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Citizenship and Ethics

Summary and Keywords

The dominant premise underlying contemporary educational theory and practice is that citizens are members of political communities who have inherent rights as part of that membership and concomitant responsibilities that inform their beliefs, commitments, capabilities, and actions as members of these same communities. How individuals govern themselves in relation to others within the political community is a primary aim of education in contemporary policy documents, aims, and objectives statements. Yet, despite the urgency and salience of students learning to live together in the face of social division and conflict, the framing of citizenship and ethics in schools varies at least as much as the different visions of what constitutes a good citizen in the first place. This lack of consensus is reflected in how and where citizenship is framed in schools, how it is considered in policy, and how it is interpreted and facilitated in classrooms. Various educational theorists have also conceptualized the notion of citizenship and its place in schools. The variety of perspectives on these questions underscores the difficulties that educators experience in navigating ethical challenges in an educational and social context, where citizenship has become a publicly contested issue.

Keywords: citizenship, democracy, society, philosophy, schools, civic education


The democratic project underpinning public schooling is at a crossroads. Until recently, public schooling tended to focus on two key components as part of fostering citizenship. At a fundamental level, the state controlled funding to ensure that all children would receive a formal education. On a more substantive level, public schooling aspired to inculcate the values and dispositions required for the broader citizenry.1 While these two components of the “public” have not been challenged in conception, concerns have arisen over the erosion of the “public” in public schooling, specifically the increased prevalence of decentralization and privatization of schools, and a rise in the instrumentalist and technocratic nature of curriculum. These concerns are compounded by a broader uncertainty that “people feel their world is changing, and that arouses in them a sense of urgency, of a crisis that calls for action.”2 Thus, it is not uncommon for theorists to push for a rekindling of public schooling as “schooling as an object of communal concern, schooling as preparation for public life, and the classroom as public space.”3

This review examines in four sections the complex and contested notions of citizenship, in both its conceptualization and its implementation for schools. First, it examines specific historical conceptions of citizenship, highlighting key principles that have informed citizenship in education and schooling. Second, it considers contemporary interpretations in political philosophy, participatory citizenship, and critical theory. Third, it considers the current evolving nature of citizenship in an increasingly global and digital era. In conclusion, it considers the challenge of educators to undertake the citizenship project as central and essential to learning.

Historical Conceptions of Citizenship

For the ancient Greeks, the state or polis was part of an educational community—commonly noted as paideia—wherein intentional systematic educational processes were used to enlighten, shape, and produce a well-rounded, fully educated citizen. The notion of paideia was rooted not in the individual, but in the ideal embodiment of how individuals reflected the image of their community. According to Plato, education played a higher order role in fostering the enlightened individual subservient to the exalted ideals of the soul and the divine. Plato’s notion of education as instrumental to the broader aspect of citizenship is clear in his Laws, where he states, “So long as the young generation is, and continues to be, well brought up, our ship of state will have a fair voyage; otherwise the consequences are better left unspoken.” Plato envisioned education as a deliberative endeavor essential to developing a nobler, virtuous polis.

The purpose of politics has necessarily brought about inquiry into ethics. For Aristotle, the political community and specifically the public life required attentiveness to the virtues that necessitate this political being. Unlike Plato, who left political deliberations to the philosopher kings, Aristotle felt that citizens in a just society must share the responsibilities of ruling or being ruled. “Such a constitution will promote the virtue of men [sic] in order that they neither rise above other people, or that such positions are not determined only by luck or natural ability; such shared reciprocal responsibility reduces the possibility of tyranny and the potential for an unjust state that privileges certain people over others.”4 Aristotle proposed that individuals form certain associations to fulfill common aims and goals in pursuit of the good life. From this notion of shared civic virtue, individuals would inhabit and generate a stable and just society.

