College Quarterly
Winter 2007 - Volume 10 Number 1

Upon Which Conception of Citizenship Should We Build a Model for Civic Education? Rethinking a Deliberative Context for Teacher Education from the Aims of Citizenship Education in the New Quebec Education Program

By David Lefrancois and Marc Andre Ethier

"For our part, we believe that free education must be understood exclusively as denoting education which is as free as it can be within the constraints of an overall educational program and within the constraints of the social environment. Thus may it always turn out, and, in fact, it often turns out that the child’s behaviour is far from the same thing as the interests of the group. Then conflict may always arise, which, without forcing the child to do anything in particular, will make him see the value of changing the way he behaves so as to accord with the interests of the group. The school routine should be so organized that the child finds it best to go in step with the group, in the same way as when he is at play; that any departure from the group seems just as meaningless as quitting a game. Just like playing a game, life should demand a constant straining at the leash, a constant joy in concerted activity" (Vygotski, 1926).

Within the framework of current reflection of a philosophical nature on citizenship, citizenship education and the training of those who will take on this type of teaching, we hope to achieve a double objective that can be summarized thus:

  • To contribute to the development of a conception of citizenship founded on the theory of deliberative democracy
  • To identify the normative implications of this conception for citizenship education and for the training of teachers.

This investigation, which is organized into two segments, takes inspiration most notably from certain American authors who have already presented work along similar lines – examples being Amy Gutmann (1999) and Stephen Macedo (2000). On the other hand, reflections of this nature have never been put forth in terms of the Quebec context. Yet, at this present time, when work on the application of major educational reforms which prescribe the implementation of a new citizenship education program is being undertaken, clarifying the notion of citizenship should in fact be an essential prerequisite step before attempting elaboration on the types of training to be involved. This present exercise in clarification is stimulated, then, on the one hand, by the absence, within the Quebec educational reform project, of references in its undertakings to political philosophy, philosophy of law, or democratic theory, and on the other, by the fact that the term “citizenship” is employed by the Minister of Education without this notion being specifically conceptually defined from the outset, in what is a relatively young debate within Quebec.1 Obviously, the resulting confusion cannot but impact initial training of teachers within Quebec’s universities, considering especially that it is the teachers who are principally responsible for the transmission of knowledge connected to concepts more or less well-defined in the field of citizenship studies.

To fill these gaps, we propose to first explain why the conception of citizenship resting on the deliberative theory of law and of democracy reveals itself to be superior to predominant conceptions. In other words, we will show that the deliberative model – rather than liberal or republican models – is in a position to provide some of the requisites of democracy and of citizenship at this definite historical period. We will then attempt to define, using grand strokes, the normative framework of civic education which, within pedagogical practice, would conform best to the conventions of the conception of citizenship being here asserted. Our task will consist in the end of expressing as much the implications as the consequences of the deliberative conception in regard to the training of citizens, and this in order to give some direction to the mandate of Quebec’s citizenship education project as well as to define the idea of dialogical competence that the teacher himself will have to possess to confront the underlying issues at stake in educating the future citizen.

1. Citizenship: A Notion to be clarified within Education Reform in Quebec

First and foremost, we can only be sympathetic to this educational policy of integration into the curriculum of instruction which encompasses citizenship education (Commission des États généraux sur l’éducation, 1996; Commission des programmes d’études, 1999; Conseil supérieur de l’éducation, 1998; Groupe de travail sur la réforme du curriculum, 1997; Inchauspé, 2001; Leblanc, 2000; Ministère de l’Éducation, 2002, 2001, 1999, 1998, 1997) 2
All the same, two important omissions leave room for significant confusion and leave the project open to attack from anyone who would question the necessity of installation of a citizenship education program (within primary and secondary curricula) at all:

No attempt to describe, explain or define citizenship appears in Quebec’s school training program. It cannot thus be known in what the idea of democratic citizenship consists, either in terms of daily life or in its ideal sense. Indeed, Quebec’s project for citizenship education reveals itself to be as obscure as it is ineffectual, at the very least from the point of view of its content, because everything seems to take place “as if” this notion of citizenship had already been given an agreed-upon meaning. Yet, as demonstrated by a study published by the Éditions du Conseil de l’Europe, a report using the results of a questionnaire sampling more than 450 subjects and supposed to highlight perceptions of citizenship education by European citizens active within NGO’s, the definitions and representations of the term “citizenship” cover an immensely wide field of possible meanings in the minds of the European public, often even contradicting each other; multiplicity of meanings are demonstrated also in the Canadian context by the research of Will Kymlicka (1992). The concept of citizenship stretches across understandings encompassing political, juridical, ethical, social and cultural dimensions. To judge by respondent results in the enquiry to which we here refer, it is difficult, in this case, to have a clear grasp of the essence of the idea of citizenship as filtered through the biases of popular perception; it is impossible to consider this idea a plain and simple one in terms of aspects linked either to its ideal or to effective practice, or that its meaning can be determined satisfactorily by canvassing interpretations found in public culture; if the concept of citizenship, for the great majority of European citizens questioned, is that which “confers a collection of social, civic, and political rights,” it can also well involve certain other definitions of a more contractualist, substantive nature, sometimes mutually exclusive, sometimes totally compatible, depending on the interviewees, their age-group, or marital status: for example, “citizenship means the integration of the individual into the social or cultural structures of the society where they live”; “Citizenship is a political notion which establishes a contract between the individual and the state”; “Citizenship […] concerns cultural belonging as much as geographical position”; “[C]itizenship […] is […] a principle of equality and of social justice”; or again “Citizenship and civic responsibility are synonyms.” (Heydt, 2001, pp. 13,14)

