Democratic Citizenship Education


Democratic Citizenship Education encompasses those approaches to schooling that are attentive to collective process and cultural inequities. Informed mainly by the social sciences, its principal aims are to promote social justice and productive collective action, in part through recognizing and (where appropriate) subverting hegemonic structures. Prominent associated discourses include:
  • Critical Reconstructionism (Reconstructionism) (William Schubert, 1980s) – an orientation to curriculum design that focuses on social justice through nurturing critical consciousness and engaging in meaningful action/activism aimed at challenging instances of inequitable opportunity. Within Critical Reconstructionism, continuous social reform is embraced as aim of formal education.
  • Multicultural Education ­(various, 1980s) – an umbrella notion that spans any educational or pedagogical approach that brings together the two or more ethnic or cultural perspectives, in the process emphasizing social justice, pluralism, and inclusion
  • Reconstructivism (Frankfurt School, 1930s; Jacques Derrida, 1980s) asserts that societal evolution should not be left to chance; rather, ongoing reform should be geared toward greater citizen awareness and more ethical institutions. Recent versions often draw heavily on methods associated Deconstruction.
  • Social Reconstructionism (Karl Marx, 1910s) – in theory, the principle that formal education can be deployed as the means of transforming society into a utopia (or into whatever form is desired by political leadership).


Commencing in the 1800s and culminating in the mid-1900s, a series of civil rights movements helped to awaken public awareness to a range of social inequities rooted in popular ideologies and mythologies. Schools were implicated as they were shown to do more to perpetuate social conditions and uncritical prejudices than to challenge them.


This graphic is reflective of currently popular images involving clusters of people, united around a shared theme. The integrity of the individual is preserved, but that integrity is situated among the many. The intention here is to signal a simultaneity of individual/self and collective/society – which, among discourses on learning, is typically articulated in terms of participation, situatedness, and co-dependencies.  


Prominent Metaphors of Learning

Prominent Metaphors of Knowledge

With major influences of Democratic Citizenship Education coming from Marxism and cognitive science, knowledge was framed in terms of socio-cultural phenomena that are unavoidably partial – that is, as both incomplete and biased. Notions of social contracts, social constructions, and collective hallucinations rose to prominence to characterize shared truths.

Prominent Metaphors of Teaching

Paralleling the assertion that knowledge is partial, teaching within.Democratic Citizenship Education took on two emphases, on co-participation and conscientization. That is, teaching is seen as a process of empowering by involving learners in participatory projects and through prompting critical understandings of their situations.


  • Critical Reconstructionism (Reconstructionism)
  • Multicultural Education
  • Reconstructivism
  • Social Reconstructionism

Please cite this article as:
Davis, B., & Francis, K. (2022). “Democratic Citizenship Education” in Discourses on Learning in Education.

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