Historically, the predominant theme of civic virtue has been contested both by religious scholars for its antagonism to religious authority and by classical liberal theorists, who felt pursuit of the good life undermined the individual’s ability to exercise his or her freedoms. Turning away from civic virtue, such classical liberal thinkers as Thomas Hobbes and John Locke endeavored to reposition the state’s power to that of protecting individual rights. John Stuart Mill moved beyond the protection of the private sphere, calling for a participatory element to develop citizens “as a means to their own mental education—a mode of strengthening their active faculties, exercising their judgment, and giving them a familiar knowledge of the subjects with which they are thus left to deal.”5 Accordingly, it is not surprising that contested aspects of citizenship would feature in educational debates about the role of citizenship in schools. Much of the emphases would lead to: the dispositions required for an active and robust civic sphere; the rights and responsibilities of individuals between private and public spheres; and the participatory elements of what entails a good citizen in the process of building robust political communities.

With the inception of state-funded schooling during the 1800s, the “common school” was established, wherein children learned together regardless of their social, political, religious, or cultural backgrounds. By creating an educational space reflective of the diversity of society, common schools could provide children with an awareness of and exposure to others from different perspectives.6 Horace Mann’s “common school” aimed to create good citizens through cultivating the loyalty to the nation-state, through an understanding of the legal and political representation, and conformity to the rules and norms of governing bodies. Arguing that education should be universal, nonsectarian, and free, Mann promoted the aims of education as social efficiency, civic virtue, and character, rather than mere learning or the advancement of sectarian ends. Mann’s work impacted educational developments in the United States and Great Britain, inspiring others in the belief that education should be conceived “as a national system, locally controlled.”7

In the early 20th century, John Dewey drew upon the participatory elements of citizenship and promoted schools as places to prepare children for democratic participation. His philosophy forged new ways of thinking about how to educate children, moving away from traditional pedagogic practices to embrace educational strategies relevant and meaningful for the child. In The School and Society, Dewey emphasized how schools should be “a genuine form of community life” representative of the larger society.8 The meaningful engagement with others in participatory forms of community was integral to Dewey’s vision of schools, providing the social medium for integrating children from the private associations found within their family and immediate community to those of the large civic public sphere.9

These historical conceptions of the role of citizenship have remained prominent at least in principle as guiding principles for the aims of compulsory education. An examination of citizenship literature over the past 50 years suggests that, from the 1990s, there has been a resurgence of thought given to the issue of citizenship, particularly after a lull in the 1970s, to redress the decrease in civic disengagement, increased concerns about social cohesion and diversity, and larger-scale worldwide issues such as globalization, climate change, and transnational citizens.10 A revival of citizenship has emerged as a central educational question.

Contemporary Interpretations of Citizenship Education

One of the prominent discourses on citizenship has remained with applied political philosophers who have deliberated about the civic dispositions required for fostering the habits and dispositions needed as future adults and citizens of society. Whether one agrees with the political theories of John Rawls and his notable publication of A Theory of Justice, it rekindled a number of philosophers of education to reconsider the normative implications for citizenship within schooling.

Several contemporary philosophers contend that civic dispositions are required for a stable and just society. As the primary means to reach the masses, schools serve as essential public institutions in which to inculcate the values and dispositions required of democratic citizens. This cannot be left to chance, but must be purposefully and intentionally integrated and fostered in schools. In Democratic Education, Gutmann posits that society is responsible for educating civic dispositions in children, which cannot be left to families. Gutmann challenges two prominent theories common to the development of citizenship: “the state of families” and “the state of individuals.”11 The “state of families” holds onto the notion that the values of parents ought to be transmitted to their children and that parents have the ultimate educational authority of their children. The “state of individuals” prioritizes the notion of liberal neutrality that attempts to ensure that no one perspective is privileged or neglected. Gutmann challenges these two prominent perspectives because they necessarily limit children’s capacities for how they are to be aware, examine, critique, and choose from various competing conceptions of how to live their lives. In line with Rawls’s two higher-order principles, Gutmann advocates for “a democratic state of education.” Gutmann suggests that it is the collective responsibility of all citizens—not just parents—to cultivate the habits and dispositions of all children. She is careful not to create a false dichotomy between the state and families, where one will have authority over the other, but rather the interested authorities of families and state should help cultivate children’s dispositions about informed personal decisions and broader civic dispositions necessary for a stable society.