In fact, citizenship has to be defined because its definition varies according to space, time, and social variation, according to a not so new but still relevant view:

“The problem of moral education is among those questions that are now undergoing a reassessment in psychology and in culture in the most decisive and most thorough-going fashion. The thousand-year link between morality and religion has been broken, and, under the force of analysis, morality is beginning to acquire an increasingly temporal character. It is now possible to establish beyond all reasonable doubt the experiential, temporal character of morality, and its dependence on historical and social conditions, and its class character. Every nationality and every epoch, and likewise every class, possesses its own morality, which is always a product of social psychology. There is the morality of the Hottentot, who, it is said, responds when asked the question, “What do you consider to be good, and what do you consider to be bad?” by declaring, “Good is when I steal a wife; bad is when I'm robbed.” Moral concepts and ideas vary depending upon the social environment, and what is considered bad at one time and in one place, elsewhere might be considered the greatest of all virtues. And if there are any common feature in all these different manifestations of moral consciousness that can be identified, this is only because certain common elements shared by every human society were once part of the social order. Thus, from the standpoint of social psychology, ethics must be looked upon as a certain form of social behaviour that was established and evolved in the interests of the ruling class, and is different for different classes. This is why there has always existed a morality of the ruler and a morality of slaves, and this is why epochs characterized by crises have represented the greatest crises of morality.” (Vygotsky, 1926)

Since it has never been clearly demonstrated that the exercise of citizenship within a democracy is a human activity susceptible to shaping at school, there is no way to defend the institutional changes being brought to the scholarly curriculum in regard to civic education. In fact, why not leave the responsibility of socializing the young individual and of “orienting his social conscience towards acting as a responsible and enlightened citizen” (Ministère de l’Éducation, 2001, p. 165) to the family or to civil society? Why should the state education system intervene in the matter? To these questions, precisely no beginnings of a governmental response have been furnished. Yet, these questions impose themselves in real and incontestable fashion, as it appears that currently the view that the responsibility for citizenship education rests firstly, and prior to at school, with the family, the parents and the child’s immediate environs is a widespread one. It is true that citizenship education refers generally, within public culture, to “a set of ideas grouping at once the civic and political socialization of the future citizen and his capacity to make sense of the humane values of a democratic society. This education into citizenship is a complement to civic instruction […],” if this latter is still interpreted at the level of his “cognitive aspect,” that is, that “the object of civic instruction is knowledge of rights and duties.” But it seems also that “citizenship education is, in the majority of cases, presented as having to remain the responsibility of the family […]”; said otherwise, it is a commonplace that “citizenship education remains in general the responsibility of the parents,” they being more in a position to intervene directly, and at the earliest possible moment, regarding the behaviour of their child or children – who learn in any case first by imitation – to “develop respect for common rules,” “individual responsibility within the collective welfare” or “respect for the law by […] setting an example.” (Heydt, 2001, pp. 19, 16, 23, 24) Even among the great thinkers of education, “numerous authors, among whom we find the philosopher Jacques Maritain, affirm that this education [of citizenship as learning of a sense of responsibility to the group, the collective and common good] depends above all on the family. They judge that “functions of school and state in regard to education play thus only auxiliary roles in relation to the familial group […]” (MARITAIN, J., L’Homme et l’État, p. 620) “because the primary educational sphere is that of the family” (MARITAIN, J., L’Éducation au bien-vivre, p. 1021) ” (Conseil de la coopération culturelle, 2001, p. 36)

This absence of precision of definitions is an undeniable obstacle for Quebec’s citizenship education program; if we do not address it, teaching of this type will acquire, at best, a status that is purely decorative and that is treated formulaically, and at worst, such a manifestly uncertain and unclear sense of direction that the teachers themselves will gradually set it outside their main pedagogical focus, according it a barely discernible position within the school-day timetable. For those initiating the reforms and designing the program, it ought to have been seen as imperative to pose themselves questions of a more general nature. For example:

What is citizenship?

How can we teach citizenship in the school?

Even though these questions seem to us to be entirely prerequisite to installing in any concrete way a citizenship education program, there is nevertheless no hint of any rigorous response to them emanating from the Department of Education. Behind the naïve allure of their wording, these questions open themselves to reflection leading down multiple paths, wherein attempts to answer can only be partial and revisable. Despite this, they remain central, especially in the current context of the application of the objectives and principles of Quebec’s educational reforms, where the idea of citizenship and that of forming the future citizen are employed time and again in inopportune manner and as if they went without saying.

It is true that the intervention of the philosophical disciplines would be relatively pointless if the concepts used were already clear and well-understood, if ideas were pooled so as to form a coherent whole, if the terms were made sufficiently explicit through consensually derived meanings. But here as elsewhere,3 debates on citizenship education have not yet fulfilled these ideal conditions of total conceptual clarity, of coherence fully attained and of complete absence of ambiguity. This moreover would confirm the ever-expanding abundance of contributions and publications in the domain of citizenship education. Each one of these authors tries to clarify things, to make terms more precise, to give sense to these questions, to understand them as much in theoretical terms as in practice, through an approach that almost always traces its roots to philosophical reflection on the connections between educational models and conceptions of citizenship. In fact, the point of departure here very often remains a general question of substructure: “Upon which conception of citizenship should we found a model of citizenship education?”

