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The Role of Civic Discourse in Education for Society

Issue
62 (2023) Editor: Iva Manova
Section
Podium
Author
Dumitru Dodul
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THE ROLE OF CIVIC DISCOURSE IN EDUCATION FOR SOCIETY

Dumitru Dodul

Moldova State University

doduldumitru@gmail.com

 

Introduction

Marking almost decisively the socio-human sciences, the role of civic discourse in education for society is an extensive subject, widely debated and constantly subject to re / conceptualization. In order to make a pertinent analysis of the role of civic discourse in education for society, we must take into account the realities and crises that accompany it in a specific society, depending on their traditions and character.

It is also important that along with established theories, associated with specific methods and interests, to study and analyze whether mentalities and the current system of values ​​are obstacles, as a result of attitudes and behaviors, and in this context to identify and overcome resistance factors. For a certain part of the community, value always exists and the criteria for its appreciation are found in the cultural models of society, which have a character determined by the social-historical reality.

Civic discourse as a communication construct is one of the most important factors that has an impact on social behavior. In a state governed by the rule of law, it usually marks the presence of unequal relations or their amplification, discourses on power relations, social inequality, racist employment and other situations involving the production or reproduction of inequalities. We notice how complex the reality is and how contradictory are the consequences of some public measures / policies, adopted by the governments under the pressure of globalization seen as a new ideology. It is necessary to analyze these measures along with the functioning of the international institutional context. In fact, intellectuals have always played a social role of major importance, through involvement in the fields of philosophy, science, culture and religion, representing the foundations and means of social, political, cultural and economic transformations of society.

We live in a reality in which the pandemic has significantly affected the human community from economic, socio-political and cultural point of view, aggravating social inequalities, including in the educational system. Taking into account the fact that the school is both a space for academic education and a framework for learning social, emotional, cooperation and social support skills, we can conclude that this situation has created barriers to participation in the educational process, primarily for people from disadvantaged social categories.

The relationship between civil society and the state

In this complex context, we reaffirm the role of civil society through the very reason of its own existence, which expresses visions and desiderata with reference to public policies, laws and emergency ordinances – visions expressed, in some cases, by criticism of political forces that have the power. Situations in which only a democratic society guarantees freedom of expression – one of the principles that ensures and motivates the involvement of citizens in community life. When a person becomes aware that the society / community / state he belongs to depends on him, he becomes responsible for the community and dedicates himself to it taking the risks: therefore he passes from the feeling of gregariousness to that of community solidarity, from the action of individual conservation to one of collective conservation, which determines the human individual to assimilate superior communitarian feelings – those of civism and patriotism.

Only now the human individual becomes a citizen and the capacity for human-type community living is fully learnt. With this community experience, which involves a prior process of education and assimilation of community values, the collective self-awareness is strengthened. The social connection and the civic connection are essentially confused, the affiliation to the fortress represents, in fact, a kind of moral pact. Living together is based on the obligations of the community to each member.

Civil society is not granted, it is based on a changing configuration of actors, voluntary agreements, concepts and associations. In essence, civil society is an abstract and an artificial term. This makes it difficult to describe in detail the normative objectives of the relationship between civil society and the state.

According to the Hegelian approach, in the well-known work Principles of the Philosophy of Right, civil society is the difference between the family and the state, although its development has happened later than that one of the state, because being the difference, it presupposes being before the state, which, in order to subsist, must have it in front of it as something independent. The creation of civil society belongs, moreover, to the modern world, which hardly recognizes all the determinations of the idea of their justification. When the granted is represented as a unit of different people, as a unit that is reduced to cohabitation, it only takes into account the personal determination of civil society. Many law professors could not come to any other conception of the state. In civil society everyone is their own goal, everything else is nothing to them. However, without referring to others, one cannot achieve the sphere of his purposes: that is why “others” are a way in the service of the individual. But by relating to others, the particular goal gives itself the form of universality and it is satisfied only by giving at the same time the satisfaction of the good/wellness, pursued by the other (Hegel 1969: 216.).

