Education for democratic citizenship: teaching virtues and values

The role of education institutions in teaching democratic citizenship. Problems of political disengagement, devolution of political power, the implications of global interdependence, youth unemployment, the lack of social cohesion in complex societies.

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Kirovograd Volodymyr Vynnychenko State Pedagogical University

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Education for democratic citizenship: teaching virtues and values

Ivanenko Nadiya Viktorivna

PhD, Associate Professor of the Germanic Languages Chair,

Vice Dean of the Faculty of Foreign Languages


Formulation and justification of the relevance of the problem. In recent years, a greater emphasis has been placed on how nation states socialize and prepare the next generation of citizens. Education institutions have a key role in this essential educational process. Both citizenship and democracy figure prominently on education agendas around the world, in response to the considerable challenges facing many modern democracies. These challenges include concerns about political disengagement, devolution of political power, the implications of global interdependence, youth unemployment, and fears about the lack of social cohesion in increasingly diverse and complex societies. The state of research-, policy-, and practice-understanding in these areas receives continuing attention internationally, yet the connection between these three fields remains neglected. However, further progress in education for democratic citizenship is, in part, dependent on the search for structural understanding between them.

Analysis of recent research and publications. Ukraine is passing through troublesome times. Both the context and the outlooks of young people are constantly changing. Concern about young people's morals has always been a problem in the society. It can be traced from Aristotle through the Middle Ages and Renaissance to the Victorians and into the twentieth century. At the end of the nineteenth century the psychologist William James argued that, in the absence of military combat, young men required a 'moral equivalent of war' as an outlet for their energies, to provide them with discipline and responsibility for older generations [9, p. 117]. Though there is the war in the country, the challenge has not changed. The young people of today think of no-one but themselves. They have no respect for age or their parents. What passes as wisdom for older people is foolishness to them. A lot of people don't know what morality is - it is a boring way of living which is foreign to them. School is just subjects and exams for them. Young people should do things which make them more aware of what is going on in the world.

Many blame the widening of economic inequality which has provoked outpourings of grief, blame and anxiety. Others blame the media, as the media debates have often generated more heat than light. For many young people there is undoubtedly a problem of disaffection, alienation and loss of trust. But there is not so much evidence that, overall, young people are unconcerned with ethical and political issues, or that they are in danger of becoming amoral.

The purpose of the article. The article reviews responses to the perceived need for moral and citizenship education. I argue that, given young people's changing values and expressions of political engagement, education for democratic citizenship and morality should follow principles of responsibility, trust and active reflection. Educators have a moral responsibility to teach moral values and virtues. To become active and mature citizens, young people need certain kinds of knowledge and understanding, for example of political and legal institutions, and concepts such as democracy and freedom. However, I also argue that instruction will only be effective if it can be integrated with young people's emerging understanding and experience of themselves, and the communities that they inhabit. These communities are immediate, local and particular, in contrast to more general ideas and systems which are easily seen as remote, abstract and alien. The most obvious of these communities for young people is the education establishment and I argue that as an institution this is the starting point for developing active, democratic citizenship.

The main material of the study. Citizenship education is a bit amorphous term. It is multidisciplinary, and can lend itself to different interpretations in different political systems and countries. Citizenship education facilitates the promotion of a shared vision in democracy in which all citizens understand, appreciate, and engage actively in civic and political life. They take responsibility for building communities, contributing their diverse talents and energies to solve local and national problems, and deliberating about public issues, influencing public policy, voting, and pursuing the common good. Democratic citizenship involves the inculcation and practice of civic values. Values and valuing are integral elements of knowing, and are important in social activity. Through social activity we internalize and become transmitters of norms in our society. We also receive feedback on how others perceive our judgments and decisions, and given this information, we shape and reshape our values. In such a way valuing and values are learned. Because of that, they may be taught. Students may be taught how to express their values and feelings. They may be taught how to analyze and assign value to known or anticipated consequences. They may also be taught some principles by which they can assign value more successfully and more responsibly.