The challenges of putting this democratic project into effect is that in providing an awareness of the various conceptions of how one may live, this must also attend to those values that may undermine the very democratic principles that underpin society. The liberal stance maintains there is no one virtuous good life, but rather multiple and, at times, competing conceptions about how one chooses to live. The challenge is in regard to how to filter “out various moral toxins that threaten to contaminate public reasons as it is about honouring the differences that we ought to honour.”12 It is in this gray area that citizenship becomes nuanced and complex, particularly in an educational setting. What are the parameters for fostering and respecting the multiple values inherent in the lives of citizens, when there are some perspectives that individuals may find oppressive, even repugnant, that potentially threaten the stability of society?

At a philosophical level, the educational challenge that Callan posits is one of a charitable stance: “Political beliefs that clearly reflect the vices of unreason and domination need to be confronted as such, albeit with all the tact and sensitivity that successful correction is like to demand in dealing with children or adolescents.”13 The educational challenge that Callan poses at a theoretical level, however, is fraught with the complexity of how to implement it in the daily realities found in the classroom. Recent applied philosophers Diana Hess and Paula McAvoy have considered how this might look within the classroom.14 They propose that schools ought to be specific political sites of debate, controversy, and deliberation. A distinction is made in that no one particular ideology or agenda is put forth in the classroom, but rather to make explicit substantive political debates that arise in broader society. Part of the very basic task is to shift the perception that any notion of the public sphere is deemed “bad” and the private sphere is to be protected.15 In creating schools as political sites of engagement and discourse, the aim is to foster students’ ability to speak “across political and ideological differences .º.º. which is an essential component of a democratic society—by teaching students to weigh evidence, consider competing views, form an opinion, articulate that opinion, and respond to those who disagree.”16 In this way, deliberative processes are part of the ethical aspects of citizenship concerning how we should live together in society.

The implementation of such political discussion in schools on a substantive level is multifaceted in creating this democratic deliberative process. It is a commitment to engage in an open issue with students in meaningful and authentic ways. An open issue is one about which there are multiple and competing views and which cannot be settled.17 However, there are clear pedagogical challenges that emerge, given the sensitivity involved in bringing forth political controversy within the classroom, in terms of the role of the teacher, the nature of the facilitation of the classroom, and the objectives and parameters of the discussion. For instance, in trying to create an inclusive and open space for such deliberation, the boundaries for how students are to conduct themselves in order to foster the broader political dispositions is a difficult, yet necessary component. This is a difficult tightrope to walk for teachers. Some teachers would prefer to avoid political discussions for the very reason of ensuring that students feel safe, or to reduce potential personal discomfort, over political issues. Erring on the side of caution, however, undermines the potential for students to engage and confront those issues prevalent in society and which impact their personal lives. The question of facilitation is itself controversial. It renders teachers’ moral judgments about how to negotiate such discussions in class specifically: whether to disclose their opinions;18 how to facilitate the discussion;19 and how to decide what the parameters of discussion ought to be when opinions may be perceived as uncivil or intolerant.20

Despite these tensions in the implementation, the underlying premise among liberal philosophers is that citizenship can best be fostered in students in the robust, purposeful, and deliberative engagement of those issues prevalent in broader society. Implicit in these discussions is that all teachers have a responsibility to integrate these issues in their subject matter any time they evoke the question: How do we live together despite competing values and beliefs in society? While this question is at the forefront in humanities subjects, it also must be prevalent in the sciences and arts, where ethical issues underpin many of the themes that arise throughout an individual’s schooling.