2. Conceptions of Citizenship: Variables and Plurals. From Democratic Theory to Pedagogical Practice

We should make clear that our intention is not to review in detail conceptions of citizenship such as have shaped the history of modern politics. Other authors have already done this work brilliantly and thoroughly;4 we leave the concerns of historians and sociologists to continue their pursuits. We wish rather to propose a philosophical conception of citizenship which should stand or fall in the face of both reason and an already burgeoning literature in the domain of political philosophy and the philosophy of law, particularly that which turns on the theory of deliberative democracy. This theory – inspired most notably by the Habermasian model of discourse – provides a framework of analysis permitting a definition of the idea of citizenship from a normative perspective, because it demonstrates, as we will see, the “equiprimordial” aspect of individual rights and of democratic solidarity: it is via the participative deliberation of citizens that we establish and legitimate the rights that bring us together within a society, but at the same time, these are always already those same rights that render possible this participation on the context of communication and expression.

In order to study critically the dominant conceptions of citizenship, our point of departure rests specifically on a general exposé of the political theory of Jürgen Habermas, who summarized – as his title suggests – the “Three Normative Models of Democracy.” (Habermas, 1998, p. 259-274) This account plunges us immediately into the debate which interests us: it seeks to describe two models, two ideal-types, “opposed in polemical fashion, on the matter of their conception of the citizen […]” (Ibid., p. 259) and to propose a third way, which we designate as “deliberative.” In his comparison of the two models which dominate political modernity, Habermas presents first the historical foundations and characteristics both of the “liberal” model which articulates itself around the doctrine of rights (the partisans of liberty) and of the model which proceeds from the “republican” concept (the partisans of virtue). It then demonstrates how the deliberative conception of democracy can rectify where these two models appear to have gone wrong from the point of view of a critical eye. In effect one could place the different conceptions of citizenship within two great philosophical conceptions, both more encompassing than those modernity offers; and to effect this, beyond reference to Habermas, we can rely in particular on an essay by Daniel Weinstock orientated along these lines and bringing us also back to the diverse meanings of citizenship based on two prototypical conceptions of a more general type. In one of his texts, Weinstock states that the liberal concept, represented paradigmatically by a panoply of influential authors stretching back over the years and continuing up to the present day (John Locke, Adam Smith, John Rawls, Ronald Dworkin, Charles Larmore, etc.), is that which, of the two dominant conceptions, “dominates modern Western political philosophy.” (Weinstock, 2000, p.18) This concept “emphasizes the juridical dimension of citizenship. The citizen is above all bearer of certain rights […] the principle function of which is to protect him against infringement upon his private sphere of autonomy […]. Thus, this conception […] conceives the activity of the citizen as centring […] on the private sphere.” (Ibid.) The second philosophical conception which characterizes more globally political modernity is that which one currently denotes the republican concept, of which contemporary authors like David Miller (2000), Benjamin Barber (1992), William Galston (1991) or Stephen Macedo (1990) are presently major promoters; this sits in the Rousseauist tradition of the search for a virtue that properly befits citizenship. This conception is described by Weinstock as an inversion of the liberal concept’s priorities: the republican concept – more oriented towards the public sphere – “puts […] the emphasis on the direct participation of the citizen […] in the pursuit of the common good” (Weinstock, 2000, p.19) and on a strong sense of belonging to the political community.

It is in this rather dualist context that certain authors, Habermas at the head of the list, judge it henceforth necessary to propose a third and new way that, for lack of a better term, we ourselves call, the “deliberative conception of citizenship”5 and which might constitute an interesting theoretical alternative to the classical opposition of liberal and republican values. This alternative to the current dualism would, in the deliberative conception, be leant support by the thesis of the co-originary character of private autonomy (founded on individual rights and subjective liberties) and public autonomy (resting on the solidarity and democratic participation of citizens).6 This is why the deliberative conception would accommodate as much the liberal as the republican version, from whence it would principally draw its strength and its superiority. It is from within this perspective that we advance the hypothesis that the deliberative conception of citizenship, constructed from out of a framework of analysis supplied by a discursive theory of law and of democracy, exemplifies better than the other conceptions – though without rejecting them – the ideal of an authentically democratic community of citizens.

At the heart of Habermasian theory of deliberative democracy, we find the general idea of a society for which business should be conducted via the application of the principles of democratic deliberation of all its members. The “principle of discussion” – to the effect that norms which unify citizens be the result of a process of public discussion – and the “principle of procedure” – that the justification of norms be the result of a certain formal procedure of argumentation (respect of the other and of the fixed demands of a common agreement, responsibility for asserting the opinions one holds, etc.) – correspond to two basic requirements within the model of deliberative democracy. These “discursive” and “procedural” dimensions involve, via their combination, a “principle of self-legislation,” where all citizens conceive themselves, by means of “procedure” and “discussion,” as the “authors” of the rights and norms that they must observe as “addressees,” in order to regulate and stabilize their shared life. More simply, the system of rights which protects individual liberties (or the private autonomous sphere) is felt to be legitimate as long as it is the result of the deliberative practice of all citizens (or of the exercise of public autonomy).