Nowadays, we can find that our society faces a lot of serious problems, for example NEET which is an acronym for «young people Not in Education, Employment or Training». It is an impotent feeling of the individual in mass society and political apathy. It may lead to decreasing voting. Educators may teach social responsibility, compliance with the law, involvement in local or wider community of young people, who will be in charge of a future society.

What is the evidence of a decline in responsibility and citizenship among the young? In many Western societies there is a clear problem of political alienation. Only thirty-six per cent of under-25s voted in 2016 Brexit election. Eighty- one per cent of those who are over 55 feel that they have a duty to vote (The Gardian). Recent research of Ukrainian newspapers and TV news found that one-third of the younger generation were proud to be 'outside the system', and concluded that for many young people, politics seems to have become a dirty word. Trust in institutions such as the police, the judicial system, parliament, is more threatening, than people.

People are less prepared to respect each other and make an effort to help, and that it is more difficult to trust strangers. As in the past, young people are often seen as representatives of these changes, displaying cultures and attitudes which area alien, hostile to tradition, and difficult for others understand.

It is certainly true that many young people feel alienated from mainstream political institutions, and that values are changing. The shift in young people's values towards greater individualism, desire for authenticity and freedom to fulfill oneself, and their rejection of imposed or traditional general rules, is becoming well- documented, associated with what Ronald Inglehart called 'postmaterialist values' [8, p. 141]. As generations grow up less they are preoccupied with physical and material security than were their parents. Their concerns shift towards issues such as the quality of life, corporate and environmental ethics, and personal freedom to shape the way in which one lives. More basic concerns, of course, do not disappear completely, and often resurface during economic recessions. The picture which emerges from these changes is extremely complicated. It is very hard to discern whether changes in attitudes are due to overall changes in society, in which the young lead the way, or whether young people's attitudes will change as they grow older, and become more similar to those of their parents' generation. Attitudes to sexual morality, for example, have shifted very strongly between generations, and it is unlikely that young people will lose much of their tolerance as they grow older. Attitudes to mainstream politics, however, are more ambiguous. Are young people losing all trust in politicians and political institutions? Are they becoming reengaged in a new style of politics? Are they likely to become more interested as they grow older? At the moment, it is difficult to tell.

Many people associate these changes with the idea that young people are less moral. Their declining interest in marriage, emphasis on individual self-expression, and apparent unwillingness to accept traditional authority, can suggest that morals are less important to them. Harvard academic Peter Hall examined attitudes towards moral relativism among the British, and found that young people were far more likely to disagree with the idea that there are clear guidelines on what is good or evil which apply in every circumstance [12, p. 254-256].

But while it is true that younger generations are less prepared to accept absolute rules without question, too many commentators seem to miss the fact that young people engage with moral issues all the time. Debates over animal welfare judgement, domestic violence, genetics and reproduction, the social rest of corporations, have all become mainstream issues, where they were largely confined to narrow corners of society. It is being confronted by moral dilemmas and conflicts in any area more questionable, however, whether young people are adequate to resolve them successfully.

There is plenty of evidence that young people are still concerned about moral, civic and political issues. The Industrial Society's 2020 Programme found that the social issue of most concern among 12-year-olds was violent crime (Council of the EU). A survey of London found that young people were the age group most concerned at people behaved towards each other in public spaces. A 1991 National Centre for Volunteers found that 55 per cent of 18-year-olds had been involved in some kind of volunteering activity including youth organisations, community volunteering and learning programmes [10]. Large providers of volunteering opportunities have steadily expanded their programme over a last decade in Ukraine. And they found no shortage of willing young people.

Many young people are active in the campaigns preventing building on a green field area or against the close of schools. Young people seem to be far more active than the media image of a selfish, apathetic generation might suggest although many of those interviewed for this study also acknowledged that there could be some peer pressure not to get involved in such activities, as that this was something to be resisted.

