Educating Citizens in American Democracy

By Yasmine Trouillard, France.

Our day started with … a good surprise for Rob: a birthday cake!!!

Happy birthday again Rob!!!

We had a great time sharing a good moment together…

And it left enough time for Gabor to finish his night, be woken up by Raj, get up, rush into the bathroom, get dressed, run to the Native American center and attend the session 😉

Today was a seminar day to reflect about two main aspects of education: educating people to citizenship and educating people to critical thinking. The two topics are close since there is no real democracy without critical thinking.

What can we keep in mind after these two sessions? Citizenship is not something we were born with. It is acquired through practice.

The morning session focused on what tools countries have to make people practise their citizenship. In some countries like Belgium or Australia, people have to vote or they are fined. But then, couldn’t we say that voting becomes a duty and is no longer a right?

It was interesting to listen to the different opinions of the scholars on that matter. Some were in favor of mandatory voting, others were not.

After a short break (Gabor needed his breakfast), we continued with key speeches from J.F. Kennedy and M. Luther King as well as Tocqueville’s views on democracy in America.

Then it was time for a class observation of ELI students. They study English 20 hours a week in different classes split into 6 levels of instructions.

In the afternoon we all met at 2:30.

The afternoon session focused on another aspect of practising citizenship: how to develop critical thinking? It starts at school through questioning the reliability of resources. Any class using historical resources is a good place to put this questioning into practice.

Who is the author? Is he biased or neutral? When was the source produced? What is the historical context? We saw examples of resources thanks to Dr. Lawrence’s workshops about the Civil Rights period and the Pilgrims period.

Thank you to the teachers for these interesting sessions !

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