Citizenship Education through the Pragmatist Lens of Habit

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Existing scholarship most commonly identifies the aims of citizenship education as cultivating the knowledge, skills and dispositions needed for effective civic participation. This paper sets out to develop an alternative framework relying on the Pragmatist conception of habits. The Pragmatist use of the term ‘habits’ deviates from the everyday connotations of mindless, repetitive modes of action. Instead, habits are presented as ‘vehicles of cognition’—reactions to problems individuals encounter, or foresee, within the environment. As habits entail both adjustments to the environment, and adjustments of the environment, they elucidate the manner in which individual conduct is externally determined, yet leaves space for individual agency. I unpack habits as an organising concept for citizenship education by exploring three central attributes. First, the intersubjective nature of habits demands overcoming the depiction of educational environments as contingent features that should be shed for the cultivation of generalisable skills, and stresses the need to develop meaningful interactions in which students are allowed and expected to develop as civic actors. Second, the dynamic potential of habits implies that schools need to facilitate opportunities for practicing democratic modes of behaviour across a variety of contexts, characterised by an incremental increase in complexity, rather than mere repetition. Finally, the interconnected nature of habits stresses the need to account for the transformation of conduct across the school setting and civic ones. I conclude by briefly pointing out how recent developments both highlight the importance of a habits framework, and could allow us to better theorise and operationalise it.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)483-497
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Philosophy of Education
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Aug 2018


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