In contrast to the liberal perspective’s reliance on rational deliberation as the most effective way in which to inculcate civic dispositions that underpin citizenship, participatory citizenship underscores the importance of students “doing,” through volunteering and forms of service with the intent to build personal character and broader civic responsibilities. The emphasis is on “preparing students to engage in collective, community-based efforts.”21 Through meaningfully engaged community-situated projects, students develop the skills, dispositions, and attributes to foster greater awareness of the issues that face society at a fundamental, grassroots level. Benjamin Barber promoted volunteerism as the embodiment or active form of what it means to be a citizen. “Voluntarism in the strong democratic perspective, however, treats service volunteers and the people they serve, too, as citizens. The idea is not that one is ennobling those who serve or rescuing those who are served but that one is empowering both, facilitating and advancing self-governance.”22 The nature of such active citizenship serves two purposes. First, it allows students to see how their contributions to a particular issue can make an impact, particularly if done collectively. “Members also believe their contributions matter and feel some degree of social connection with one another.”23 Second, the participatory culture takes the deliberative process outside the formal curriculum, where potential for reproducing particular norms and discourses may prevail. If one perceives that schools are static institutions unable to respond to timely issues, then participatory culture can provide an opportunity to address relevant, timely issues with more flexibility than a formal curriculum. Jenkins argues that participatory cultures differ from formal curricular structures:

While formal education is often conservative, the informal learning within popular culture is often experimental. While the formal is static, the informal is innovative. The structures that sustain informal learning are more provisional; those supporting formal education are more institutional. Informal learning communities can evolve to respond to short-term needs and temporary interests, whereas the institutions supporting public education have changed little despite decades of school reform. Informal learning communities are ad hoc and localized; formal educational communities are bureaucratic and increasingly national in scope. We can move in and out of informal learning communities if they fail to meet our needs; we enjoy no such mobility in our relations to formal education.24

The claim above is that participatory forms of citizenship provide malleability through meaningful forms of activity. It challenges the potential for static, social reproduction of views, by allowing students to negotiate, challenge, and develop the skills through participatory forms of citizenship. Through these forms of service learning and community engagement, an ethical standard will prevail in students’ understanding and awareness of the broader issues in the community.

Opportunities for students to participate in local activities and issues within the community are noteworthy as a common approach used to address citizenship in schools. Yet, limitations of this approach are identified that undermine the more substantive issues that underpin these active forms of participatory citizenship. The criticism is that students engage in the process and develop participatory skills, but may not consider the political disputes that underpin the issues. For instance, students may organize a food bank drive and see how their collective interest helps to support a broader need in the community. However, students may not necessarily consider or challenge the economic, political, and social issues underpinning the need for food banks in the first place. The emphasis on skills and participation may come at a cost of considering the deliberative process that liberal philosophers call attention to through active forms of political discussion in the classroom. In this way, the inherent weakness of participatory citizenship is that it promotes service while being devoid of politics.

Critical discourses on citizenship overlap with liberal forms of citizenship in fostering students’ capacities to understand, examine, and critique substantive issues in civil society. Critical forms of discourse on citizenship start from this premise while further challenging and making explicit the root causes of injustice apparent in society. Critical theorists commonly assert that (re)creating a public sphere within school institutions may simply reinforce and reproduce power discourses and perpetuate systemic forms of discrimination embedded historically in society. Critical theorists are cautious and suspicious of the notion of a “common good” in revitalizing the public sphere. Their concern is that by looking at the various perspectives—or differences—on issues that lack consensus, students simply acquire a form of “polite civic humanism” that attempts to put aside differences toward the broader public good. The focus on citizenship is replaced by an emphasis on patriotism, which removes the historical contestations part of a critical democracy. Henry Giroux contends:

Within the parameters of this new public philosophy, citizenship not only is removed from the terrain of historical contestation, it is also defined around a discourse of national unity and moral fundamentalism that drains from public life its most dynamic political and democratic possibilities. As part of this discourse, the notions of struggle, debate community, and democracy have become subversive categories.25

