Mínguez, R. & Romero, E. (Coords.) (2018). La educación ciudadana en un mundo en transformación: miradas y propuestas [Citizenship education in a changing world: perspectives and proposals]. (Marina Pedreño Plana)
Mínguez, R. & Romero, E. (Coords.) (2018).
La educación ciudadana en un mundo en transformación: miradas y propuestas [Citizenship education in a changing world: perspectives and proposals].
Barcelona: Octaedro. 159 pp.
While there is an implicit consensus about citizenship education as an integral part of the teaching process, issues such as the objective it is intended to meet or the way in which it should be approached seem to be less clear. At the same time, there is widespread dissatisfaction with traditional institutions that appear not to provide effective policies for tackling social problems that affect harmonious coexistence in society. In this context, a socio-educational change in citizenship education for new generations is necessary, starting by making educational agents aware of its importance. This is the central concern of this book. To tackle an undertaking of this magnitude, Ramón Mínguez and Eduardo Romero have surrounded themselves with colleagues of recognised standing who present for consideration different perspectives and questions.
In the first chapter, José Antonio Zamora reflects on the institutional crisis, starting from Martha Nussbaum’s position that education should not pursue «profitability and growth» (p. 19.). This chapter argues for educating citizens in the critical faculties needed for mutual comprehension in a democratic and diverse society. Next, the authors question the concepts of citizen and bourgeois in modernity, as well as the economic and political spheres that operate around them, supposedly in the background. The forced combination in the bourgeois-citizen, competition-solidarity dichotomy that characterises modern societies eventually permeates the educational sphere. Attempts to deal with this fracture have led to an absence of reflection on the motives that underpin it and on the perpetuation of a dual educational endeavour that ends up legitimising its own contradiction. Moreover, the author puts the phenomenon described above in the context of the third Industrial Revolution, which is characterized by the colonisation of information and communication technologies. Education ends up being absorbed by a mere interest in qualifications, and limited to the market’s demands for human capital. Consequently, the instrumentalisation of educational purposes is subordinated to pragmatic shifts in changing settings where individuals are reduced to the category of merchandise.
The second chapter is by Miguel García-Baró who starts from the two most basic concepts in educational activity to consider the complex set of factors that intervene in human learning as a process without an end. Accordingly, he suggests that everyone has two teachers: the I, which does not have lessons but is alreadyendowed with capacities, and external reality, which inculcates lessons in us without asking permission. Concentrating first on teaching, he argues that it is not teachers’ duty to teach the essential questions of life but that this task is instead the role of reality itself, and the teacher’s role is to ensure that this is the case. As for the aspect corresponding to reality, García-Baró notes that, from an early age, children pursue «good» and existence itself encourages them to differentiate «between what is pleasant and what is good» (p. 58). In addition, he argues that learning can be conceived in five different ways (technical, scientific, artistic, prudential, and wisdom) that can be understood in a similar way to the Aristotelian virtues. He argues that the task of articulating them all correctly within the current pedagogical approach is neither insignificant nor easy. Nonetheless, neglecting one or more of the previously identified aspects of education makes it excessively utilitarian or, worse, dehumanises it.
In the third chapter, Alberto Gárate Rivera emphasises how overwhelmed and impotent teachers who work in precarious settings can end up feeling. The vagaries of the educational system and the lack of clarity in teaching targets only make teachers feel disorientated. He indicates that school thus becomes «a development factor that offers unequal opportunities» (p. 74). In view of this situation, he bases his proposal on the pedagogy of otherness in fragile contexts as a theoretical discourse which develops from acceptance as recognition of the other in her specific situation, testimony as consistency of the teacher’s life experience and the sense of waiting as creation of expectations for the future. The conditions required for all of this to be plausible relate to considering the uncertain and provisional nature of the educational act, trust, being anchored in the present, and doing away with fear. Regarding how these claims are investigated, the author presents research carried out in the CETYS University in Mexico, especially mentioning the attributes of the teachers who doggedly face all storms. He believes that narrative research and recounting the experiences of teachers can be valuable teacher-training tools.
In the fourth chapter, José Antonio Ibáñez-Martín reflects on two topics that are not without controversy: the concepts of homeland and citizenship in the current European context. Based on the idea that we have enjoyed the period of greatest prosperity since the creation of the European Economic Community, the author suggests this might have reached its zenith, asking the question «is Europe going through a mid-life crisis?» (p. 96). Despite the challenges that must be overcome to build a desirable future, Ibáñez-Martín eloquently argues for the concept of homeland in relation to Spain and Europe, claiming that it is not unreasonable if outlined in particular terms. Regarding Europe as one’s homeland means calling into question the axiological and regulatory foundations on which it is based, as well as its viability and the how to find a point of agreement to which shared moral judgements refer. With regards to a shared life project, the author sets out aseries of recommendations around which basic priority actions can be organised. Ultimately, «seeing Europe as a homeland » (p. 116) involves educating for cooperation, breadth of outlooks, a critical sense, privileging the collective good over the individual, and implementing the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union.
In the fifth chapter, Wiel Veugelers insists on moral values and education for citizens, identifying six curriculum levels, ranging from the articulated ideal to the student’s actual learning. Reflecting on all of them is very necessary, as is reflection on the individual perspectives from which «moral values, objectives, and educational practices for citizenship» are understood (p. 124). In an attempt to go further in clarifying these matters, he presents the results of some of his studies in which three different types of educational objective were found (discipline, autonomy, and social commitment). Their interaction, in turn, reveals three types of concept of citizenship (adaptive, individualised, and critical-democratic) and, by extension, three ways of conceiving education for citizenship practices, which are more or less explicitly expressed depending on the geographical setting to which we refer. In the case of Europe, Veugelers emphasizes shared values such as: democracy, especially with regards to participation, democratic politics, and a democratic society; and tolerance, regarding «personal relationships, tolerance towards other social or cultural groups, and an inclusive society » (p. 132). Finally, the author sets out various conclusions and policy and curriculum recommendations, emphasising the relevance of an educational strategy to the present day.
María Rosa Buxarrais Estrada starts the sixth chapter by noting how we are impassively watching a crisis globalization has caused in various areas of day-to-day life at the macro and micro levels. We are facing a worrying reality given the rapid transformations that have happened in «social, environmental, and human life» (p. 142). The author sets out how the technological revolution simultaneously presents new opportunities and complex ethical questions that require an educational approach relating to the values that guide our society. On this matter, Buxarrais shows the expediency of rescuing the Trilla’s classification of values (1998), given its specific usefulness for considering values as educational content. In turn, she argues for redirecting ethical and civic education by adopting an ethics of care focus given «its commitment to relationships, love, and democratic citizenship» (p. 150). The many virtues of this proposal fit in very well with the current needs for citizenship education, and so she endorses the concept of «caring citizenship». Applying this concept to pedagogical practice requires spaces and times where students must give and receive care, where they reinforce the values of responsibility and social commitment, and where educational agents are the first to profess the art of looking and caring.
In conclusion, this book makes an interesting contribution to the examination and understanding of the pressing challenges currently facing citizenship education. It is also an indispensable tool for formulating pedagogical actions in this subject because it illuminates paths before certain matters that, even though they may go unnoticed in everyday practice, are of vital importance for the society we are building.
Marina Pedreño Plana ■