Should education make better politicians

Political education

Kerstin Pohl

Dr. Kerstin Pohl is professor for didactics of social studies / politics in Mainz. Doctorate and school service in Berlin. Main focus in research and teaching: lesson planning, socio-theoretical basics and concepts of political education.

In several federal states there is a school subject “social sciences” in which subjects from politics, business and society are taught more or less equally. In other federal states, however, politics forms the core of the school subject for political education. Which approach is the better is controversial in the didactics of political education.


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There is hardly a subject in German schools in as many different combinations as the subject for political education. Even the subject designation differs considerably between the federal states, school types and school levels: "Social studies", "Social sciences", "Community studies", "Political education", or more recently "Politics and economics" and in elementary schools "Sachunterricht" are the most common names .[1]

Behind the different names there are also different content-related sections of the subjects, which are not always obvious. In this text is the term "Politic B.education "in capitalization for the subject in question in general and"politic B.ildung ”in lower case for the central task of this subject - regardless of its focus. “Social science” stands for a cut of the subject in which politics, economics and society are in principle equally represented, and “politics” for a cut in which politics forms the core of the subject.

What is being discussed?

The specialist didactics who deal scientifically with teaching and learning in this subject agree that content from politics, business and society must be addressed in the subject of political education. But there are controversial views as to whether and how an integration of political, social and economic aspects can succeed in the classroom and which subject area is best suited for this. (There is particularly heated debate about the role economic education should play. This controversy is presented in the text “Do we need a separate subject in economics?”.)

Some didactics advocate social sciences as a subject, others for politics, which focuses on “politics as the core of political education” (Massing / Weißeno 1995). If politics is set as the core, social and economic questions should also arise, but under a political one perspective: At the core is always the question of which binding political decisions for society and the economy as a whole should be made (cf. Pohl 2016, p. 524). [2]


Arguments and concepts for a subject in social sciences

The great importance of social and economic issues speaks in favor of social science: individualization, gender relations, the social gap, integration and inclusion, working conditions, the role of the market or consumer education are important questions that should be addressed in the classroom - if possible by teachers, who already dealt with these questions during their studies in sociological and economic courses.

As Sibylle Reinhardt argues in the podcast (see below), a subject of social sciences offers the possibility of making it dependent on the priorities of the students and also on the specific lesson content, which discipline is - temporarily - in the foreground. If the learners are interested in the subject of tariffs regardless of international politics, an economically oriented lesson on tariffs would be possible.

Social science education or politics as the core? Interview with Prof. Dr. Sibylle Reinhardt (to the podcast with project information in the media library)
Are teachers studying political science in Mainz trained in such a way that they can teach social studies not only in Rhineland-Palatinate, in which politics is at the core, but also the integrated subject of social sciences in North Rhine-Westphalia? And conversely, do students from North Rhine-Westphalia, who have to study the three subjects of politics, sociology and economics in order to be able to teach the subject of social sciences, then understand enough of all three disciplines to be able to carry out well-founded social sciences lessons? What does integration of the social sciences mean and what is better for the students? (© Johannes-Gutenberg University Mainz)

Although a large number of specialist didactics advocate a social science education, there are only a few concepts that deal with how exactly the integration of the three sub-areas could look like in the classroom.

Very early on, Sibylle Reinhardt proposed a sequential approach with increasing complexity as an ideal-typical approach for upper secondary level (1997, pp. 56-59): After an additive consideration of topics from several disciplinary perspectives, a guiding perspective follows in which one discipline is at the center and then "is linked to one of the other disciplines at suitable problem areas via 'bridges'" (ibid., pp. 57-59), followed by an interdisciplinary approach in the form of a link between the three disciplinary approaches for particularly complex issues. Among others, Tilman Grammes (1998), Thorsten Hippe (2010) and Reinhold Hedtke (2019) have presented concepts that follow the approach of social science education.

A look at curricular practice reveals different approaches, for example for the curricula for social sciences in North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) and Berlin. According to both curricula, the subject of social sciences should expressly acquire specialist knowledge from the three disciplines of political science, sociology and economics. In Berlin, however, the first three half-years each focus on one disciplinary focus, while in North Rhine-Westphalia interdisciplinary approaches are more important from the start.

