Citizenship education in the post cold war era: Problems of pedagogical legitimization

Issue 1

“Citizenship education in the post cold war era: Problems of pedagogical legitimization”

Athanassios Gotovos

Page 67-129


Globalization processes have an impact on education to the extent that curricula and institutional structures at the national level cannot any longer be just a matter of national educational policy. Economic processes associated with the globalization of the market, with information technology and the post cold war global political power structures shape the socio-political reality towards which schools need to adapt their curricula, the content of learning and their practices. Citizenship education, either in the form of political socialization or in the form of knowledge, attitudes, values and skills a citizen must acquire for today’s and tomorrow’s world, has been both a theoretical and a practical issue at the school level and at the same time a controversial subject in the political and academic educational discourse. Socializing young children and adolescents for the role of the citizen requires (a) a concept of the world within which the individual is being prepared to function as a citizen, (b) an orientation as to the perspective from which social and political reality should be viewed. The bipolar post second world war order created the conditions for the gradual emergence of an educational discourse in the East and the West, legitimizing the peaceful coexistence of different socio-political, ideological, cultural and economic systems and realities. This cold war discourse emphasized the policies of participation and negotiation as respected tools for confidence building and conflict resolution. Global values tended to be negotiated values and citizenship within a national state was considered to be a legitimate way of participating in the global political, cultural and economic reality. This more or less harmonious picture of global partners, cooperating in order to achieve peace, justice, prosperity and stability in an everlasting positive world order, was questioned after the collapse of the former Soviet Union as a global power in 1989 and the emergence of the United States as the sole superpower. This shift in power at the global level created a disparity between the citizenship education discourse of the peaceful co-existence era and that of the new state and global reality. Since reality no longer fits the ideological paradigm of co-existence and national states have not yet defined clearly their stand towards the new world order, teachers face difficulties concerning the identity of the subject “citizenship education” in the curriculum. Students may exert pressure on teachers to change their established discourse of describing and interpreting socio-political reality and teachers may not feel prepared or authorized to move in a new direction. Maintaining the old paradigm though may create considerable strain for the individual teacher, owing to the fact that his/her credibility is in danger each time he/she presents reality as if it were compatible with the established peaceful co-existence and global democracy. As long as the educational bureaucracies of national states are not in a position to define the nation’s role in the new global context and thus provide a framework for the orientation of civic education as a subject of teaching, this type of school- based learning will take place in a rather controversial and counterproductive field. At the same time, it is expected to generate tension in the teacher-student relationship which cannot operate without a minimum of mutual trust. Future empirical research will be needed in order to see how teachers manage credibility gaps that are due to occur in citizenship education in the post cold war era.