Simply looking at differences and how we live together from an uncritical stance is insufficient. Rather, the intent of a more radical stance of citizenship is to interrupt the dominant discourses that structure the inequalities and injustices in society. Disruptions, challenges, and interruptions to the root causes of inequality and injustice will help empower individuals toward a more liberating position as informed and engaged citizens. The purpose is not simply one of critique; it is to acquire a “language of critique and possibility.”26 This requires not just accepting the state of society “as is,” but imagining a society of what is possible.

More recent work by critical theorists has furthered the premise that one should disrupt the existing social order by bringing to light the inequalities accorded by the state. Furthermore, such work calls into question the shifting nature of the citizen, traditionally considered as a relationship between an individual and the political body of the nation-state, which is now increasingly problematic when individuals cross nation-state boundaries, and affiliations exist beyond and across multiple nation-states. Claudia Ruitenberg notes this tension by highlighting three examples of individuals who do not fit the traditional notion of a “citizen”—the Kurds, the Roma, and the Sammi—transnational individuals who stretch across multiple states.27 Tying citizenship to the nation-state excludes those transnational individuals who cross boundaries and do not necessary have explicit ties to one nation. In such cases, citizenship as defined within the nation-state narrows the scope of those individuals who agree to the particular dominant political ideology, rather than create a more expansive sense of belonging as a citizen of the nation. While earlier critical discourses created interruptions through dialogue, more recent work has critiqued the existing order from two perspectives: as an examination of the “citizenship as a dialectic of inequality (i.e., citizenship as status accord by the state),” and as “equality (the enactment of citizenship in holding the state to account).”28 Focusing on the inequality aspect of citizenship underscores the notion that individuals are subject by the state. The equality aspect allows for students to “enact and practice their equal capacity as speaking beings out of the classroom.”29 It is this critical consciousness that students can then reflect on and that will shape the conditions of young people’s citizenship.30

The notion of the citizen as part of the nation-state seems to be an increasingly partial and inaccurate perspective. With blurred notions of boundaries, and one’s affinity to one nation, may not capture the range of individuals who cross such boundaries, or who share multiple affinities to different communities of place and belonging in different localities. The artificial construct of national boundary may be insufficient in capturing values and beliefs, together with one’s role and responsibilities in civil society.

Evolving Notions of Citizenship in an Increasingly Global and Digital Era

The situation of children living in a digital age presents interesting and complex issues, particularly related to their rights as children, the changing nature of “childhood,” and the broader implications of what it means to be a citizen. Traditional notions of citizenship that helped to foster and cultivate the dispositions for adulthood appear insufficient in light of the new digital era. Notions of “childhood” have been compressed to where children can enter adult spaces in the new information age. The array of complexity in broadening children’s conceptions of citizenship is a double-edged sword, in that it also exposes the potential vulnerabilities in becoming a citizen beyond one’s physical locality. For instance, citizenship that is fostered in a digital era creates new challenges:

  1. 1) Existing legislation that applies equally to the online domain, may in practice be difficult to implement and enforce;

  2. 2) Governance structures, with efforts to develop international regulatory bodies and forms of Internet governance, are somewhat fragile and uneven;

  3. 3) Emphasis on protection of children using the Internet may come at the expense of the participatory aspect of digital citizenship;

  4. 4) The fast-changing, highly complex, and transnational nature of socio-technological infrastructures challenge policy makers to keep up and be responsive to forms of digital citizenship;

  5. 5) The Internet is largely blind to age, trading children and adults equivalently, and so rarely treats children according to their “evolving” capacities.31

Finding the balance to ensure that children are not placed in unduly vulnerable situations that may create the potential for risks or harm is clearly an existing problem for creating and monitoring legislation. Digital media offer a way to interrupt dominant power structures beyond one’s immediate physical place that is not controlled or limited by one authority.

