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Citizenship as a compulsory subject was added to the National Curriculum in England in 2002 following the 1998 report, ‘Education for Citizenship and the Teaching of Democracy in Schools’. It was little noticed at the time that the report stressed active citizenship much more strongly than democracy. The underlying presupposition was what historians call ‘civic republicanism’, the tradition from the Greeks and the Romans of good government as political government, that is, citizens reaching acceptable compromises of group interests and values by public debate. This is contrasted to modern liberalism. To stress ‘democracy’ unduly in citizenship education can lead to definitional dogmatics about multiple meanings of the term, even to disillusionment. Democracy is a necessary element in good government but not a sufficient one, unless subjective opinion is enshrined over knowledge through education. The practices of free politics are both historically and logically prior to democracy.

Keywords: Democracy; citizenship; civic republicanism; political literacy

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Emeritus Professor of Politics, Birkbeck College, London

Publication date: 2007-09-01

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