Why active citizenship?
- February 9, 2021
- Posted by: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Category: Uncategorized
There are a variety of ways to approach Civics and Citizenship education. With the Make Change Happen project we are committed to supporting active citizenship that is engaging, ‘real world’ and authentic. Here is our rationale.
Reversing the democratic deficit
In his 2005 Australia Day Address, Governor General, Major General Michael Jeffery AC CVO MC said:
“…there is a worrying trend of disengagement from our democratic processes particularly amongst younger Australians. The issues that interest them are often overshadowed by the rough and tumble of politics, however justified that may be in a robust democracy. If we cannot find ways to spark their interest and involvement, we risk the consequences of more young Australians simply turning away.”
Putting recent student-led action on climate change aside for a moment, almost two decades on from the former Governor General’s comments, and his words are sadly still all too relevant (see findings in the section ‘Consider what democratic legacy future generations are inheriting’ further below).
Enter the Make Change Happen learning initiative! A proactive and solutions-focused humanities-based teaching and learning programme that rests on four pillars:
- Pillar 1: The programme is a Civics and Citizenship Education (CCE) learning initiative created by Social Education Victoria (SEV), the state’s peak teacher association for CCE and the VCE Australian Politics, Global Politics and Sociology courses.
- Pillar 2: The programme is designed for both educators and students across Years 7-10 and focuses on facilitating the development of ‘Student-Led/Active Voice’ civic action and community engagement research projects that promote student agency and student voices being heard.
- Pillar 3: The programme takes a project-based learning approach to teaching and learning.
- Pillar 4: Underpinning the programme is an emphasis on the ‘3As of Agency’ framework: Awareness, Action and Advocacy.
SEV’s Make Change Happen programme – in a non-partisan way – seeks to:
- Shape how young Victorians/Australians understand their rights and responsibilities as democratic citizens.
- Facilitate the willingness and ability of young Victorians/Australians to participate and contribute positively and peacefully in local, state and national civic life, as ethical, empathetic, internationally-minded and globally-aware individuals.
- Equip young Victorians/Australians with the capacity to hone, master and transfer knowledge from various intellectual traditions, in order to apply critical thinking, strategic nous and philosophical and ethical reasoning to novel scenarios and/or real-world problem-solving situations.
Values and Philosophy
SEV’s Make Change Happen programme draws on four key principles to frame its ‘reason why’:
- Today’s students are the decision-makers of tomorrow.
- Adapted extract from Dame Enid Lyons’ maiden speech to parliament, as the first woman elected to Australia’s House of Representatives (29 September 1943).
- The intellectual traditions of the humanities are needed now more than ever, in order to equip students with the ability to navigate the increasing volatility, uncertainty and complexity shaping the social, political, economic and cultural conditions of the present; as well as those looming in the immediate and mid-term future of the 2030s-40s.
- CCE is a vital discipline in sustaining the health and vibrancy of a democratic society, and therefore has an important – non-partisan – role in developing students’ willingness and ability to participate and contribute positively and peacefully in their local, state and national civic life, as ethical, empathetic, internationally-minded and globally-aware individuals.
Each key principle is elaborated upon further in the sentiments expressed in the following quotes:
Principle 1: Today’s students = Tomorrow’s leaders
“…the problems of government [are] not problems…of statistics, but problems of human values and human hearts and human feelings. That, it seems to me, is a concept of government that we might well cherish. It is certainly one that I hold very dear. I hope that I shall never forget that everything that takes place in this chamber goes out somewhere to strike a human heart, to influence the life of some fellow being…”Adapted extract from Dame Enid Lyons’ maiden speech to parliament, as the first woman elected to Australia’s House of Representatives (29 September 1943).
Principle 2: Education = Empowerment
“Education…“the practice of freedom,” the means by which men and women deal critically and creatively with reality and discover how to participate in the transformation of their world.”Adapted extract from the foreword to Paulo Freire’s, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, by Richard Shaull (1970).
Principle 3: The Humanities = Future-proofing
“The Humanities allow us to linger with that which is most difficult, leading us to value complexity, and develop creative, critical responses to the worlds we know, as well as those we can only imagine.”Attributed to Sara Guyer, former Director of the Center for Humanities at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
The arts and humanities define who we are as a people. That is their power ― to remind us of what we each have to offer, and what we all have in common. To help us understand our history and imagine our future. To give us hope in the moments of struggle and to bring us together when nothing else will.Attributed to Michelle Obama, former US First Lady.
Principle 4: CCE = Foundations for a healthy democratic society
“All young Australians become successful learners, confident and creative individuals, and active and informed citizens – active and informed citizens…are committed to national values of democracy, equity and justice and participate in Australia’s civic life…are responsible global and local citizens.”Adapted extract from ‘Goal 2’ of the Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians, by the Ministerial Council on Education, Employment, Training and Youth Affairs (December 2008).
Ultimately, SEV’s Make Change Happen programme offers educators and students a template for authentic and meaningful CCE teaching and learning experiences that can be used or adapted to inspire, inform and improve the positive and peaceful participation and contribution of young people in the civic life of their local community, state, country and the wider global community at large.
Figure 1: Visualising the Make Change Happen learning programme.