In this perspective, the primary interest of the theory of deliberative democracy would come principally from the fact that it ensues in a sense from an “educated mix” of liberal and republican visions, by conjoining certain apparently contradictory ideas drawn from each. In effect, we are relying here, as already mentioned, on the Habermasian thesis of the co-originary character of private and public autonomy, to demonstrate that the superiority of a deliberative conception of rights resides in the fact of its being at once entirely compatible with the achievements of liberal pluralistic democracies, recognizing the primacy of private freedoms of the rights-bearing subject and with the republican idea of participationist democracy calling for a more direct form of citizen involvement in public life. In the deliberative conception of citizenship linked to the theory of deliberative democracy, this compatibility is expressed in a manner foreign to the liberalism predominant in political modernity as well as to the philosophical tradition which revolves around a republican conception of the community of citizens. If this turns out to be defensible in real terms, the idea of deliberative democracy would involve a conception of citizenship that is itself quite singular, characterized by full compatibility with the two forms of autonomy (private and public),7 yet impossible to attribute either to the liberal or to the republican conception alone. According to the framework here proposed, the mode of social integration of citizens would work, following Habermas, through a communicative educational context, of which the effects make themselves felt even on into the domain of political socialization. (Habermas, 1998, p.155) In fact, this educational context is concerned with equipping (future) citizens: “at the level of information of which they make use, their capacity to reflect and take account of consequences of decisions which have a political impact, their willingness to formulate their interests taking into account […] those of their co-citizens […]; in a word, [it] is concerned with their ‘communicative competence’ […].” (Preuss, 1990, p. 125; cited and translated in Habermas, 1997, p. 445) This is why we speak of a “deliberative model” aiming to constitute a new intermediary position between the liberal and republican models, or again, between “the opposite pulls of ‘cold’ negative freedom and ‘warm’ intimate community,” to take up terms used by Ralf Dahlendorf. (cited in Campbell, 1996, p. 227; Zieba, 1994, p. 24-25)

Although perhaps appearing tangibly inadequate in terms of its defensibility and depth, this preparatory conceptual analysis remains all the same necessary so as to explain how our position aims to distinguish itself from the educational policies predominating in Quebec. Since our approach aims to take into account explicitly a normative conception of citizenship on which to found a model of civic education, this constitutes a considerable departure from the educational program put forward by government which does not identify clearly any particular conception of citizenship either capable of being or forcing itself to be prioritized within Quebec society. As a consequence, politicians, public functionaries and those working in collaboration with the Education Department tend to employ the idea of a program of civic education which prescribes and will prescribe the integration of a form of instruction which conceals – more or less arbitrarily – a form of noncommittal and undifferentiated interlacing of conceptions of citizenship. In effect, these tend to adopt according to circumstances and assimilate without distinction a typically individualist liberal vision of protected private autonomy via subjective rights (partisans of liberty) as well as a vision centred on strong adherence to self-styled values predominating within a national territory and on the valorization of certain collective duties of participation (partisans of virtue), without however demonstrating how it is possible to reconcile these tendencies within pedagogical practice, even when more often than not they oppose each other at the level of philosophical theory.

The distinctive mark of our approach reveals itself, by contrast, in the fact of its opting for a particular conception of citizenship which could serve as basis for constituting a model of citizenship education; regarding this, we will permit ourselves once more to delineate the essential elements of this conception simply by recalling the convergent positions of several authors who have defended a discursive-procedural theory of law and of democracy.8 Whether it be Amy Gutmann, Bernard Manin, Joshua Cohen, Jürgen Habermas, Seyla Benhabib or James Bohman, to name only six authors, for they are not alone in their position, all have at least one point in common, and that despite the variety and the originality of their fundamental and respective theses (which can obviously not be given account of within the confines of this article): decisions concerning the political community of citizens can claim legitimacy (and legality) when they are produced out of democratic deliberation by all members. In short, these authors affirm the idea that legitimate and acceptable norms uniting citizens in a democratic rights state must be the result of public discussion.

Let us, at the same time, underscore that the idea of democratic citizenship defended here can also gather credence from earlier works within this theoretical deliberative democracy movement. Dennis F. Thompson, well before the appearance of Democracy and Disagreement9 in 1996, argued in favour of a deliberative theory of democratic citizenship based on procedures of public discussion. Since 1970, Thompson had been issuing a caution which for us represents the nucleus of the problem of democratic citizenship and opens the way to the normative model defended by deliberative democracy theoreticians: “citizenship” does not come down simply to possessing certain rights, to the fact of living legally in a given national territory (liberal model), or simply to developing a patriotic loyalty to and strong sense of identification with one’s nation-state (republican model); it refers also and especially to the present and future capacity to influence political life and to be actively involved therein (deliberative model). (Thompson, 1970) And we infer from this that argumentative discussion as much as dialogue is central, for this latter model, since the satisfaction of the conditions of deliberative democratic participation rests, in large part, on reflexive practices of the language community, that is, on the free exchange of reasons and arguments. (Ibid.)

Admittedly, it is true that our penchant for a particular conception of citizenship could lead to a significant problem stemming from the theoretically and philosophically “non-neutral” perspective that we appear to advocate. Using the interrogative form, we could express the same idea accordingly: Is it possible to have a “predilection” for such and such a conception of citizenship without falling – from an educational point of view – into a form of “civic indoctrination” of the young? It is, perhaps, to skirt this question and its attendant dangers that some educational researchers preach rather an attitude of “neutrality” in regard to citizenship. One cannot here avoid mentioning the position of Michel Pagé, aligned exactly in this direction. In effect, this thinker sees citizenship education first as an occasion to present “a diverse menu of ways to live citizenship which can be proposed to young people, permitting a greater number to find a suitable one for themselves. In making their choice, they get to know other ways which, one day, may suit them better over the course of the development of their individual political and social consciousness.” (Pagé, 2001, p. 53) Following from this, “[a] citizenship education project cannot […] affirm the primacy of a given conception […].” (Ibid., p. 50) Yet, on the other hand, this position raises a question which is itself very problematic: On what normative basis will we thus be able to evaluate Quebec’s new educational policy for citizenship education? On this point, the neutrality of Pagé leaves an explanatory void and rejects all attempts to furnish, through rational exercise, what might be considered a critical and normative benchmark – that is, an idealized framework for thought – in light of which it becomes possible to judge and evaluate work and discussion now in progress regarding citizenship education and citizenship. Needless to say, we understand very well the reasons which spur certain authors to show themselves neutral, asserting the impossibility of opting for any particular conception. In fact, if we take a clear position in favour of one or other of the different conceptions, we expose ourselves to the question of how to reconcile citizenship education with the necessary neutrality of the school.10