From what the German philosopher mentioned, we can conclude that it is worth striving for a more complete morality. In this regard, we must meet the following conditions: we must know what we must do, we must have the necessary discernment to distinguish well from evil, and we must want and be able to act in accordance with the ideas we have about well and evil. Finding that “the good/the well” is the central value of ethics, the practical realization of the well involves pursuing the widest possible incorporation of values such as justice, courage, sincerity, friendship, etc. Actions, which were driven by these principles, contributed to the dissemination of Western culture in the world, in the form of the values of democracy of the market economy. In this way, modern institutions are constituted, which differ from all previous forms of social order only by their dynamism, by the extent to which they undermine traditional customs and habits and by their global impact.

In fact, the restructuring we are witnessing suggests that the changes of the current period is equivalent to radical changes. Continuing with the analysis of the Hegelian position, we cannot overlook the innate investment, the capitalization of the Hegelian philosophy promoted by Alexandre Kojève. As the French philosopher remarked, in Introduction to Hegel’s Reading, no other philosopher of the 19th or 20th century had such an influence on the world as Hegel had, considering that the (possible) future of the world and therefore the meaning of the present and the meaning of the future may really depend on how we interpret Hegel’s writings/works (Kojève 2003.). We can mention the novelty and the relevance of the German philosopher's next idea for the state, which precedes civil society: “it is the ethical substance that became Self-consciousness, it is the unity of the family and civil society principles, it represents the same unity that in the family is perceived as love feeling is indeed the essence of the state, but it receives on the same way through the second principle of willing which knows and actions from the Self.” (Hegel 1966: 344).

Hegel considers that the union of all the particular powers of the state in a secure existence, as in the patriarchal state, or as in the democratic constitution, in the participation of all in all affairs, contradicts the principle of division of powers, that is, of the developed freedom of the moments of the Idea. But in the same way, the division, the development of the moments in a free totality, must be returned in the ideal unity, thus in subjectivity. The formed distinction, the realization of the Idea, essentially implies that this subjectivity came as a real moment, to real existence, and this reality can only be the individuality of the monarch, the subjectivity of the ultimate abstract decision, present in a single person. All those forms of decision and common will, which rise democratically or aristocratically from the atomistic of individual wills and are to be established by calculation, to bear the label of reality and of an abstractum. (Hegel 1966: 353). The perspective of the one who assumed the promotion and implementation of this model in the world, involves a long series of controversies, present even today in theories and on different appreciations and criticisms approaches.

Karl Popper, in his well-known work The Open Society and Its Enemies, criticizes the Hegelian conception of the absolute moral authority of the state, which is above all personal morality, of any conscience, and gives Hegel an important role in the development of modern totalitarianism (Popper 2017). Hegel's emphasis on rationality as an essential element of freedom gives even greater importance to this interpretation. Who has to decide what is rational and what is not? In this sense, Popper was also a great opponent of both Karl Marx and communism, of any claim to assert a political project based on knowledge of the laws of historical becoming. We cannot completely agree with the Nobel laureate regarding the Hegelian conception of the state, because Hegel, in the process of emphasizing the idea of the state, criticizes Eastern despotism, “due to the fact that at the top of the state there is the will of a single individual, he is also included under the name of a vague monarchy, just like the feudal monarchy, to which not even the beloved name of constitutional monarchy can be denied. The true difference of these forms, compared to the true monarchy, has its basis in the law principles that are in force, which have their reality and their security in the power of the state. These principles are those developed in the previous spheres: principles of freedom, property and, of course, personal freedom, civil society, of its economy and of communes, as well as that of the regular functioning, according to laws of private authorities.” (Hegel 1966: 355). In this sense, we ask ourselves: how can Hegel be accused of the development of modem totalitarianism, when he pleads for personal freedoms, property and, of course, civil society?

At the same time, when the issue of totalitarianism is addressed, we cannot challenge the major Popperian contribution to the struggle against totalitarianism. We agree and support the position stated by the Austrian philosopher regarding the impossibility of asserting a political project based on knowledge of the conceptions/laws of historical becoming. In agreement with Karl Popper regarding the approach of the state, we mention that the reflections on Hegelian philosophy are present on the European philosophical scene starting with the second half of the 19th century. For French philosophy, the rebirth of Hegelian philosophy was through the rediscovery of Hegel as a concrete/literal thinker and not as an architect of an abstract theory. Mounier still saw Hegel as an architect of an impersonal system, which ultimately required the total submission of the individual under the state.

