06 enero 2007


Naval, C. and Herrero, M. (Eds.). Ed. Encuentro, Madrid, 2006, 267 pp.

ISBN: 84-7490-796-9


The title of this book, edited by Concepción Naval and Montserrat Herrero, draws attention to a topic of profound contemporary significance. The articles collected in “Education and citizenship in democratic societies” address the subject from a variety of different perspectives.

In recent years, both editors of the volume have addressed the theme of citizenship from their respective fields of interest and research: education and philosophy. Concepción Naval has led a research group on education and citizenship for more than ten years [1] . Montserrat Herrero specialises in political philosophy and is currently involved in a research project entitled ‘The question of legitimacy in contemporary political philosophy’.

The book has four parts. The first part comprises three chapters on the political ideal of citizenship; the second part, four chapters on the relationship between education and participative democracy. The third part is made up of three chapters on education in citizenship; and the last part, two chapters on the challenges posed for teachers in citizenship education programmes.

The focus of the first chapter, by José María Barrio, is the Aristotelian idea of citizenship. According to Barrio, this idea is based on three fundamental principles: human life as ethos, political friendship and community, and logos as the structural framework of the polis. In the final section of the chapter, the author provides a description of the Aristotelian polis. The main conclusion to be drawn from this consideration of the idea of citizenship is, in Barrio’s words: “Politics is an office of the highest worth, but it requires that those who participate in political life make strict ethical demands on themselves” (p.48).

In the second chapter, Dalmacio Negro argues that Europe is currently experiencing a profound material and moral crisis. In political terms, Europe is moving from a social-democratic model to a situation of populist demagogy. Education in citizenship, in this context, is a tool used to impose a pre-established consensus, which is democratic in name only. As a result, citizenship education does not provide women and men with the means to be free and to work for what is best; rather, it gives rise to a community of citizens, whose primary preoccupation is the state of society as a collective whole.

Francisco Alatarejos explores the relationship between democratic citizenship, European identity and education in the final chapter in this part of the book. It is vital, he argues, that the moral identity of Europe be examined if the identity and ethos that have been lost are to be recovered. In order to achieve this goal, Altarejos proposes that education in general, and citizenship education in particular, should focus on the inculcation of values that remain valid today although their acquisition is perhaps no longer encouraged.

The second part of the book – on education and participative democracy – opens with a chapter by Rafael Alvira entitled “Political education”. Alvira argues that authentic political education leads citizens to become ‘political thinkers’; and the key to such education is to encourage students to respond to the political ideal articulated by Socrates: the good citizen obeys, and remains free to re-think the system of which he/she forms part (see p. 88).

José Luis González Quirós considers the role and value of education in a pluralist society. According to González Quirós, education is to be provided in a context of authority and recognised truth – that is, truth(s) recognised and accepted by a pluralist society. Given that there is at least one value that is beyond any discussion – the dignity of the human person – pluralism cannot be regarded as synonymous with relativism. One of the purposes of education is to communicate what human dignity is and means.

In “Civic humanism and citizenship in the family”, Alejandro Llano argues that the roots of many contemporary social problems are pre-political and pre-economic; responses to these problems, therefore, must be primarily social, rather than political or economic. Civic humanism, as a force that works for the public good, is to be encouraged, especially in and from the family; and the fabric of society renewed and revitalised through a culture of responsible citizenship.

Mercedes Esteban’s chapter emphasises the value of education as a means of fomenting a spirit of citizenship. Citizenship education, in the definition offered by Esteban, is education in the civic virtues that will enable all citizens to participate fully in political and social life. Moreover, education in citizenship is not the sole prerogative of the state; the family, schools and social organizations also have a significant role to play. Thus, Esteban goes on to argue that the citizenship education programme proposed by the Spanish government should aim to provide a framework in which students, parents and teachers may play their full part as citizens.

