Innovate education to strengthen the value of democracy – 09/01/2022. – Education

On September 15, we celebrate the International Day of Democracy. However, this common sense word seems to boil down to the right to vote every two years in Brazil. Although lately more and more driven by the press, due to the recent demonstrations for the return of the dictatorship and for military intervention in our politics, there is a lack of spaces that strengthen these daily habits, such as expressing opinions, dissatisfaction and demands, in any case, democratic heritage.

Only in consolidated democracies can ordinary citizens, individually or collectively, express their ideas and opinions and freely use digital spaces and resources. However, a democratic citizen is not made by the state of users of social networks, even if technically skilled, even though it is democracy that guarantees the realization of their freedom of expression in these virtual environments.

That’s why the communication issues of our time, imbued with the truth and misinformation, are considered in different curricula and programs of basic education, with the intention of forming citizens capable of dealing with the media and information without naivety. And in order to train critical people, it is necessary to encourage the appropriation of digital technologies, which will be accompanied by the same democratic values ​​that recognize access to them as a fundamental right.

Education has that role. This is what gives citizenship meaning to social practices. Regarding the use of technology, educational processes must include media and information providers in order to form citizens who value diversity and contradictions. Educational institutions must take a firm stand in defense of dignity and human rights, directing students that their daily communication takes into account these civilizational criteria, instead of turning a blind eye to the harmful appropriation of these resources, to express messages that attack the dignity of persons, groups and institutions.

However, the principles of ethical and responsible communication should not be dealt with only in theory in school or any other potentially educational space. It is necessary that education offers democratic experiences to children and young people, which necessarily includes the exercise of communication. How to learn to be democratic without listening to the other, without paying attention to the participation of others, without recognizing that it is everyone’s right?

Jesús Martín-Barbero (1937-2021), an important Spanish intellectual based in Colombia, has a wonderful comment on this in an article he wrote in the early 2000s, on how to educate for democracy. He said: “You don’t learn to be democratic in courses on democracy, you learn to be democratic in families that welcome unconventional parents and children, in schools that consider dissent and diversity an asset, with means of communication that can truly give citizens a voice.”

His words reinforce the importance of valuing diversity and allowing it to exist and manifest itself. In this way, digital and media educational practices must necessarily be democratic, in the sense of valuing the diversity of viewpoints and, at the same time, recognizing and fighting against discursive productions that harm democracy and won rights.

A publication by the Instituto Palavra Aberta, entitled 5 Contributions of Media Education to Democracy, seeks to break down this idea in a practical perspective, offering teachers suggestions for flexible activities to develop democratic skills in the classroom. We start from the assumption that the school space is a microcosm of social diversity and that pedagogical strategies, based on the use of media, can contribute to the qualification of students’ freedom of expression, their participation in society, while strengthening the importance of a plurality of viewpoints for understanding reality in its complexity.

And, in order to support significant pedagogical practices, in terms of highlighting the relationship between life in a democratic society and elections, Palavra Aberta launched the #FakeToFora project, another initiative in the context of the EducaMídia program, with a series of seven didactic sequences for primary education teachers to approach the topic from playful and practical perspectives.

Actions like these try to clearly show that the obligation of education in the 21st century is to form subjects capable of dialogue, common life and respect for differences. Media and technologies are not, therefore, the purpose of the innovative educational process, but the means from which we will form citizens capable of improving democratic processes and institutions.

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