The notion that schools would provide gradual preparation for life now seems insufficient, given that children may already be thrust into the public domain as citizens. The fostering of civic dispositions between the private familial and the communal sphere together within the confines of school walls now seems artificial and inaccurate; children can enter into multiple public spaces both in proximity and time. The ease with which children can enter these public spaces challenges the very notion of schools as preparation for citizen life. There is a speed to the digital age. Given how participatory forms of engagement for children have expanded in a digital age, the question is: Are educational institutions equipped with the capacity to adapt to the networked, connected, and participatory imperatives of a digital civic society?

In light of these very pressing and real challenges, the notion of citizenship in an increasingly digital world challenges modern conceptions of “childhood,” blurs public and private spheres, and shifts the boundaries of the place of the citizen. Arguably, the role of educational institutions regarding citizenship has been compounded by a narrowing of curriculum: a curriculum that has fallen largely to an instrumental, technical functional role; a curriculum that has been selective in what it takes up, commonly leaving most contentious societal issues by the wayside; and a curriculum so prescriptive and accountability-oriented that it leaves little room for teachers’ and students’ discretions for discovery or exploration of any substantive depth. In sum, the democratic project has fallen largely to the periphery and is bereft of the broader ethical and political issues that inform students’ thinking about how to live well in society.

Despite this undoubted tension between the increasing complexity in children’s lives and an ironic “sanitization” of the curriculum, each of the perspectives on citizenship clearly attempts to create interruptions and disruptions to this predominant discourse. Political theorists ask children to build their capacity as autonomous and engaged individuals through political engagement. The context for how one negotiates different and evolving roles as citizens is one of application. The stance is that the principles are applicable to the changing and contested nature of citizenship. Participatory culture takes a different stance. Through engagement and participation, the digital age may empower and engage youth beyond the institutional confines of public schools. Social justice perspectives aim to make explicit the tensions inherent in the authority of the state and the reciprocal need to hold the state accountable.

Implications for Educators

Clearly, no consensus exists on how to unpack the complexities of addressing and fostering citizenship in substantive ways for children. It follows then that no clear solution can be offered without their being perceived as trite or superficial. While there is no clear direction on how to conceptualize and implement notions of citizenship for children, broader societal indicators suggest the need to foster citizenship in more meaningful ways. For instance, we need only to look at current indicators of a society grappling with the ability to have substantive debates that are not reduced to soundbites, social media tweets, or simple statements. While these fragments may demonstrate an incredible responsiveness to key public debates, they inevitably lack nuanced forms of civic deliberation that go beyond these initial bursts. Civic deliberation that includes dialogue, critique, and activism seems to remain a worthy and prudent way to proceed.

The need to continually keep citizenship at the forefront is further accentuated by a digital era that blurs public and private spheres, wherein citizenship is not confined to one’s locality, but where boundaries are blurred geographically and intergenerationally due to the digital world and the transience of borders. In some ways, the digital era has broken down barriers to deliberating and engaging in conversations that were traditionally informed by the authorities within those local boundaries.

Educators face the task of shedding light on these evolving notions of citizenship in a way that is attentive, explorative, and sensitive to creating possibilities for engagement in the broader world, without unduly placing children at heightened forms of risk that they have yet to fully comprehend or appreciate.32 In response, the following guidelines are highlighted to assist educators in directing and moving this debate forward as the opening to continuous conversations.

