Citizenship Education – Between Social Inequality and the Promises of Modernity

Hans Dorf


For several reasons citizenship and democracy has moved into political and research focus. Socio-cultural tensions and inequalities created by globalisation processes boosted by neo-liberal modes of government seem to inspire a concern with “social cohesion”, and the European Community assigns a key role to education in engendering European democratic citizenship. It can be questioned whether it is within the scope of educational programmes to ensure social integration and democracy. However, to clarify the perspectives of the educational issue, the article discusses the conflicts and relationships between cultural identity and democracy within a framework of modernity before returning to the issue of education for democratic citizenship. It is shown on the basis of empirical studies that family background interacts with school factors in the reproduction of democratic inequalities. It is also indicated, however, that this must not be considered an unchangeable pedagogical fact, and the article briefly sketches a set of pedagogical and research challenges concerned with educating for democratic empowerment at different levels of school practice. Although this paper focuses on education and the educational system, the arguments and findings presented can also claim relevance for social pedagogy and social work, esp. in respect of recent developments that stress the educational dimensions of social work.

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