In the area of these searches, Popper also makes a radiography of various forms of government: “Who should lead?”, this is the fundamental question of Platonic political philosophy. And Plato's answer is: the best and at the same time the wisest! At a first glance, this answer seems inevitable. But what if the best and wisest does not consider himself as such and therefore refuses to take the lead? This is what a Socratic thinker would expect from the best and wisest! A Socratic thinker would think that even he who considers himself the best and wisest must be affected by the delusion of greatness, and therefore cannot be neither good nor wise. Obviously, the question “Who should lead?” is not well asked. However, many have asked this question to this day, each time giving the same answer as Plato.

In ancient times the answer was: the leader chosen by the soldiers, because only he owns and can keep the power. Later on, it was: the legitimate monarch invested by the divine grace. Therefore, Marx wondered: who deserves the power, dictatorial power, proletarians or capitalists? The answer is: the kinds, class-conscious proletarians. By no means lumpen proletarians! They must be satisfied by “swallowing insults”. Thus, most democracy theorists still answer the Platonic question “Who should lead?”. Their theory consists in replacing the answer considered obvious in the Middle Age, e.g. “the legitimate monarch invested by the divine grace” with “the people chosen by the divine grace”, where the words “divine grace” are omitted or replaced with an expression such as: “the people chosen by the popular grace”. The principle already existed in ancient Rome: vox populi, vox Dei - the voice of the people is the voice of God. (Popper 1998b: 95).

The answer to this question, in which Popper joins the most representative figures of the philosophical and political thought of “our century”, is the crisis of values. The lesson of our century is to try to approach critically, lucidly and fundamentally the paradigm in which the Western philosophical and political culture have been developed. It is certain that values are the deepest and most lasting elements of any culture’s structure. In this context, national and European /communitarian, a special attention is paid to the definition, classification and hierarchical organization of values, establishing relationships between values, education of critical analysis in young people, in order to be able to assess different situations they might face in a globalized society.

The dynamics of globalization, the phenomenon of migration and new communication technologies in contemporary times, involve new dimensions, including in the relations between cultures. They go beyond the geographical, political and economic spaces in which they were circumscribed, interacting at the institutional and individual level with others. These interrelationships represent a reality and, at the same time, a daily challenge, and lead to the shaping of certain attitudes: indifference, as a lack of interest in the Other, on one hand, fundamentalism, understood as fanaticism or intolerance of religious diversity, acculturation, on the one hand, and openness to the “other” without restructuring one's identity, on the other hand. It is a setting in which the dialogue between cultures can be a source of respect for the values of the other, while maintaining their own cultural and religious identity. Through dialogue, thus, the certainty of fidelity to one's own culture and religious faith is obtained, the acceptance of contact – inevitable in the context of globalization – with otherness, as well as the constructive recognition of different religious and cultural values.

Paradoxically, so often argued and presented as a moral requirement that state borders must coincide with the borders of the nation’s populated territory, this doctrine lives on today, when through multinational companies, bridgeheads of transnational liberalism, and financial institutions world-wide, it shapes local economies according to its interests and penetrates not only the borders of a state, but also the foundations of a nation. What is fundamentally false in this doctrine or requirement is the assumption that people or nations existed before states — for example, tribes — as natural configurations to which states must tailor garments accordingly. In reality, they are the products of states. This absolutely impossible requirement must be opposed by the important moral requirement of the protection of all coexisting ethnic groups in a state: the requirement that the linguistic, religious, cultural minorities of any state be protected from the abuses of the majority; of course, those minorities who differ from the majority in the color of their skin or eyes or hair should not abuse or manipulate public opinion and relevant institutions. In contrast to the total impossibility of achieving the principle of the national state, the principle of minority protection is not, of course, easy to achieve, but by approximation it still seems achievable, says Popper. Why is the principle of the nation-state unfeasible, even aberrant on our planet, and especially in Europe? With this question we must return to the Popperian theme of the impact between cultures. The population of Europe is, as everyone knows, the product of the migration of people. From the beginning of mankind, groups of people have come wave after wave from the steppes of Inner Asia to smash and shatter in the impact with previous immigrants through the southern, southeastern peninsulas and, especially, through the precipice western peninsulas of Asia. The result is a linguistic, ethnic and cultural mosaic: a tangle, a mixture that is impossible to handle. (Popper 1998b: 127).