Explicit Aims that Promote Citizenship: For educators to foster robust forms of citizenship, explicit aims must be reflected in objectives and policy statements within local and national educational jurisdictions. There is a twofold commitment in promoting the aims of citizenship. First, educators have an ethical obligation to create deliberate environments where citizenship can be engaging, thoughtful, and reflective. For some, this may seem like stating the obvious, whereas others might suggest that citizenship ought not to be a primary aim of education. Second, educators need to be critical in assessing the principles that underpin citizenship to make a privileging or narrowing of curriculum that stultifies certain positional power, but is reflective of the current sociopolitical context and balances how to move forward in the future.33

Curricular Considerations: There is a growing sentiment that citizenship is moving toward social efficiency: a curriculum structured “to freeze out alternative visions and create a one-dimensional curriculum social control.”34 The changing of textbooks to align with political or religious ideologies, the narrowing of a curriculum to reduce the ability to discuss, deliberate, participate, and empower students, make the task of educators of opening up robust forms of citizenship difficult and make potentially vulnerable those teachers who interrupt and challenge the discourse. For example, citizenship may be explicit in the curriculum, but a belligerent form of citizenship may arise if it places a “high priority on patriotic unity, a growing support for security measures even when they conflict with civil liberties, and a reduced tendency for deliberation.”35

Teaching Practices: When the narrowing of the curriculum becomes increasingly explicit, teachers are placed in an untenable situation that makes promoting citizenship in robust ways nearly impossible. Teachers need to take the helm to create a space in which to foster engaged, critical students as citizens. They cannot assume that citizenship is already seamlessly in place because we live in a de facto democratic society, therefore nothing more needs to be done than drawing students’ attention to the legal, procedural, and ethical frameworks that govern a society. This undermines the more robust notions that seek to examine, critique, and enact citizenship in multiple ways. The challenge for teachers is to adopt this responsibility as one of the many stakeholders who help to expand students’ notions of citizenship in meaningful and impactful ways. In this way, teachers play a central role in facilitating the work of citizenship. While the first guideline above attends to the macro political level, this final guideline aims to enable and embed the responsibility among teachers to carry out the work of citizenship in schools.

Perhaps one of the more promising ways to foster citizenship among students is to incorporate teaching practices that draw from different aspects of citizenship, rather than limiting notions of citizenship to a singular perspective. This means teachers need to understand the rationale for positioning citizenship in particular ways and also how they can make underpinning values explicit for their students to consider, participate, reflect, and critique. Through layered, complex, and sometimes contested practices, teachers may help students better understand the political and social nature of what it means to be a citizen. In the face of standardized testing and a potential narrowing of the curriculum, educators need to interrupt those monologues, interject and introduce complexity to those singular narratives.

In Sum

Given the historical and contemporary perspectives on citizenship, and the contestations and overlaps in these perspectives, how citizenship is conceptualized, implemented, and enacted with and for our children remains a matter of political choices. What is prioritized, how it is prioritized, and why certain elements of citizenship are prioritized will influence the manner in which citizenship is taken up.

As notions of citizenship evolve, blur, or remain contested in a global and digital environment, teachers need the ability to talk about these evolving forms of citizenship without conforming to a particular positioning. There is an educative need to make explicit the nuances, subtleties, and shifting implications for children to negotiate this increasingly connected, networked world. Further, there is a criticality to this work that evaluates the ways in which citizenship is being facilitated or suppressed. While present-day private and public spheres are defined through digital space, educators help children negotiate these shifting landscapes with a level of care, attentiveness, and criticality. In this way, teachers purposefully create openings for children to see how they are and become part of the broader citizenry.

Further Reading

Ben Porath, S. (2006). Citizenship under fire: Democratic education in times of conflict, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Find this resource:

    Biesta, G. (2011). Learning democracy in school and society: Education, lifelong learning and the politics of citizenship. Rotterdam, The Netherlands: Sense.Find this resource:

      Callan, E. (1997). Creating citizens: Political education and liberal democracy. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Find this resource:

        Gutmann, A. (1987). Democratic education. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Find this resource:

          Hess, D., & McAvoy, P. (2015). The political classroom: Evidence and ethic in democratic education. New York: Routledge.Find this resource:

            Westheimer, J. (2015). What kind of citizen? Educating our children for the common good. New York and London: Teachers College Press.Find this resource:


              (1.) Chris Higgins and Kathleen Abowitz-Knight make the distinction between formalist and functionalist aspects of public schooling. In Higgins & Abowitz-Knight (2011), What makes a public school public? Educational Theory, 61(4), 361–380.

