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Currículo sem Fronteiras
 A journal for a critical and emancipatory education   ISSN 1645-1384

The foundations of critical questioning in citizenship education

Tristan McCowan

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An important question in citizenship education concerns the extent to which learners are encouraged to conform to authority and existing political structures, or alternatively to question and challenge them. This article puts forward an argument for a critical questioning approach, in which the ability and disposition to subject political issues and institutions to critical scrutiny is fostered. This framework is seen to be justified in terms of its intrinsic educational benefits and its extrinsic benefits to democratic society. A distinction between weak and strong forms of criticality is made, with the latter seen to be preferable on account of its questioning of underlying societal structures. However, implementation of this framework in a public education system presents significant problems. Three of these problematic issues are raised, namely: the difficulty of establishing allegiance and cohesion around abstract principles; the extent to which it is possible for an authority to promote critical scrutiny of itself; and the risks of indoctrination. These tensions are not insurmountable but place considerable demands on teachers and state education systems.


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