Perspectives in Education

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Re-imagining democratic citizenship education: Towards a culture of compassionate responsibility

N Davids, Y Waghid


Benhabib (2002:134) maintains that, in order for individuals to become democratic citizens they need to be exposed to at least three inter-related elements: collective identity, privileges of membership, and social rights and benefits. Through exposure to these three inter-related items it is hoped that, by means of the teaching and learning of cultural, linguistic and religious commonalities and differences, a participatory climate of deliberation will emerge in which, ultimately, the rights of all people are recognised and respected (Waghid, 2010:198-199). After a decade of implementing liberal conceptions of democratic citizenship education in public schools in South Africa, questions need to be asked about its credibility and success. We commence this article by analysing the Department of Basic Education’s (DoBE, 2011) recently produced Building a culture of responsibility and humanity in our schools: A guide for teachers – a practical guide for teachers that can hopefully engender democratic citizenship education in public schools. Thereafter, in reference to a post-graduate teacher training programme at a South African university, we argue for a renewed and enhanced version of democratic citizenship education.

Keywords: Education, democracy, citizenship, compassion and responsibility

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