Probably to avoid getting bogged down in one of the deepest controversies regarding this much argued-over question, a thinker of liberal allegiances like Brian Barry will go to the point of alleging that there is in the end no need to institute any robust method of citizenship education from a national point of view (Barry, 2001, pp. 194-249), since the capacity to become a responsible citizen in a liberal democracy will develop out of itself through the possession of that able dose of general culture which a “systematic instruction” must produce intergenerationally: “if we want citizens to be able to participate effectively in politics, what they need are skills that a good education will automatically provide: the ability to acquire and manipulate information and the ability to present an argument lucidly, both on paper and orally” (Ibid., p.228). Beyond this, in taking up here an argument from Harry Brighthouse, Barry rejects the relevance even of a “political education,” invoking the principle that a “[l]iberal democracy, unlike other forms of government, depends for its legitimacy on consent. But the quality of that consent is compromised if it is simply manufactured by the state through the school system.” (Ibid., p.231)

But Barry seems in turn to forget that this fear of heteronomy and of indoctrination within education is completely unjustified within a deliberative model of citizenship education, since it permits and recommends precisely discussion, evaluation and even revision of different conceptions of citizenship in play in a society. We can thereby even overcome the initial problem of neutrality, as favouring and choosing a deliberative conception as a normative model does not mean denying the diversity of conceptions of citizenship which coexist legitimately, on condition, of course, of consent to “the fundamental norm of equality integral to all citizens in a democratic society.” (Pagé, 2001, p.50) In fact, it is in defence of such a model that Gutmann “recognizes explicitly that certain conflicts concerning social justice cannot now (or perhaps can never) be resolved by a universally justifiable collection of substantive criteria. These conflicts are much better approached and resolved […] through concrete deliberation, through exchange of arguments respecting reasonable differences” (Gutmann, 2002, p. 54) Gutmann’s approach overlaps with a deliberative type of model of civic education inasmuch as the promotion of democratic participation converges with the perspective which states that future citizens be capable of understanding and evaluating multiple conceptions of the good life which enter into competition in the society. (Ouellet, 2000, p. 206) And it would here be difficult – if we really wanted to give all our energy to a deliberation supported from generation to generation – to neglect the properly “civic” dimension of education (Macedo, 2000, p. 275-279), or again, the necessity for a citizenship education based on a deliberative conception upholding the legitimacy of efforts intended to inculcate shared political virtues and aptitudes, while leaving to specific communities a large share of the questions relative to values and orientation.

Although an explicit analysis of arguments made in the context of a democracy is not as such here presented, all the same we have been able to note the importance that the Board of Governors for Education accord to the learning of deliberation,11 via the practice of peer discussion. The rationality for the development of the capacity to argue and deliberate democratically appears also to be of a “procedural” nature: this is not, moreover, by chance, if the Board insists rightly on the notions of “democratic deliberation” and of “regulated speech” within the educational process aiming to develop “[t]he capacity to debate one’s ideas and those of others” (Conseil supérieur de l’éducation, 1998, p. 23), through the participation of each student in discussion exercises on that which should reciprocally be demanded, permitted, or defended, within an educational establishment.

As a consequence, and inspired by the Board’s vision, we suggest that the well-established practices of the “democratic school,” of “school-based democracy” or of “democracy in the act of learning” (Meirieu, 1995, 1991, 1984; Develay, 1996) developed by a long line of educators, would be the ideal context in which to train students into citizenship. Among the principal representatives of this dialogical educative approach, the experiments in “self-government” by students as promoted by John Dewey and Jean Piaget,12 or those of the cooperative and institutional pedagogical approach of Célestine Freinet (1994, 1969, 1964, 1960) and of her school cannot go unmentioned; also relevant to this perspective is the method of moral dilemma, notably that which inspired the later works of Lawrence Kohlberg (1986, pp. 485-546), in the domain of educational psychology. These approaches – which today find an echo in the numerous contributions to educational theory interested to install a “deliberating community of speech class” (Campbell, 1996, pp. 226f; Young, 1992, pp. 47-60) – seem to us best placed to develop in students the capacity to take part in the democratic processes of deliberation and action, which would be able serve the cause of civic training, thus permitting more enriched reflection on citizenship itself. In fact, “[t]he orientation of the school towards a type of citizenship education […] and a putting into practice thereof [will be capable of] aiding […] reflection on the exercise of power and on the exercise of responsibilities within social interactions.” (Crémieux, 2001, p. 121) And regarding this maximization of complex and responsible social interactions, reference to the cooperative learning movement – for example, the methods of Elizabeth Cohen – could reveal itself as a path towards the concretization of “interactional” learning. To stress the point, the idea behind a “complex instruction” in cooperation promoted by Cohen is to vary the activity of learning as much as possible to the point that even the best in the class cannot possess and make use at the same time of all the “multiple skills” required, permitting the establishment of more egalitarian, democratic interactions, via the creation of mutual dependency between students in terms of completion of an activity the complexity of which extends beyond the specialized competence a single person can call on in a given situation. In a word, we all of a sudden ask a student to depend on others. (Cohen, 1994, p. 40)