It is important to recognise the shift away from more traditional forms of engagement towards self-organised, issues-based activities. Very often young people seem more comfortable being involved in a single project or single-issue campaign than with the idea that they should have a general obligation to be an active citizen. Similarly, as we have seen, less than half as many 18-24-year-olds acknowledge a duty to vote as do those over 55. This is partly because direct involvement in single issues or in local projects is often perceived to have a more direct impact than, for example, joining a political party. The greater attachment to authenticity which the younger generation feels reflects a wider shift in patterns of trust and influence among the whole population. Activities which individuals play a part in shaping, which are chosen rather than required, are more in tune with the changing values of Western societies. But free choice does not necessarily make them less moral. The attraction that many feel towards the idea of relativism stems partly from an important truth about morality: that ethical behaviour is only such when it is freely chosen.

This is crucial for educators and those in authority to remember when they consider moral education. There is a clear difference between prescribing and teaching the specific kinds of behaviour that some of us might like to see, and developing young people's capacities to act as moral agents. Yet much of the debate over teaching right from wrong has often obscured this distinction.

Interestingly, the TSA study also found a degree of ambivalence, particularly among boys and young men, in their perceptions of what counts as voluntary activity. One reason for this was uncertainty about motivation. Many were unsure about whether what they did counted as volunteering because there was a degree of self-interest in their involvement. Others felt that there was something embarrassing about volunteering, making it difficult to admit it to friends and family.

But this ambiguity also illustrates an underlying confusion about what acting morally means. Many young people absorb the implicit message that acting morally and altruistically means being self-sacrificing, rather than working for the mutual benefit of those involved. Behaviour with regard fibers is rarely undertaken purely for altruistic reasons: civil society flourishes through relationships based on reciprocity.

The need to ensure that young people develop their values, motivation and moral judgment to become active, responsible citizens has provoked many recent responses, and led to consultation and proposals on how citizenship might become part of education. Initiated and established under different historical and political circumstances and backgrounds, citizenship education discourse differs from country to country. What is more it has been taught differently in many countries especially in EU. For instance, in England, citizenship education started as a statutory subject in secondary schools. On the other hand, it has been taught as a part of Personal Social and Health Education in primary schools. It is important to find for a more coherent approach recommending how this could be translated into a reshaped curriculum. Educators must decide how education institutions might be supported in their important task of contributing to pupils' spiritual, moral, social and cultural development, and what is more crucial to agree a cross-curricular theme of the national curriculum.

There are many other initiatives in Ukraine and Kirovograd State Pedagogical University in particular and further afield aimed at promoting democratic citizenship. The English Speaking Union Ukraine, for example, has initiated a number of projects including Public Speaking Competition, essay competition for young people, and practical citizenship education projects. It also runs projects aimed at educating young people about the legislative system, including and debating programmes. The ESU plays a similar role, seeking to inform and stimulate debate about global and international citizenship issues. A new educational legislation lent substantial support to the active participation of students in various aspects of university life such as mandatory students' parliaments, which are the best form of education for encouraging students' participation in active citizenship. There are also many more practical, locally-based initiatives in every city and small town. The goal of all these projects and programmes are universal, connecting individuals through membership and engagement to a greater whole. These initiatives begin with the particular, and aim to broaden the horizons of their partici-pants through self-organisation and collaboration.

What is the difference between citizenship and civic education? Civic education is more concerned about democratic processes and people's involvement with that process at all levels. With citizenship the concern is much wider. Partly it is about political engagement but it is also about developing the skills and practicing them which is important for responsible citizenship. For example, being responsible and respectful, understanding how one person's behaviour can affect others and their communities and caring about others.

The purpose of citizenship education in schools and colleges is to make secure and to increase the knowledge, skills and values relevant to the natural environment and practices of participative democracy. It is also to enhance the awareness of rights and duties, and the sense of responsibilities needed for the development of students into active citizens; and in so doing to establish the value to individuals, schools and society of involvement in the local and wider community.