              (2.) Y. Y. Tamir (2011), Staying in control; or, what do we really want public education to achieve? Educational Theory, 61(4), 395–411, at 395.

              (3.) C. Higgins (2011), The possibility of public education in an instrumentalist age, Educational Theory, 61(4), 451–466, at 51.

              (4.) Aristotle, Politics, 4.11 1295a25–33; Nicomachean Ethics 5.1129a21–66.

              (5.) J. S. Mill (1859/1972), On liberty (p. 179) (London: John W. Parker).

              (6.) R. Pring (2008), The common school, in M. Halstead & G. Haydon (Eds.), The common school and the comprehensive ideal: A defense of Richard Pring with complementary essays (London: Wiley-Blackwell).

              (7.) D. K. Jones (1986), Horace Mann, the American common school and English provincial radicals in the nineteenth century, History of Education, 15(4), 235–246, at 246.

              (8.) J. Dewey (1915/1977), The school and society (p. 14) (Chicago: University of Chicago Press).

              (9.) Dewey (1915/1977).

              (10.) W. Kymlicka & W. Newman (1994), Return of the citizen: A survey of recent work on citizenship theory, Ethics, 104, 352–382.

              (11.) A. Gutmann (1987), Democratic education (Princteon, NJ: Princeton University Press).

              (12.) E. Callan (1997), Creating citizens (p. 22) (Oxford: Oxford University Press).

              (13.) Callan (1997), 219.

              (14.) D. Hess & P. McAvoy (2015), The political classroom: Evidence and ethics in democratic education (New York: Routledge).

              (15.) Hess and McAvoy (2015), xiv.

              (16.) Hess and McAvoy (2015), 5.

              (17.) Hess and McAvoy (2015), 161.

              (18.) Hess and McAvoy (2015).

              (19.) L. Blum (2012), High schools, race, and America’s future: What students can teach us about morality, diversity and community (p. 655) (Cambridge: Harvard Education Press).

              (20.) E. Callan (2011), When to shut students up: Civility, silencing, and free speech, Theory and Research in Education, 9(1), 3–22, at 15.

              (21.) J. Westheimer & J. Kahne (2004), What kind of citizen? The politics of educating for democracy, American Educational Research Journal, 41(2), 237–269.

              (22.) B. Barber (1998), A place for us: How to make society civil and democracy strong (p. 59) (New York: Hill and Wang).

              (23.) H. Jenkins (2009), Confronting the challenges of participatory culture (p. xi) (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press).

              (24.) Jenkins (2009), 11.

              (25.) H. Giroux (1988), Schooling and the struggle for public life: Critical pedagogy in the modern age (p. 4) (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press).

              (26.) Giroux (1988), 215.

              (27.) C. Ruitenberg (2015), The practice of equality: A critical understanding of democratic citizenship education, Democracy & Education, 23(1), 1–9.

              (28.) Ruitenberg (2015), 2.

              (29.) Ruitenberg (2015), 8.

              (30.) G. Biesta (2011), Learning democracy in school and society: Education, lifelong learning and the politics of citizenship (Rotterdam: Sense).

              (31.) S. Livingston (2014), Digital media and children’s rights, Media policy project blog, London School of Economics.

              (32.) There are notable and numerous forms of risk of digital citizenship that include heightened forms of cyber bullying, predatory cyber trolling, prostitution, and abduction.

              (33.) S. Ben Porath (2006), Citizenship under fire: Democratic education in times of conflict (Princeton, NJ, and Oxford: Princeton University Press).

              (34.) R. Evans (2004), The social studies war: What should we teach the children? (p. 177) (New York: Teachers College Press).

              (35.) Ben Porath (2006), 31.