There is a need to change the social situation, to find a new right to integration, to produce a new social order, the state must never intervene and solve people's problems. But if it is not a totalitarian one, socialism related to centralized economic planning and rational planning must be excluded, as Hayek states.

Rosenvallon, in his work The New Social Problem, talks about the transition to a new social era, with a new policy, as a result of the reform of solidarity and the redefinition of rights, which implies a perfect articulation between the practice of democracy, by inventing norms of community life and deliberation upon justice and social administration. The author emphasizes that the studying of democracy and social progress will have to go hand in hand from now on (Rosanvallon, 1998). The issue of solidarity and redefining rights is not a new one for the representatives of the Latin patrician, the issue of social solidarity, citizenship and social ethics involves a contextual approach to the era, but with the same meaning, given by the principles of the rule of law. Wealth, as Ambrose of Milan says, which they gather by taking advantage of the distress of others or by taking advantage of violence and violence, far from realizing the aspirations of living well, as their greed, united with stinginess, descends to the level of the poor, because having everything, they live in poverty. The rich man does not realize that his wealth is a usurpation of the common law, just as he does not realize that it causes him worries, turmoil, anxiety, restlessness, insomnia (Anthology 2000: 14). When the idea of usurpation of the common law takes shape, the problem of integrity becomes a very acute one, so we invoke the phenomenon of corruption which is the deviation from morality, from honor, from duty. As an expression of the relationship between authorities and citizens, corruption is the discretionary use of position or function, by resorting to illicit or illegal means, in order to obtain personal or group interests. Corruption destroys the conditions for the formation of identity through education.

Historical stakes of education

Culture and the environment have an important role in the evolution of man, being in a close connection, as there is a close connection between school, education and training too. Education has a great influence on the individual, it is no less true that, in turn, school and education are dependent on the environment and when we aim to achieve an appropriate result through these factors (school and education), we must first of all, to create that environment in which their operation allows to achieve such results.

Even the ancients still noted the role of the physical and social environment in human formation. As an example, we noticed Aristotle’s special interest in the importance of the environment and natural features that citizens must have: (1) Of course, in a way, this could be reflected by analyzing the famous Hellenic cities and the whole inhabited world, as it is divided among the nations; (2) As the people of the cold lands, in particular those of Europe, are full of courage, but have some shortcomings in intelligence and technique, therefore they live quite freely, but without civic government and incapable of domination over their neighbors. The Gentiles of Asia, on the other hand, are intelligent and with a technical spirit, but they lack courage, for which reason they remain ruled even in a state of slavery (Aristotel 2001: 178). This approach was different in the Middle Age, when the individual was marked by the influence of religion. For modern society, however, the evolution and existence of the individual are dependent on the environment, but at the same time, the individual can gain some autonomy, can even influence the environment and its very formation, especially through culture. Environmental, physical, anthropological, social and cultural factors play an important role in achieving the human condition, the human purpose and ideal, education and culture becoming a general goal of all people, on which the true ideals can form, from which and through which the authentic creation can spring.

The human condition implies the status and role of the individual in society, the relationship between the value system, the formation and affirmation of the human personality, a high degree of responsibility, integration and social solidarity. These are the common characteristics of the individual, his specific way of being and integrating into the natural and social world. If human nature is irrevocably a social one, it remains to be seen what forms in which the social instinct will find its embodiment in a consumerist world. To what extent are we entitled to speak about progress, beyond the ideology of consumption, at the same time, in which progress is one of the consumer society’s foundations?

Another ideology is not so much a radical change of the current society, as a change of social ideals, which should bring in the first place a re-hierarchy of values. The signals of such a situation, in which we find ourselves, were given in the 60s and 70s of the 20th century, by launching the idea of the education’s crisis, which meant the existence of a fundamental inadequacy between education and society and required action for large-scale transformations in the educational field.

