Citizenship as Politics – International Perspectives From Adult Education


Citizenship is a contested terrain, very much linked to issues of power. The more progressive literature associates it with contributions made by individuals and groups/movements to the democratic public sphere. This entails an engagement in the ongoing struggle to safeguard public spaces from the onslaught of privatisation and commodification (Giroux, 2001). It also involves transforming hitherto undemocratic and exclusive structures into more democratic and inclusive ones. An education for citizenship, in  this context, is a democratic education, one in which students learn about democracy not simply by talking about it but by engaging in a democratic learning experience governed by non hierarchical social relations of education. This is in keeping with John Dewey’s over-arching concept of education for democracy.

The struggle for the democratization of educational opportunities is also connected to the issue of citizenship: the ability of more people to benefit from an education that provides not only the skills and competences to earn a decent living but also the disposition and critical literacy necessary to enable persons to contribute to the workings of an ever evolving democracy. In this regard we have been exposed to the idea of citizenship that is tied to not only notions of ‘thin democracy’ but, in a number of contexts, a much more robust sense of democracy, referred to as ‘thick  democracy’. The Porto Alegre experience of a participatory democracy centring round a participatory budget, and that entails a ‘deliberative democracy’, is in keeping with  the idea of a thick democracy.

About Giorgio Bertini

Research Professor. Founder Director at Learning Change Project - Research on society, culture, art, neuroscience, cognition, critical thinking, intelligence, creativity, autopoiesis, self-organization, rhizomes, complexity, systems, networks, leadership, sustainability, thinkers, futures ++
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