O desperdício humano das escolas contamina a democracia (Joaquim Azevedo, In Público)

A democracia e a liberdade permitiram, com forte investimento público de todos os portugueses, escolarizar toda a população jovem. E esse é um ganho notável que nunca devemos deixar de celebrar. Mas, é preciso olhar com mais atenção e espírito crítico para as “conquistas educativas da democracia”, pois elas comportam uma face oculta e menos digna e, hoje, é sobre ela que quero falar. Existem os herdeiros e existem os deserdados e nem só dos herdeiros deve versar a história que estamos a fazer, aqui e agora.

Acontece que a educação escolar é isso mesmo, uma construção social, um fruto de certas opções culturais e de uma série histórica de decisões políticas. É verdade que se trata de uma construção cultural poderosa e democrática, mas, ao mesmo tempo, é uma construção social frágil e injusta. (Artigo Completo)

An act of Charity or an entitlement? Who decides where the axe should fall… (By Jez Hall)

I was once employed by a wonderful charity that for 30 years did good things in poor neighbourhoods. We helped people help themselves to make a better place to live. Despite our best efforts the Trustees reluctantly closed the charity because of a risk it would breach charity commission rules by running at a loss. The reason I believe was some petty politicking in our local council, resulting in an unfair and ill considered cut in their financial support to the charity. This happened under the pretence of seeking best value. We were undercut by another charity which said by using volunteers it could do our work for less. Two years later the council realised that wasn’t working, so tried to restore our funding. By then we had shut down. 

None of the communities we helped had any say in the matter. I guess it ended up costing the council more in the long run. Oh, and it was a Labour council, in case you wondered.

The message from the council was ‘We will look after you, as long as you do what we want’. Of ‘power over’ the community and voluntary sector. Those receiving public funding are generally expected to be grateful, in this case as receivers of a grant. Or reform themselves by becoming more competitive by adopting a ‘least cost’ commercial approach. 

Like those on state benefits today? Who receive the ‘support of the state’ if they better themselves. ‘Power over’ once again, or as sometimes put – an end to entitlements. The message is better yourself, or face the consequences. Like a stern parent talking to unruly children.

David Cameron’s Big Society expressed through its call to citizen action a concept of ‘power within’. Primarily of citizens within communities, but also within our relationship to the state. A new era of collective action, accountability, localism and personal responsibility was promised. Yet unless that ideal is matched with other examples of ‘power within’ in our relationship of ‘state and citizen’ it will be just be an ideal on which the cynics can feed. ‘Power within’ implies much more in the way of equality and influence.

As a citizen I feel I’ve less control than ever. Our economic security depends on the whim of gamblers within a financial system which is also driving up inequality in our society. Our political class enjoy shrinking democratic mandates as voters turn away from the ballot box towards more direct action. Church leaders prevaricate over which ‘camp’ to be in., the press remains unaccountable and under the ownership of private interests as the Leveson enquiry shows. Lawyers enjoy huge fees for commercial contract law or taking out injunctions for the wealthy. Whilst shrinking legal aid denies most of us recourse to the law.

The Big Society is a deal. Our political leaders have said what they want of us to help fix our broken Britain , and many of us already do it willingly. Now we need to say clearly to our political leaders the things which we believe are right. We need to speak out. That means a more participatory, active and open democracy. After all, it’s our taxes that pay for our democracy.

Let’s be adults and transact our civil business as equals. That’s why I support the People’s Budget: 

Reference: PB Unit

EDC/HRE Volume II: Growing up in democracy – Lesson plans for primary level on democratic citizenship and human rights.

Growing up in democracy is addressed to teachers who want to integrate Education for Democratic Citizenship (EDC) and Human Rights Education (HRE) in their daily subject teaching. Nine teaching units of approximately four lesson plans each give step-by-step instructions and include student handouts and background information for teachers. The complete manual provides a full school year’s curriculum for students in primary school (grades 4 to 6), but as each unit is also complete in itself the manual allows great flexibility in use. It is therefore also suitable for textbook editors, curriculum developers, teacher trainers, student teachers and beginning teachers. The objective of EDC/HRE is to teach children to become active citizens who are willing and able to participate in the democratic community. Therefore, EDC/HRE strongly emphasise action and task-based learning. The school community is conceived as a sphere of authentic experience where young people can learn how to participate in democratic decision making and may take responsibility at an early age. Key concepts for EDC/HRE are taught as tools of life-long learning.

Reference: Council of Europe

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