Habermas, lifelong learning and citizenship education

Studies in Philosophy and Education 26 (2):77-95 (2006)
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Abstract

Citizenship and its education is again gaining importance in many countries. This paper uses England as its primary example to develop a Habermasian perspective on this issue. The statutory requirements for citizenship education in England imply that significant attention be given to the moral and social development of the learner over time, to the active engagement of the learner in community and to the knowledge skills and understanding necessary for political action. This paper sets out a theoretical framework that offers a perspective on learning suitable for these far-reaching aims. We argue that schools need to shift from the currently dominant discourse of accountability to incorporate a discourse of care in order to make room for an effective and appropriate pedagogy for citizenship. Habermas’s social theory gives us a theoretical framework that properly locates schools within the lifeworld as part of civil society. Schools should therefore attend to hermeneutical and emancipatory concerns, not only to strategic interests. We put these in the context of Habermas’s social theory to paint an alternative vision learning for citizenship education which is based in developing the dispositions, values and attitudes necessary for lifelong learning with a view to developing ongoing communicative action.

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