It is then in this direction that we must point efforts to tackle on a deeper level the problem of citizenship education: it is a question of defending the idea that a deliberative conception of citizenship derives from that which entails and is demanded by education, in particular the demand for “school-based democracy”; conversely, the exercise of “school democracy” should serve to support a conception of citizenship and can help us to understand the conditions and aptitudes necessary to its practice. Consequently, we believe that is not necessary to settle – even though it be of great importance – for a “normative” and “deductive” discourse (which moves from a theory of citizenship to pedagogical prescriptions 13), but that, on the contrary, required also, as part of subsequent work on democratic citizenship education, would be adoption of an “inductive” approach which departs from already existing practices of school democracy in order to construct or redefine, when necessary, the contours of citizenship by democracy,14 meaning that we could not avoid being confronted with a self-referential, if still generative, circle: in fact, to close this section with the words of Charles Hadji, “to be able to educate democratically in terms of [citizenship], would it not be necessary to already live in a democracy, implying the existence of citizens already democratically educated into [citizenship]? True democracy could only be organized by a truly democratic regime… the existence of which is suspended during an education into democracy!” (Hadji, 1996, pp. 7, 8)

It must be said that these observations allow us to draw attention to two other correlates. First, the inductive method has acquaintances with historical thinking when it studies the many ways in which social problems are (or not) posed and resolved, and assesses the proposed solutions in relation to the evidential basis upon which they rest (Ethier, 2004). Second, the true democracy might mean a reciprocal society where human and natural resources are allot and production is set up by all humankind through deliberation with the intention of actualizing each one potential while having in mind durable development and equity. This, of course, counter-opposes to the class content philosophy of “equal possibility of obtaining inequality” that permeates capitalism and flows from its economic foundations, social relationships, and regulative norms.

3. The Development of Aptitudes for Deliberative Citizenship: The Teacher Challenged within His Training

As for, more specifically, the situation in Quebec, as is known, we are presently (and will continue to be) moving from the exercise of citizenship to a specific kind of apprentice (especially in the secondary system where it will no longer only be a question of developing a so-called “transverse” competence as is the case at the primary/elementary level, but also competence of a more “disciplinary” nature) which must be integrated, to a great extent, into the teaching of history. (Groupe de travail sur la réforme du curriculum, 1997, p. 62) This is why, in the language of the reformers, we now speak of offering students a new type of formal instruction bearing on citizenship education. Obviously, this teaching includes (and will, by its very nature, always include) a mandate for intergenerational transmission of properly institutional, structural, cultural, historic and national knowledge serving as basis for state organization of law and of democracy and of their durability in and relevance to contemporary Quebec: as the Working Group on Curriculum Reform recommended in 1997, in its program, the study of institutions and their functioning (birth and development of types of democracy, functioning of political, judiciary and administrative powers), the rights of the person (instruments related to human rights, their mechanisms of protection), of the mutability of social relations (modes of living, collective values) and of issues of intercultural and international understanding (local, regional, national and even supra-national aspects). (Ibid.)

But in this context, we notice at the same time a rather strange situation which will do nothing to aid effective installation of a citizenship education program. Knowing even that it will be seen as bearer of the symbols of the State as state and as a primary force responsible for the transmission of that knowledge linked to the concepts and principles of citizenship – more or less clear and precise from a theoretical and conceptual point of view – capable of being differentiated into meanings that are multiple, changing and dependent on those interpreting them, the student undergoing initial teacher training in Quebec’s universities presently receives too little (or sometimes receives precisely no) specific training in this domain of citizenship studies (primarily composed of different streams of political theory, their conceptions of citizenship and their educational implications).15 This requires, however, the contribution of new content (associated with issues implicit to the education of the future citizen and to the complex challenges of such an education) and of new professional practices (connected to the great responsibility that a future teacher has as communicative agent of this content).16 Faced with this requirement – that the school provide “to the student the privileged tools for social integration, which allow comprehension of the most important aspects of the functioning of societies and the organization of territories” (Ministère de l’Éducation, 2000, p. 267) – some will still respond by asserting that it is not always necessary to offer formal teaching about citizenship to children and that, beyond this, we could be satisfied with the idea of a “hidden curriculum,” notably in the framework of university education programs; for example this is Gutmann’s position (1999), one for which she is well-known since the appearance of her book Democratic Education. And even if Gutmann reiterates several times that the development of aptitudes for deliberative citizenship is a necessary precondition for a civic education adapted to democratic society, she defines this educational task as being at times “unintentional” (operating in a sense by indirect methods), to the degree that the skill for deliberation can be inculcated without entirely self-aware or deliberate intervention: this insistence on deliberative citizenship, she writes, is not to imply that “cultivating deliberative citizenship should be the focus of all educational institutions or all educators. Parents, the primary educators of children, need not focus on educating their children for citizenship. Universities need not primarily aim at educating democratic citizens. Deliberative citizens may be the unintended by-product of educational efforts that aim at something else. A good liberal arts education, for example, is likely to cultivate many deliberative skills and virtues out of a commitment to critical inquiry.” (Ibid., p. xiii-xiv)

