civic education after trump
no. 01_march 2018
The rise of right-wing populist movements across Europe and the world, and the election of Donald Trump as the 45th president of the United States, are perceived as a massive crisis of liberal democracy. The label `Trump´ has since then symbolised a widespread perplexity and confusion that pervades contemporary debates about the future of democracy and liberalism.
For a long time now, liberal theorists have championed the idea that citizenship is the task of the school. Notwithstanding substantive disagreement among these theorists, all liberal accounts share the same basic faith concerning both the duty and the ability of schools to do what their theories require.
Trump’s emergence was enabled by numerous factors that have toxified American politics over several decades, and for which both parties bear some responsibility. Among these factors is what we might call the partisanisation of politics.
It is a truism that public school teachers should not take partisan stands in the classroom in ways that discourage students from considering or adopting alternative reasonable perspectives. At least three arguments support this widespread belief.
How should teachers react when a ‘populist’ or nationalist politician, someone with illiberal or authoritarian tendencies, comes to power in a formally legitimate election? This question has rarely been discussed directly in Anglo-American political philosophy, but has been present in German educational discourse.
The `age of Trump´ has made me appreciate anew the uncompromising political thought of Jacques Rancière. In this short essay, I argue that rage and resentment are not the only politically relevant forms of anger, and that intransigence and indignation are the forms of anger that feature prominently in Rancière’s conception of political disagreement.
In this short essay, we focus on the need for developing students’ sense of a shared fate in digital contexts, and the role schools could play in this effort. We describe the need for digital civics, and make the case for three specific shifts in the norms for online civic exchanges, focusing on how a sense of shared fate can inform individuals’ roles and responsibilities.
The two big political campaigns of 2016 that led to a vote for Brexit in the UK and the election of Donald Trump as president in the USA seemed to actively engage many people who had not previously been involved in politics. In both cases `underdog´ campaigns, which were initially expected to lose, claimed that the ‘mainstream media’ were biased against them and in collusion with the ‘establishment’.
Teaching children to respect one another in the face of disagreement is one of the more important civic virtues of any political system that puts respect for persons at its core. Only when we are capable of equal respect for others will we have the hope of combating the vitriol so characteristic of contemporary political debate.
Giesinger’s assessment is based on a misunderstanding. Humboldt develops his construction precisely not with respect to the liberal state, but to the monarchic and absolutist state. Democratic states, according to Humboldt, both in antiquity and in his own days, have certainly intervened into individual education and limited liberties.
Michael Merry makes some insightful criticisms of Citizenship Education (CE) and its claims to promote deliberative reasoning and critical thinking which are associated with liberal democracies. However, he extends the scope of his criticism to include schooling and education in general. While I agree with his criticisms of CE specifically, I disagree with his more generalised criticisms of education.
In their article “The Paradox of Partisanship,” Meira Levinson and Ellis Reid take up the daunting issue of teaching controversial issues. Much has been said on the topic in recent years and most of what has been said has focused on the question of what exactly constitutes a controversial issue. While there are various criteria that have found their place in the discussion, I want to focus on another issue addressed by Levinson and Reid: namely, the questions that arise after an educator knows they are teaching a controversial issue.
In this brief response, I defend liberal theories of citizenship education – especially those based on John Rawls’ political liberalism – against Merry’s critique, and I also attempt to shed light on what I think is their enduring significance in view of today’s political climate.
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