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Delors Report



Teaching Politics

The fundamentals of political education

Political education is far-reaching in its scope. And it is for this reason that we have had to limit the number of issues that we can cover. We have prepared two special sections that deal with the terms Politics and Education. The following text addresses the problems of value orientation and value dependence associated with political education:

"Politics, education and, indeed, political education are all forms of intentional action; they are guided by objectives and values. In pluralistic societies the question is how and whether it is possible to reach a consensus on values. As far as the free education of youths and adults is concerned, a good way of reaching consensus might be to put one's trust in public debate, but those responsible for political education have to make sure that these values are legitimate.

A modern state is unable to provide an answer as to the greatest good in a pluralistic collection of values. We can agree, however, that the state should seek to prevent evil and that, as a cultural and welfare-based system, it should focus its efforts on positive values. Yet for all this, politics should not be understood as the realization of the most important values but rather as a way of regulating conflict and as a struggle to achieve the best possible system based on commonly recognized objectives, which can be regarded as the guidelines underlying a never-ending process. Politics is not about implementing a historical or moral code; it's about negotiating between a set of interests and objective-fuelled conflicts according to the situation. 'Core values' are not items on a platform to be realized by politics but rather regulative ideas. Orientation according to values and argumentative decision-making processes belong together. Political education has to do justice to these points."

[Bernhard Sutor, Theoretical Fundamentals; in: Wolfgang W. Mickel (publisher), Handbuch zur politischen Bildung, published by the Federal Centre for Political Education Band 358, Bonn 1999, p. 66-67]

The details of exactly what the job of political education is remains subject to debate and change. Nonetheless, we have put together a short list of educational aims, on which most observers can agree:

"1. Developing and strengthening a liberal democratic value awareness,
2. Understanding the basic task of politics as being to solve current problems by introducing binding decisions on contentious public issues,
3. Gaining a basic knowledge in all of the most important political issues with regard to the future such as democracy and its threats, the relationship between the economy and the ecology, the future of the consumer-based society, globalization and the union of Europe,
4. Learning certain skills such as how to approach information, media etc.
From this list, two main areas of importance can be derived, which encompass the following indispensable content: 1. Strengthening fundamental values (...). 2. Understanding the political decision-making process including the two following aspects:
- Decision-makers and their legitimization (parliament, government, elections and voting, federalism);
- decisions and their sources: Interests and their agents (civic action groups, associations, parties, media)."

[Klaus Rothe, Educational Tasks; in: Wolfgang W. Mickel (publisher), Handbuch zur politischen Bildung, published by the Federal Centre for Political Education Band 358, Bonn 1999, p. 97]

You will find other sections dealing with the following issues:


Objectives and tasks of political education


An overview of what to take into account when planning lessons on politics


The challenges involved with political education


Marking work from politics lessons - the problem of appraising learning


Democracy education - an extract from the UNESCO report on Education for the 21st century

[Author: Ragnar Müller]

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This online service on the subject of political education was developed by agora-wissen, the Stuttgart-based Gesellschaft für Wissensvermittlung über neue Medien und politische Bildung (GbR) (Partnership for the Exchange of Information Using New Media and Political Education). Please contact us with your questions or comments. Translation from German into English by twigg's Übersetzung deutsch-englisch.