Specific integration: curricula in North Rhine-Westphalia and Berlin

For NRW it says: “The integration of the three sub-disciplines takes place on the basis of common interdisciplinary paradigms and a common basic repertoire of specialist and research methods.
In the lesson, the specifics of the areas and approaches become just as clear as their interdependence and the need for an overarching approach. The content fields are designed in such a way that they reflect or integrate the specialist perspectives and at the same time open up the possibilities of a multi-perspective perspective in order to be able to describe, develop and evaluate design requirements and options for action (Ministry of Schools and Further Education of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia 2014, p. 13). Among the seven content fields (cf. ibid. Pp. 18-20), some have a clear disciplinary focus, such as “Political structures, processes and opportunities for participation” or “Individuals and society”. Other content fields such as “European Union” pretend to consider current political, social and economic developments.

In Berlin, on the other hand, the first three semesters of the qualification phase with the contents “Individual, Society and Social Change”, “Social Market Economy” and “Law, State and Politics in Germany and Europe” clearly have a disciplinary focus and only the fourth semester with the content “Economy and society, law and politics in the international system” requires an integration of perspectives (Senate Department for Education, Youth and Sport Berlin 2006).

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Arguments against a subject of social sciences and for a subject of politics

Thomas Goll, professor at TU Dortmund University, is skeptical about the possibilities of such an integration subject. The “form of teaching subjects” arises “from an administrative setting” and thus “does not necessarily follow the argumentation that appears most sensible in terms of subject didactics” (Goll 2019, p. 113). He criticizes the lack of an empirical basis for the comparative assessment of mono- or interdisciplinary subjects in the field of social and social sciences. However, his investigation of Dortmund teacher training students who are being trained in political science, sociology and economics suggests that they have not developed any didactic concepts for a really interdisciplinary approach to the subject of social sciences. In order to maintain interdisciplinarity as the norm for the subject of social sciences, according to Goll, far-reaching changes in teacher training are required. So far, he writes critically, the claim and reality of interdisciplinarity in the subject of social sciences have been far apart, and without empirical studies one moves in the argument for or against this integration "more in the field of myths than in the field of facts" (Goll 2019, P. 112).

Peter Massing is similarly skeptical. In the podcast interview (see below) he clearly speaks out in favor of “politics as the core” of political education. He calls for all teaching topics to be viewed through “political science glasses” and always to be asked what is relevant for political decision-making in the particular problem under consideration. This would exclude, for example, a teaching unit on the topic of “The importance of tariffs in international trade” without reference to the question of the political design of international trade relations.

Social science education or politics as the core? Interview with Prof. Dr. Peter Massing (to the podcast with project information in the media library)
Are teachers studying political science in Mainz trained in such a way that they can teach social studies not only in Rhineland-Palatinate, in which politics is at the core, but also the integrated subject of social sciences in North Rhine-Westphalia? And conversely, do students from North Rhine-Westphalia, who have to study the three subjects of politics, sociology and economics in order to be qualified to teach in social sciences, then understand enough of all three disciplines to be able to carry out well-founded social sciences lessons? What does integration of the social sciences mean and what is better for the students? (© Johannes-Gutenberg University Mainz)

Karl Heinz Breier also emphasized in the podcast interview (see below) that political lessons should primarily contribute to “we may develop into political people” and “that the space of the political” is “maintained” in our republic.

Social science education or politics as the core? Interview with Prof. Dr. Karl-Heinz Breier (for the podcast with project information in the media library)
Are teachers studying political science in Mainz trained in such a way that they can teach social studies not only in Rhineland-Palatinate, in which politics is at the core, but also the integrated subject of social sciences in North Rhine-Westphalia? And conversely, do students from North Rhine-Westphalia, who have to study the three subjects of politics, sociology and economics in order to be able to teach the subject of social sciences, then understand enough of all three disciplines to be able to carry out well-founded social sciences lessons? What does integration of the social sciences mean and what is better for the students? (© Johannes-Gutenberg University Mainz)

Relation to the controversy about competence orientation and concept learning

The question of the layout and perspective of the subject also flows into the discussion of political didactics about the specific design of the knowledge dimension in the various competence models.
(see article “Competence Orientation and the Conveyance of Conceptual Interpretive Knowledge” in the dossier political education). The model by Georg Weißeno and others focuses on the three basic concepts of “decision”, “order” and “common good”. The model thus follows the political concept formulated by Werner Patzelt and Thomas Meyer, according to which politics is that human action “that prepares and establishes generally binding decisions and regulations in and between groups of people oriented towards the common good” (Patzelt 1993, p. 14; Meyer 2006, p. 41 - quoted from Weißeno et al. 2010, p. 29). In an appropriately conducted lesson, politics should unmistakably represent the core of political education.