The American researcher Philip H. Coombs, appointed Deputy Secretary of State for Education and Culture by the President Kennedy, noted in 1968 that there was a crisis in education, which was manifested by the disproportions between the requests and offers in education, between allocated and needed resources, the outdated character of educational plans and programs and the methods and organizational structures in education (Kumbs 1970.). The year 1968 has strongly marked the contemporary mentality at the level of emancipation and reforms. The hippie movement that originated in the United States in the early 1960s and later spread into many countries around the world was originally a youth protest movement against Western materialist society, it was both a collectivist and cultural political movement, also considered a counterculture inspired by Hindu philosophy. Along with the hippie movement and the beat movement, young people sought to liberate themselves sexually, socially and culturally.

There are processes that have radically changed the social, political and cultural history of Europe. “France is bored” is the title of the article written by Pierre Viansson-Ponté, published in Le Monde on March 15, 1968, which stated that the French, who were going through a period of economic growth and political stability, “got bored”. “What characterizes our public life today is boredom. The French are bored. They do not participate directly or indirectly in the great convulsions that shake the world, the Youth is bored. Inspired by the actions of young people from overseas, the students revolted against a traditional patriarchal order, against the authority of the parties, of the centralized state. This movement also had a dimension of sexual liberation, which starts from a dissatisfaction of students, who could no longer stand the segregation between student dormitories of boys and girls and could not visit each other” (Viansson-Ponté 1968).

The educational field has an essential role in the process of training young people in accordance with the real needs of a country's economy. More than half a century after the launch of the phrase the crisis of education and “cultural revolutions” in the West, but also in the East (China’s Cultural Revolution), a rather worrying phenomenon for the future of our society is emerging - young people are not in a hurry to occupy vacancies in higher education institutions. Most of the unfilled places refer to pedagogical specialties, socio-human sciences and exact sciences. Young people generally prefer specialties that offer greater employment opportunities, including in adjacent fields. Graduates accept jobs in fields that require much lower levels of qualification or even jobs in fields other than they were specialized in. There are also factors that contribute to the imbalance of the skilled workforce, first of all, the low quality of vocational education, the lack of cooperation between the private sector and educational institutions, the low salaries paid by employers, as well as the possibility to emigrate. There are, of course, several factors that have determined this situation, but labor emigration seems to be the strongest of these. It is remarkable that the probability of employment increases with the level of completed studies. For many recent graduates of higher education institutions, the first job obtained falls into the category of jobs that can be filled with the same success by people with secondary education.

Having several workplaces at the same time, as a result of an unsatisfactory remuneration, is a common practice in the Republic of Moldova. The training of man as a subject of social life, as an active citizen in social life, belongs to education. We can say that through this function, education responds to needs that society raises in front of people as elements of social life and through individual needs. In the conditions of a hyper dynamics of the social processes and implicitly of the transformations in the field of education, many of the knowledge and practices available at the current stage can be overcome in the shortest time. It is expected that in a period marked by digitalization new forms of education and work organization will appear, thus the formed competencies will have to be permanently updated. As a social phenomenon that accompanies from ancient times the history of humanity - education transmits theoretical and practical knowledge, the values of the culture to the young generation, in this sense social transformations have a direct impact on all parties involved in the educational process. Traditional universities are trying to react to these challenges. But it is well known that recently employers have increasingly taken on the functions of universities, in terms of training the staff they need, as was usual before the era of industrialization, when young people began their adult lives as disciples. The interest of students who want to study / to be trained in those companies in which they hope for a successful career also changes, this interest is also beneficial for business.

Without relating to what is beyond experience, to what is beyond his world, the individual cannot be fulfilled. Man exists, through the need to overcome the immediate, and through his creative destiny of values, therefore of culture and civilization. Man is a rational being, who thinks, who has a soul, manufactures tools, lives in society / in the city / in the polis and must be aware of the need to ensure a real dialogue between individuals, cultures and civilizations. Being a creator of values – that are evaluative criteria and standards of judgment in order to be able to value things, ideas, feelings in relation to their quality of being or not desirable, to represent what is beautiful, correct, true, worthy, etc., they refer only to what is significant to the meaning of human life. In society man lives among his fellows, among others, thus any discourse, regardless of its nature, with reference to the special One is a constant expressed directly or manifested in the subconscious, thus condensing extensive and varied relationships established between the “I” and “Us”. Perspective that leads to “otherness”, a concept whose definition is extremely difficult, although in the current language it represents everything that is different from an “I”, as well as the impression or conviction to be another, to be something else. Each of the components of constituted differentiation are both facets of otherness, which can be approached separately, and factors that influence the perception of the “Other”, individual, community, which  “I” / “We” must know not only to understand, but also to understand accept it as it is presented to us. The lack or presence of distorted information about the “Other” often leads to superficial generalizations, while the political-economic context in which relationships are established can lead to mental stereotypes and prejudices. Situations that lead to manipulation and persuasion, conflict and disorder.