Nevertheless, a positive assessment of such a hidden curriculum as so described, while interesting, should not distract us or lead us to deny the fact that one finds also indicators that give us the inkling that an important relationship exists between the university curriculum and degree of citizen participation (a type of engagement that one can certainly hope to find among teachers who, for the most part, carry on their shoulders the responsibility for citizenship education); this, at least, was demonstrated to be the case by an American investigation conducted over the course of the 1990’s of several thousand undergraduate students most of whom were aged between 22 and 25. (Nie et Hillygus, 2001, p. 30-57) As a common sense hypothesis might suggest, students taking social science and humanities subjects were more involved in the political sphere and in civil society than those studying engineering, business or even education. (Ibid., p. 46-47) This difference appeared to show itself in several domains: rate of electoral participation, voluntary and community service, involvement in political parties, etc. For example, the effect of the social science curriculum on the community service dimension translates into a great improvement in individual involvement in voluntary and civil society activities, situated somewhere between the poles of family and the State (as is the case for the social causes promoted by charitable organizations): the number of hours devoted to community service tended on average to triple and even quadruple – an increase in hours reserved for civic and community voluntarism being correlated to the quantity of credits accumulated in the social science domain. (Ibid., pp. 34, 48) To this could also be added the relationship between degree of political engagement and development of verbal aptitude (that is, argumentation): parameters of discussion and persuasion (linked notably to political allegiances as well as to choice of parties and of candidates) are generally considered in the analyses of political participation as an important indicator of civic and political engagement. (Campbell, Converse, Miller and Stokes, 1960; cited in Nie et Hillygus, 2001, p. 35) “Although political discussion does not fit the classic definition of political participation – an attempt to influence government policy or the selection of government leaders who make that policy – it is nonetheless an important characteristic of democratic citizenship”; the desire to discuss and to persuade regarding political issues reveals “both an individual’s level of political interest and his or her degree of political engagement,” if this desire “represents the attempt not only to defend one’s interests and preferences but also to get someone else to share and pursue those same interests.” (Ibid.) It is in this sense that Murray Edelman, who has never ceased to insist on the importance of language in politics, affirms that “language is an integral facet of the political scene: not simply an instrument for describing events, but itself a part of events, shaping their meaning and helping to shape the political roles officials and the general public play.” (Edelman, 1977, p. 4; cited in Nie et Hillygus, 2001, p. 42)

Certain recent empirical studies – concluding thus that “verbal aptitude and a social science curriculum each seem to have an independent direct influence on political engagement and behaviour” (Ibid., p. 48) – clearly concur with a strong assessment of the dimensions of social understanding and especially of dialogical competence within the framework of training teachers to teach citizenship education, an emphatic and especial component of our own conclusions.


While liberal thought centres principally on education in subjective rights (and in their juridical mechanisms of protection) and the republican tradition supports rather the notion of a “virtuous” education guided by the value of active devotion to the public interest, we have suggested the idea that a deliberative conception of citizenship might be extended to pedagogy via a model of civic training characterized by a dialogic approach. To simplify for purposes of the limited constraints of this text, let us say that a model of citizenship education oriented toward this dialogical approach refers generally to the idea that the exercise of a form of direct and participative democracy in the school – stimulating a free exchange of ideas and of points of view through procedures of argumentative discourse – constitutes the ideal framework for training in citizenship in the context of a democracy founded on public deliberation. In other words, to promote a deliberative model of civic training is to recognize that, even within classroom settings, mutual understanding between participants comes at the price of argument, the future limits of which are a fully-constituted political community itself based on discussion. (Porcher et Abdallah-Pretceille, 1998, p. 113)

We find that there are certain procedural and conversational conditions which are constitutive of a deliberative conception of citizenship, from which we can derive the prescriptive preconditions for a model of citizenship education. These preconditions can be translated into requirements for a pedagogical program. Effectively, a model of civic education the inter-subjective dimension of which takes the deliberative conception as starting point must include at the minimum arrangements both for procedure and for discussion. We thus allow here for a concise formulation of these elements which must be integrated into a civic model of education which aims to stay true to such an active approach, but we insist also on the fact that this type of pedagogy requires principles which, arising out of theoretical reflection as they do, can never really be produced in some pure state in the real world and in the ever approximate application of our ideas:

Procedural Requirements

In a deliberative educational context oriented according to specific elementary procedural conditions (symmetrical and equal treatment of concerned parties, absence of arbitrary internal and external constraints, etc.), students determine their own communal and reciprocal expectations, such that only the best argument can serve as instrument of proof of validity of a claim to normativity or prescriptiveness.

Discussion Requirements

These young learners, with the teacher (and with his or her help) become full-fledged participants in a discussion in which they learn little by little to deliberate together (which is to say, to discern the pertinent characteristics of conflict-based discussion and to weigh all pros and cons before making collective decisions that have the strongest possible basis), in order to produce for themselves inter-subjective acts of agreement.

By doing this, as preconditions both of possibility and effectiveness for deliberative citizenship education, the teacher will have him- or herself to be in a position to provide in very precise manner a sequence of steps for argumentation which delimit conflict-based situations up to the proposition of argued-for solutions. We conclude therefore that it reveals itself as self-evident that it is essential, and this should be obvious to all, that, within the desired framework of a deliberative form of citizenship education, the (future) teacher develops this type of competence in dialoguing before himself demanding this from his students.


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1 “The decision to situate formally a citizenship education program within the primary/elementary and secondary school curriculum is […] one that was made in Quebec only recently. It follows directly from the Estates General on Education which took place in 1995-1996.” (Lebuis, Lamer et Maher, 2001, p. 158)

2 See particularly Point 5.3, entitled “Social Universe,” in the “Educational Program,” where one can read that “[t]he disciplines of the domain of the social universe – geography, history and citizenship education – provide the student privileged tools for social integration, which permit comprehension of the major aspects of how societies function and of the organization of territories.” (Ministère de l’Éducation, 2000, p. 267).