In contrast, the authors of a critical counter-position to the above-mentioned model, who all stand for a broader, sociological approach, have Wolfgang Sander's proposal for a set of six basic concepts, namely “system”, “actors”, “needs” and “basic orientations” "," Power "and" Change ", added. With the basic concept of “needs” an important economic concept is set, and with the basic concepts “system” and “change”, two central sociological concepts are set for the subject. The authors expressly justify this selection by stating that a list of basic concepts for political education requires “openness to the plurality of social sciences and to the complexity of the phenomenon of the political” (group of authors 2011, p.171).

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What do you have to study to teach politics or social science?

Not only the layout of the school subject, but also the content of the teacher training course differ greatly in different federal states. According to the "Common State Requirements" of the Conference of Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs (KMK 2019), the course should convey political, sociological and economic competencies. In subject didactics, too, it is undisputed that teachers of political education need specialist knowledge of politics, economics and society. It is controversial, however, whether they should acquire this knowledge in the context of the broadest possible study of political science or, better, study all three scientific disciplines - political science, sociology and economics. In fact, future teachers at most universities are studying political science. [3]

The political science degree almost always includes courses on social and economic issues - but to a different extent depending on the university. Other universities combine political science and economics or “social sciences” with shares in political science, sociology and economics. The training is not always congruent with the respective subject area at the schools in the relevant federal state.

Advantages and disadvantages of the different variants of the degree

For students who later want to teach political education, all variants have advantages and disadvantages: Students either have to study two or even three social science disciplines at two or three institutes for just one subject - the complexity of the individual disciplines can then only be penetrated to a very limited extent become. If, on the other hand, the prospective teachers “only” study political science, they may lack sociological or economic knowledge - depending on where they are studying.

The problem of the different subjects arises more and more for non-technical subjects, in which political education is at home, as well as for the subject “social studies”, which is becoming more and more common in non-grammar schools and alongside the subject political education also geography and history includes.

Of course, this problem concerns above all prospective teachers of political education, such as the students of the University of Mainz, who in their podcast interviews with Prof. Dr. Sibylle Reinhardt, a proponent of teaching social sciences, and with Prof. Dr. Peter Massing and Prof. Dr. Karl-Heinz Breier interviewed two proponents of politics as a subject (see podcast interviews above).

Their positions differ not only with regard to the conception of the subject, but also with regard to their ideas about teacher training: Peter Massing considers political science training - provided it is broad enough and includes economic and social issues - to be sufficient.

Karl-Heinz Breier, like Peter Massing, advocates politics as the core of political education, but does not conclude from this that a political science degree is necessarily better than a social science degree.

Sibylle Reinhardt is of the opinion that the students can integrate the contents of the three social sciences themselves and, moreover, that individual preferences with regard to the discipline from which one primarily wants to explore the world are conceivable and possible. She therefore explicitly advocates studying all three social science disciplines.

In view of the differentiation of the scientific disciplines, all interviewees do not believe that a not only additive, but integrated social science education course for student teachers is not feasible. [4]

Conclusion

The vast majority of didacticians in political and social sciences agree that we need a common subject for the content from society, economics and politics. This common ground is a central difference to the debate about the relationship between political and economic education, in which similar arguments are put forward, but the question is also in the room: “Do we need a separate subject economics?” (See also the article “Do we need a separate subject economics? "in the dossier). In contrast, not only Peter Massing and Karl-Heinz Breier, but also all the other authors named here would agree with Sibylle Reinhardt if she sums up at the end of the podcast interview: We need for the social sciences a common subject, "because life is complex and because we humans don't live in slices. The sciences do that and they have good reasons for it. That has contributed a lot to the internal progress of the subjects. But for educational processes, especially for younger people, it mustn't be that we want to divide them up into individual sectors ”.