Moreover, any argument can be seen as a substitute of the material force which, by coercion, would aim to achieve the goal. Starting with the ancient world, the legislator had to make the education of young people the main concern that no one could dispute. The lack of education in cities harms the political regimes. Education must be done in accordance with each political regime type, as the character of each type usually maintains the political regime and establishes it from the start: for example, the democratic character – democracy, and the oligarchic character – the oligarchy. A superior character is always the source of a superior regime (Aristotel 2001: 199). Aristotle considers that: (1) it is necessary to create laws regarding education, and the fact that it should be made common/ accessible - is an undoubted thing. But what education is and how it should be done should not be neglected either. Because nowadays there are controversies with regards to its functions, as not all have the same opinions as to what it is proper for young people to learn, neither for virtue nor for the best way of life, and it is not at all clear whether the orientation to intelligence or to the character of the soul is more suitable in this context. (2) The examination of the current educational model faces ambiguities and it is not at all clear which values must be cultivated, those useful for life, virtue aimed ones or extraordinary values (as all of these models have found followers); when it comes to those pertaining to virtue, there is nothing generally accepted (as the same virtue is not honored at the same time by many people), therefore the opinions differ also as to how it should be cultivated (Aristotel 2001: 200).

However, inasmuch as education increases resistance to adverse propaganda, it is useful to view education and propaganda as forces acting in the opposite direction. As Chaïm Perelman and Lucie Olbrechts-Tyteca argue in the Treatise on Argumentation, the Catholic priest, who teaches the precepts of his religion to Catholic children in his own parish, plays the role of an educator, while he is a propagandist, if he addresses, in the same purpose to adult members of another religious group. Whereas the propagandist must gain the audience of the public in advance, the educator has been tasked by a community to become the spokesperson for the values recognized by it and, as such, he is prestigious due to his functions (Perelman 2012: 70).

The pandemic that the humanity is facing nowadays is more than a health crisis, as personal and community security, access to information and human rights issues become so important, that to ensure assistance and meet the real needs of the affected population a joint effort is required more than ever. In particular, when most of the teaching activities have been transferred to the online environment, it is necessary to address the issue of il/literacy, digital education, but also about the advantages of public administration digitalization. It becomes imperative to enhance the possibilities of community institutions, the rational use of online learning technologies and the impartial involvement of the media in reflecting existing problems, being an opportunity for crisis situations. Such an approach is based on arguments from the known historical episodes inventory. In these historical contexts, social solidarity often functions as an unconditional norm. It is the discourse that unites on the basis of identity relations and allows overcoming crisis situations.

Conclusions

Civic discourse involves the changes imposed by modernization processes. The impact of modernization processes, political transformations and the particularities of the changes that take place, to a certain extent, determine its specificity. The central role of civic discourse is to be the voice of a society designed to facilitate the understanding of social phenomena and to guide actions around common projects. Specifying the context, with the surprise of as many of its peculiarities as possible, is the condition for a success.

Despite the presence of certain difficulties in the relationship between civil society and the state, the functioning of democratic values, as well as civil rights and freedoms depends on the legitimate holders of authority, modernization processes contribute to the promotion of democratic values and respect for human rights. Under these conditions, the ability to exert a constructive influence in solving the political problems of our time, acquires a special significance, from the point of view of humanizing transformations, as well as ensuring the progressive development of states.

We are going through a phase of transition, a major change of stage / phase of civilization, not only in the West, but in the entire “Global Village”, a stage that is felt by contemporaries as an era of spiritual decadence, marked by lack of social cohesion and absence of national government. Thus the education will be adapted according to the purpose that will be drawn by all those who are involved in these processes. We consider the importance of education in today’s society, expressed through the impulse it can give to the young generation, to assert themselves at a personal, professional and communitarian level.

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