Citizenship education is made of the three strands: social and moral responsibility, community involvement, and political literacy. Social and moral responsibility means that students learn selfconfidence and socially and morally responsible behaviour, both in and beyond the classroom, towards those in authority and towards each other. Community involvement implies the idea that students learn about becoming helpfully involved in life and concerns of their education establishment, neighbourhood and wider communities, including learning through community involvement and service. Political literacy includes students' learning about the institutions, issues, problems and practices of democracy and how citizens can make themselves effective in public life, locally, regionally and nationally through skills and values as well as knowledge.

Conclusions and prospects for future research directions. So, we may conclude that citizenship is more than a statutory subject. If it is taught well and tailored to local needs, its skills and values will enhance democratic life for all, both rights and responsibilities, beginning in school and radiating out.

Finally, citizenship education deals with controversial issues. Education should not attempt to shelter young people from even the harsher controversies of adult life, but should prepare them to deal with such controversies knowledgeably, sensibly, tolerantly and normally. By avoiding dealing with controversial issues, such as current topics about politics, ethics etc, we will not develop students' citizenship and the understanding of democratic society.

Citizenship involves people acting together to address issues of common concern to maintain a democratic culture and to improve society. To achieve this goal, citizenship education teaches knowledge, understanding about politics, law and economy and skills to participate effectively and responsibly in public and democratic life. Through citizenship education, students explore questions about democracy, justice, inequality, how we are governed and organized. They learn to work together to create solutions that try to address challenges facing neighbourhoods and wider communities. And of course young people develop political literacy to make a positive contribution to society as informed and responsible citizens.

education democratic citizenship


1. Bentley T. (1998). Learning Beyond the Classroom. Education for a Changing World. - London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1998. - 200 pp.

2. Brown J., Ross H., Munn P. (2012). Democratic Citizenship in Schools: Teaching Controversial Issues, Traditions and Accountability, Dunedin Academic Press: Edinburgh, 2012. - 192 pp.

3. Council Conclusions of 12 May 2009 in Strategic framework for European cooperation in education and training 2020 / Official Journal of European Council, May 2009.

4. Fielding, M. (2004). `New wave ' student voice and the renewal of civic society / London Review of Education, vol. 2, no. 3, 2004. - P. 197-217.

5. The Gardian 28/young-people-bad-voting-millennials-eu-vote- politics

6. Hall, Peter (2012). Democratic Decline and Democratic Renewal: Political Change in Britain, Australia and New Zealand, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2012. - 383 pp.

7. Hilton, Samuel (2004). Citizenship Education in Ukraine: Teaching the Teachers, Salt Lake City, Eastern Kentucky University.

8. Inglehart, Ronald (2008). Changing values among western publics from 1970 to 2006. West European Politics, Issues 31(1-2). -P 130-146.

9. James, William (1982). Essays in Religion and Morality / Introduction by John J. McDermott, Harward University Press, 1982. - 380 pp.

10. McDonough, K., Feinberg, W. (2005). Citizenship and Education in Liberal-Democratic Societies: Teaching for Cosmopolitan Values and Collective Identities, Oxford University Press, 2005 - 456 pp.

11. Mosher R., Kenny R. et. (1994). Preparing for Citizenship: Teaching Youth to Live Democratically, Andrew Garrod Praeger, 1994. - 194 pp.

12. United Nations (2015). Transforming our world: the 2030 agenda for sustainable development, available at www. - content/uploads/sites/3/2015/08/120815_outcome- document-of-Summit-for-adoption-of-the-post-2015- development-agenda.pdf, accessed 17 February 2016.


ІВАНЕНКО Надія Вікторівна - кандидат філологічних наук, доцент кафедри практики германських мов, заступник декана факультету іноземних мов Кіровоградського державного педагогічного університету імені Володимира Винниченка.

Наукові інтереси: порівняльна та міжнародна освіта, громадянське виховання.


IVANENKO Nadiya Viktorivna - PhD, Associate Professor of the Germanic Languages Chair, Vice Dean of the Faculty of Foreign Languages, Kirovograd Volodymyr Vynnychenko State Pedagogical University.

Circle of interests: comparative and international education, citizenship education.

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