The process of European integration has been based on key values such as peace, democracy, freedom and tolerance. However, these values are currently in risk because of socio-economic problems, violent extremism and a lack of trust in democratic processes. The role of education and training, and more specifically citizenship education is very important in addressing these challenges. However, as the Eurydice Report “Citizenship Education at School in Europe 2017” shows citizenship education is addressed mainly on a cognitive level as part of the curriculum both in relation with the teaching and in relation with the assessment (knowledge of the institutions of the political system, environmental awareness, analysis of issues discussed in the society etc).
This approach, as the report underlines, is mostly focusing on knowledge and skills rather than attitudes. However, in order to be able to address the deep challenges that Europe is currently facing is very important to focus on attitudes and engage the students actively and make them part of the whole process.
The project aims to introduce the dialectical method in school education as a key feature that promotes the active participation of students in a democratic society with the support of theatre techniques. The dialectical method is not only promoting the critical thinking of the students but it allows the connection of everyday life with wider concepts and notions (such as humanism, justice, freedom etc) that are fundamental. This is extremely important especially for today’s society that because of the social media is providing a great quantity of information together with a very limited capacity for the understanding and analysis of the information.
According to the above-mentioned Eurydice report, the conceptual framework related with citizenship education is centred on four competence areas: (i) Interacting effectively and constructively with others (ii) Thinking critically (iii) Acting in a socially responsible manner (iv) Acting democratically. The dialectical method supports effectively all the four competence areas:
(i) The dialectical method is based on effective and constructive interaction with others. It is based on communicating and listening and it promotes deep dialogue on the basis of notions and not just on the basis of facts. The scheme thesis-antithesis-synthesis is the basis for any constructive interaction
(ii) The dialectical method supports more than any other method reasoning and analysis. It promotes critical thinking because it invites the students to reason and connect everyday facts with wider concepts and notions, make connections and search for the real essence of the values of a democratic society. The whole method is based on the gradual discovery of the truth.
(iii) Acting in a socially responsible manner. The aim of the dialectical method is to allow the deep understanding of general notions and fundamental values. It is based on the approach of the essence of the knowledge and therefore it allows deeper understanding of notions such as “justice”, “human rights”. Also, the dialectical method, given its emphasis on greater notions, is the most effective method in order to approach humanism intended as the “capacity of human beings to take moral decisions based on empathy, the interest for the fellow human beings and their ambition for the general progress of humanity”. Humanism is the basis in order to develop respect for other human beings.
(iv) Acting democratically. The reasoned dialogue, as opposed to propaganda, populism or fake news, is one of the most important principles for the democratic participation.
The project is very relevant to the priorities of the call and the priorities of the European Union in general. The Paris Declaration of 2015 called for action at European, national, regional and local levels to reinforce the role of education in promoting citizenship and the common values of freedom, tolerance and non-discrimination. The project is addressing two specific objectives of the call:
i) Enhancing the acquisition of social and civic competences, fostering knowledge, understanding and ownership of values and fundamental rights; The project is aiming to promote the deep understanding of values and fundamental rights through a very active methodology which is based on the change of attitudes and not only on a cognitive basis.
ii) Enhancing critical thinking and media literacy among learners, parents and educational staff; Critical thinking (including reasoning, analysis and discovery) is the basis of the dialectical method, so, for reasons also analysed above, the use of the dialectical method is the most appropriate for the development of critical thinking both for the students and the teachers.