Individual passages of this text with a length of approx. 2500 characters are taken from: Oberle, Monika / Pohl, Kerstin 2020: Politics in teacher training - professionalization for a multifaceted subject, in: Cramer, Colin / König, Johannes / Rothland, Martin / Blömeke , Sigrid (Hrsg.): Handbuch Lehrerbildung (new edition). Bad Heilbrunn / Stuttgart (i.E.). I would like to thank Monika Oberle for her consent to take over the text passages.

literature

Author group subject didactics (2011): Concepts of political education. A polemic, Schwalbach / Ts.

Detjen, Joachim (2013): Political Education. Past and present in Germany (2nd edition), Munich.

GPJE (Ed.) (2004): National educational standards for subject teaching in political education in schools. A draft, Schwalbach / Ts.

Goll, Thomas (2019): "May it be a little more?" - Demand and reality of interdisciplinarity in the subject of social sciences, in: Lotz, Mathias / Pohl, Kerstin (Ed.): Gesellschaft im Wandel, Frankfurt / M., Pp. 113-122.

Grammes, Tilman (1998): Communicative Subject Didactics. Politics, history, law, economics, Opladen.

Hedtke, Reinhold (2019): The Concordance Principle as a Domain Didactic Leading Idea of ​​Social Education, in: Lotz, Mathias / Pohl, Kerstin (Eds.): Gesellschaft im Wandel, Frankfurt / M., Pp. 105-112.

Hippe, Thorsten (2010): How is social science education possible? Social key problems as an integrative subject of economic and political education, Wiesbaden.

KMK (2019): Common national content requirements for the subject sciences and subject didactics in teacher training. Resolution of October 16, 2008 i. d. F. from 16.05.2019 https://www.kmk.org/fileadmin/Dateien/veroeffnahmungen_beschluesse/2008/2008_10_16-Fachprofile-Lehrerbildung.pdf (last accessed on 21.01.2020)

Kuhn, Hans-Werner / Massing, Peter / Skuhr, Werner (1993): Political Education in Germany, 2nd edition, Opladen. Lotz, Mathias / Pohl, Kerstin (Eds.) (2019): Society in Transition. New tasks for political education and its didactics. Frankfurt a. M.

Massing, Peter (2015): The importance of political science for political education - an introduction, in: Bieling, Hans-Jürgen et al. (Ed.): Kursbuch Politikwissenschaft. Introduction - Orientation - Trends. Schwalbach / Ts., Pp. 165-184.

Massing, Peter / Weißeno, Georg (eds.) (1995): Politics as the core of political education, Opladen.

Meyer, Thomas (2006): What is politics? Wiesbaden.

Ministry for Schools and Further Education of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia (2014): Core curriculum for upper secondary school / comprehensive school in North Rhine-Westphalia: Social sciences and social sciences / economics, Düsseldorf, https://www.schulentwicklung.nrw.de/lehrplaene/upload /klp_SII/sw/KLP_GOSt_SoWi.pdf (last accessed on January 21, 2020)

Patzelt, Werner J. (1993): Introduction to Political Science. Floor plan of the subject and course-related orientation, 2nd edition, Passau.

Pohl, Kerstin (Ed.) (2016): Political didactics in 2015. A summary, in: Dies. (Ed.): Positions of political education. Interviews on political didactics, Schwalbach / Ts. Pp. 514-555.

Reinhardt, Sibylle (1997): Didactics of the social sciences, high school upper level. Meaning, structure, learning processes, opladen.

Senate Department for Education, Youth and Sport Berlin (2006): Framework curriculum for upper secondary school: Social Sciences, https://www.berlin.de/sen/bildung/unterricht/faecher-rahmenlehrplaene/rahmenlehrplaene/mdb-sen-bildung-unterricht- lehrplaene-sek2_sozialwissenschaften.pdf (last accessed on January 21, 2020)

Weißeno, Georg / Detjen, Joachim / Juchler, Ingo / Massing, Peter / Richter, Dagmar (2010): Concepts of politics - a competence model, Schwalbach / Ts.