The theme of the third part of the book is education in citizenship. The first chapter in this section, by Concepción Naval, reflects on the fact that citizenship education, like all authentic education, must be education of the whole person. Personal education implies the consideration of moral concerns. The goal of education in citizenship is not only the education of citizens, but also – and in the first instance – the education of persons; moral concerns, therefore, are central to citizenship education. Naval also draws attention to some emerging issues in relation to citizenship education in democratic societies: globalization; new information and communication technologies; ecology and the environment; civic virtues; higher education institutions and programmes; and the family.

Following this reflection on the purposes of citizenship education, José Antonio Ibáñez-Martín addresses one of the fundamental tasks faced by all democratic societies: the justification of the framework and content of the legal texts and laws that govern the life of the community. Not only must legal texts be legitimate; they must be, and must be seen to be, just. The importance of this task implies clear recognition of the significance of the participation of all citizens in social life. The citizen’s participation in the life of his/her society is not a set of empty gestures; rather, as Ibáñez-Martín goes on to explain, it is a series of specific and practical acts and responses. To live in a socially responsible way, therefore, is a complex challenge for each citizen; as a consequence, the standard of citizenship education programmes, such as the one proposed by Ibáñez-Martín, must be high. European citizenship education programmes, as well as recent developments in this field in Spain, are also described in this chapter.

The chapter by David Reyero provides an interesting account and analysis of the bond between husband and wife as a vital thread in the fabric of social life. The marriage bond and a commitment to family life are stronger signs of the citizen’s commitment to the common good of society, he argues, than the successful completion of a particular education programme or membership of a non-governmental organization. Reyero also engages with the role of the state and civil society in the education of citizens. In order to encourage awareness and practice of civic virtues, the author argues, state intervention – a common phenomenon in many places – must give way to the renewal and strengthening of intermediary social groups, such as the family and other communities.

The two chapters that comprise the final part of the book focus on challenges for teachers in citizenship education programmes. The first chapter reflects on the value in this regard of education in single-sex schools; the second examines how the idea of citizenship is dealt with in the educational policy of the European Union.

On the basis of data from several international studies, María Calvo argues for the proven value of single-sex schooling in the provision of high quality educational programmes and of a more person-centred education. Moreover, studies of such education programmes reveal that single-sex schools experience fewer problems in the area of behaviour and discipline and have higher standards of academic achievement. The advantages and disadvantages of single-sex and co-educational schooling are compared and contrasted. Calvo goes on to criticise the current Spanish educational policy, which insists that mixed schooling is the only acceptable educational model. Genuine equality of opportunity, Calvo argues, implies that people be free to choose the system of education that they think best.

In the book’s final chapter, Javier María Valle offers an overview of the content of various European Union educational policy statements, with a particular emphasis on proposals with regard to education in citizenship. Valle gives an account of the establishment of the European School in Luxemburg, as the first institution developed by the European Union to promote European citizenship. The author also comments on the Spinelli and Janne reports; the development of educational programmes, such as SOCRATES, to promote European citizenship; and the European Citizenship Action Plan (2004), which seeks to foment active, participative forms of citizenship.

This book is a timely exploration of the theme of citizenship education in democratic societies from a variety of educational perspectives. The significance of participative democracy and the political and ethical dimensions of social life are also drawn into the discussion. What binds the chapters of this book together to form a single volume, however, is the shared conviction of its authors that a developed democratic society requires the participation of all citizens in its social life. Without this commitment to the renewal and strengthening of the fabric of society, no democratic society can grow to full maturity. All of the authors whose work is included in this book also share the assumption that education may be the inspiration and safeguard of social and civic responsibility.

Another key idea in the book is that education in citizenship implies more than the education of citizens; the education of citizens is one of the goals of citizenship education, but it is not the only one. Education in citizenship must also encompass the overall education of the citizen as a person. As well as being a form of social education, therefore, citizenship education is also – and above all – a form of moral education. A good person is a good citizen: to educate the person is to educate the citizen. The ultimate aim of education in citizenship is to encourage in each person a commitment to his/her own good as an individual and the common good of society.



[1] More information on this research group is available at: http://www.unav.es/educacion/investigacion/lineas/

Reviewer: Prof. Carolina Ugarte, Department of Education, University of Navarra

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