Rethinking Civic Education in Pluralistic Societies

Convenor: Johannes Drerup (University of Koblenz-Landau)

The social and cultural composition of liberal democracies is constantly changing. This is not only due to every society´s need to integrate newcomers into its socio-political order to survive across generations but also because the ethos of transformation and social change is part and parcel of the very idea of democracy. One of the major rationales of civic education in pluralistic societies, however, is to safeguard and preserve the intergenerational continuity of constitutive ideals of liberal democracies, most importantly freedom, equality, and tolerance, without neglecting the irreducible diversity of religious and cultural traditions. Since these ideals are all hotly disputed, if not essentially contested, there is considerable theoretical and political disagreement concerning the constitutive elements of good citizenship and a shared political ethos that ensure the existence and stability of liberal democracies over time. These disagreements are grounded in a diversity of competing political and philosophical traditions (e.g., different conceptions of political liberalism; republicanism; communitarianism, multiculturalism), culturally embedded narratives (e.g., `salad bowl´, `cultural mosaic´), and corresponding conceptions of civic education and citizenship (e.g., cosmopolitan vs. particularistic conceptions). This workshop aims to shed light on the complex relationship between civic education, democracy, and citizenship by focussing on questions such as the following:

  • Should children have the full rights and obligations of citizens? What is the specific relation between paternalism and participation in different accounts of civic education? To what extent are attempts to encourage desirable forms of civic behaviour via `nudges´ and other social arrangements legitimate?
  • What are legitimate methods and aims of civic education (e.g., tolerance, personal and/or political autonomy, respect, loyalty, helpfulness)? What kind of knowledge, skills and dispositions are constitutive of civic virtues? How should virtue ethicists respond to the situationist critique? What constitutes good citizenship? What is the specific relation between different conceptions of good citizenship and different conceptions of the good life? How should different ideals of the good citizen be justified in the context of pluralistic societies? What is the specific relation between liberal legitimacy, autonomy facilitation or promotion, and the cultivation of civic virtues?
  • How should conflicts between the interests of the liberal state, communities, families and children be resolved (e.g., debates about enforcing liberalism, exit rights and entrance paths)? How should liberal democracies deal with political resistance and critique in educational institutions and with individuals and groups that do not accept basic democratic values?
  • What is the legitimate role of public schools in fostering civic virtues? How should the educational systems of liberal democracies deal with different forms of social and cultural heterogeneity? What are the challenges that migration movements present for the theory and practice of civic education? Should schools teach patriotism (or cosmopolitanism or something else)? What is the role of public schools in bringing about societal change?
  • How much social and evaluative cohesion is necessary for the stability of the political cultures of liberal democracies? What is the specific relationship between democratic life forms, a democratic civil society and the institutions of representative democracy?
  • How should we conceptualize the differences and relations between ideal and non-ideal theorizing, between theory and practice and between philosophy and empirical research in the context of debates about civic education?

Format: Papers are welcome that address any of these and related issues. Please send your proposal (350-500 words) until June 1st 2016 to