Don’t be an “idiot” (LS-GR-706)

An idiot or a citizen?

In Ancient Greek the word “idiot”, was originally used to distinguish an individual, whose daily life had no connection with public affairs, from a skilled one whose activities directly affected the city matters. Within the frames of the ancient Greek democracy, the citizens were expected to highly contribute to the community affairs and be very energetic in the governing, otherwise, they were considered inadequate for their country. This resulted to the idea of an idiot as an ‘ignorant person’ and later evolved into the familiar meaning as an insult to someone’s intelligence. Obviously the word had a degrading, even insulting meaning, since they recognized that a democratic society can only survive as long as its members continue to participate in it.

Thucydides quote about citizenship

Democracy challenged

Contrary to the above, in recent decades, there has been a decline in levels of political engagement in most European Union countries and globally as well and Youth are perceived as increasingly disengaged and disconnected from traditional political processes in Europe, especially when it comes to voting (European Commission 2001). They might be apathetic and alienated from the traditional forms of politics (Stoker 2006). Even worse, among the long list of challenges faced by European democracy, the Covid-19 pandemic has favoured the restriction of freedoms and has caused the democracy slump globally making us wonder what kind of citizens we do raise at schools. 

A LS as a respond to the threats

Considering these when teaching and reflecting on an open and inclusive school for a better future and in the light of celebrating 2022 as the European Year of Youth aiming among others at urging young people to become active and engaged citizens, this scenario constitutes an attempt to strengthen the democratic spirit and active citizenship in my class. Since school represents the first contact with public institutions, then it is there they have to experience what democracy is.

The LS is built on the Competences for Democratic Culture model of the Council of Europe, according to which active citizenship is a combination of knowledge, attitude, skills and actions so as to contribute to building a democratic society and participate effectively in a culture of democracy. It was initially designed for an English as a Foreign Language class; however the issues of Democracy and Active citizenship can fit in every teaching subject as civic learning should be treated as an interdisciplinary subject.

Being an Active Citizen

The aim

The aim of this Learning Scenario is to reinforce knowledge about active participation in social issues and provide learners with the background required to strengthening the democratic competencies and their willingness to engage in the democratic process. Additionally, students are expected to improve their speaking, writing, listening, negotiating and cooperative skills.

Would you like to know more about this learning scenario? You can download it below:

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CC BY 4.0: the featured image used to illustrate this article has been found on Europeana and has been provided by the Finnish Heritage Agency.

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