What are the messages for teachers of Civics and Citizenship?
Over many years politicians, research studies and commentators have decried the lack of solid civics and citizenship education in Australian schools. Now with the advent of the ACARA curriculum, there is a responsibility on teachers of this subject to produce more positive civic results. This is a heavy responsibility for what is often seen as a minor subject that is to be taught for a maximum of 20 hours per year. The hidden curriculum of all schools has carried the burden of citizenship training over the years through promoting rules, school values, leadership, student councils and service learning, but now is the time to bring the enacted and hidden curriculum together through whole-school planning that includes the theoretical and conceptual understandings about the workings of our democracy. The status of this subject needs to be raised until it becomes a core focus of school life.
Some messages for teachers are:
- to ensure that students from the earliest years understand and use the concepts of democracy, the rule of law and the common good to the fullest extent, supported by values such as rights accompanied by responsibilities. We need to rustle up the arguments for democracy against other forms of government. (This will include overlaps with History as well as contemporary examples.)
- to have ready those arguments to counter the question of how democratic the system of compulsory voting is, to emphasise that rights always come with responsibilities, and use examples from elsewhere to show how every vote counts. (Mathematics will be helpful here).
- to be prepared to argue the case for and against the long-term benefits of social media campaigns against the slow grind of lobbying politicians. (This may involve insights from ICT, English and Media studies).
- to explicitly teach critical thinking strategies in order to counter the move to a culture where abusive words and actions have replaced civil debate, and fake news is accepted as truth. (English and Media studies are important helpers here, but also note the advice mentioned in https://globaldigitalcitizen.org/3-things-detect-fake-news?mc_cid=28295bdd83&mc_eid=c540de534d
- to allow young people to think of creative ways to make our system work better, whilst reminding them of the compromises that may need to be involved. However, firstly and most importantly, they need to understand the political system and its checks and balances, and the protections of our legal system. Then, they may be interested in ideas like "deliberative democracy" (http://democracyrenewal.edu.au/what-deliberative-democracy)