achievement. Furthermore, it enables
students to develop skills and processes needed for independent inquiry and
civic decision making throughout a lifetime. These are capacities of citizenship
needed to make a constitutional democracy work.
TREND 9: THE CONJOINING OF CONTENT AND PROCESS IN TEACHING AND LEARNING OF CIVIC KNOWLEDGE, SKILLS, AND VIRTUES
In their development of
curricula and classroom lessons, teachers are recognizing that civic virtues and
skills, intellectual and participatory, are inseparable from a body of civic
knowledge or content. They assume that if learners would think critically and
act effectively and virtuously in response to a public issue, they must
understand the terms of the issue, its origins, the alternative responses to it,
and the likely consequences of these responses. This understanding is based upon
the knowledge of learners. And the application of this knowledge to explain,
evaluate, and resolve a public issue depends upon the cognitive process skills
Basic content or subject matter and fundamental cognitive processes or
operations are interrelated factors of teaching and learning. To elevate one
over the other--content over process or vice versa--is a pedagogical flaw that
interferes with effective civic education. Both academic content and
process--civic knowledge, virtues, and skills-- must be taught and learned in
tandem to fulfill the mission of civic education, which is the development of
individuals with the capacity to establish, maintain, and improve democratic
governance and citizenship in their country and throughout the world.
REFERENCES AND ERIC RESOURCES
Hall, Kermit L. THE POWER OF
COMPARISON IN TEACHING ABOUT CONSTITUTIONALISM, LAW, AND DEMOCRACY. Paper
presented to the Conference on Education for Democracy at The Mershon Center of
The Ohio State University, March 4-7, 1993. ED 372 025.
Kilpatrick, William. BOOKS THAT BUILD CHARACTER. New York: Simon and
Schuster, 1994. ED 384 563.
Quigley, Charles N., and others, eds. NATIONAL STANDARDS FOR CIVICS AND
GOVERNMENT. Calabasas, CA: Center for Civic Education, 1994. ED 375 074.
Ravitch, Diane. DEMOCRACY: WHAT IT IS, HOW TO TEACH IT. Washington, DC:
Educational Excellence Network, 1990. ED 319 650.
Slavin, Robert E. "Synthesis of Research on Cooperative Learning."
EDUCATIONAL LEADERSHIP 48 (February 1991): 71-82. EJ 421 354.
Stahl, Robert J., and R. L. VanSickle, eds. COOPERATIVE LEARNING IN THE
SOCIAL STUDIES CLASSROOM: AN INTRODUCTION TO SOCIAL STUDY. Washington, DC:
National Council for the Social Studies, 1992. ED 361 243.
Stotsky, Sandra, ed. CONNECTING CIVIC EDUCATION AND LANGUAGE EDUCATION. New
York: Teachers College Press, 1991. ED 385 460.
Stotsky, Sandra. THE CONNECTIONS BETWEEN LANGUAGE EDUCATION AND CIVIC
EDUCATION. ERIC Digest. Bloomington, IN: ERIC Clearinghouse for Social
Studies/Social Science Education, 1992. ED 348 318.