3 It is worth noting that Quebec is far from keeping up with the debate and that discussions are presently in progress in numerous countries. In the other provinces of Canada, of course, the content of citizenship education programs also comprise the object of both intellectual and societal debates, following the example of France, Belgium, the US, Japan, Great Britain, Portugal, Brazil, etc.

4 We think, for example, of that excellent work from sociologist Dominique Schnapper (2000) who retraces the principal developments of the concept of citizenship through the study of the historical transformation of nations, while also presenting the great texts of the founders of political theory of yesterday and today.

5 Though he assimilates this into the typically republican conception, the formula “deliberative conception” appears already in Michel Pagé, in a sociological study on citizenship. (Pagé, 2001, p. 45).

6 But if political and private autonomy, being co-originary, are equally fundamental, then the democratic process of the formation of a system of citizens’ rights must always be founded on a collection of citizens’ equal liberties, including as much individual freedoms as freedoms of public expression, of democratic participation and of communication.

7 Note that we find this idea also in the work of Robert Alexy – to whom we owe a rigorous theory of juridical argumentation – when he affirms that the principle of autonomy plays in two directions. It refers to private autonomy as well as to public autonomy. The essence of private autonomy is individual choice and realization of a personal conception of the good. Public autonomy is defined by a collective choice and realization of a political conception of the just and the good. In public autonomy, human rights and democracy are necessarily linked. (Alexy, 1996, p. 209-210). And in concert with Habermas, Alexy thinks that to render possible and protect the two forms of autonomy is the principal function of the democratic constitutional State.

8 We can easily cite work which makes use of such theory, across a literature mainly with an interdisciplinary perspective. The impact of the theory of deliberative democracy on current developments in political philosophy and the philosophy of law is apparent in recent anthologies. (Bohman et Rehg, 1997; Elster, 1998; Macedo, 1999)

9 For several commentators (Duhamel et Weinstock, 2001, p. xviii-xx), the Anglo-American version of deliberative democracy is represented in paradigmatic fashion by the theses of Gutmann and Thompson (1996), while the Continental European version undergoes its most complete development in the works of Habermas (1998, 1997).

10 But it must at the same time be admitted that this question is far from being uniquely one for citizenship education; on the contrary, it can be posed at every juncture and for every pedagogical initiative: for example, during national elections, should teachers organize debates on the political (indeed partisan) issues, the programs of the principal parties and the different competing candidates, or instead, on the contrary, adopt a perspective of detachment and neutrality, even completely avoiding broaching those questions linked to the electoral opinions and choices and avoiding pronouncing on them at all?

11 We employ here the notion of “deliberation” in the limited sense of a discursive activity which leads back to a (common) resolution of practical (in the Kantian sense) questions. A deliberation can be called “practical” when it aims toward a decision; it connects the collective and contradictory examination of diverse arguments to the discussion such that one series or other of these arguments prevails (for example, for or against a decision).

12 It is indisputable that Piaget despised passivity in education, thus recalling “the well-known notion of self-government. […] To instil senses of discipline, solidarity and responsibility, the “active” school makes every effort to place the child in a situation such that he experiences directly these mental realities and discovers, little by little, within himself constitutional law. […] By themselves elaborating the laws which will regulate discipline within the school, by themselves electing the government charged with executing those laws, and by themselves constituting the judiciary power whose function is dealing with transgressions, children acquire the possibility of learning by experience what obedience to the rule, attachment to the social group and individual responsibility are.” (Piaget, 1997, p. 42)

13 From a normative point of view, Gutmann informs us admirably regarding the fact that an ideal conception of “[d]eliberative democracy underscores the importance of publicly supported education that develops the capacity to deliberate among all children as future free and equal citizens. The most justifiable way of making mutually binding decisions in a representative democracy – including decisions not to deliberate about some matters – is by deliberative decision making, where the decision makers are accountable to the people who are most affected by their decisions. Deliberative decision making and accountability presuppose a citizenry whose education prepares them to deliberate, and to evaluate the results of the deliberations of their representatives. A primary aim of publicly mandated schooling is therefore to cultivate the skills and virtues of deliberation ” (Gutmann, 1999, p. xii-xiii). This position describes in a paradigmatic way what citizenship education based on deliberative democracy should be: the shaping of citizens capable of deliberating together.

14 We pay here entirely ready recognition of the place of François Galichet who, through his fertile comments, brings our attention to how pertinent can be such reflection on citizenship education which is at the same time inductive and deductive.

15 Let us mention also that several European researcher-educators have been led to make essentially the same assertion for the European circumstance. (Tschoumy et Buffet, 1995, p. 109-179).

16 This perspective to the effect that teacher training is manifestly inadequate in proportion to the teacher’s new role in regard to citizenship education is expressed succinctly within this book: Quelle formation pour l’éducation à la citoyenneté ?, edited by Ouellet (2004).

This paper is based on a presentation made by the authors at the HICE Conference in Honolulu in January, 2007 and is published in the CQ with the permission of the French language Presses de l'Université Laval which has previously published a slightly different version of the article.

Marc Andre Ethier is a professor at the University of Montréal and can re reached at

David Lefrancois is a FQRSC postdoctoral fellow at the Centre de recherche interuniversitaire sur la formation et la profession enseignante (CRIFPE), Faculty of Education, Université de Montréal. He teaches ethics and citizenship education at the Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières and can be reached at


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