Teaching Politics in a Globalized World

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					           Teaching Politics in a
              Globalized World

European Integration and Globalization as
    Cross-cutting Issues in the Classroom

                                Ragnar Müller

             DARE Discussion Paper, June 2008

Publisher:   DARE (Democracy and Human Rights Education in Europe)
Graphs:      Agora (www.gesellschaft-agora.de)
© 2008       Ragnar Müller (contact: ragnar.mueller@dadalos.org)

About the author: Ragnar Müller is a political scientist and web designer and has been work-
ing in the field of civic education for two decades. He is author of most online textbooks on
D@dalos (www.dadalos.org), managing director of Agora (www.gesellschaft-agora.de) and
board member of Pharos Stuttgart/Sarajevo (www.pharos-online.org).

                               This publication has been funded with support from the Euro-
                               pean Commission (134263-LLP-1-DE-GRUNDTVIG-GNW).
                               It reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission
                               cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made
                               of the information contained therein.
Teaching Politics in a Globalized World
European Integration and Globalization as
Cross-cutting Issues in the Classroom
Ragnar Müller

Introduction                                             in schools and adult education. Basic
                                                         knowledge about politics is (still) part of
The world has changed. The way poli-                     the core curriculum in all European
tics is taught at school and in adult edu-               countries. It belongs to the things edu-
cation hasn't. Starting from this basic                  cated people (should) know and it is a
problem the following chapters will out-                 precondition for some more ambitious
line a new approach to teaching politics.                goals of civic education.
This approach tries to introduce multi-                  Focusing on teaching politics as part of
level governance to classrooms by tak-                   the cognitive dimension of civic educa-
ing policies (and not polities) as starting              tion nevertheless does not mean that
points.                                                  this is considered to be more important
If globalization is about dismantling of                 than other topics, objectives or dimen-
borders, the “Policy Approach” - as it                   sions.
might be labelled - tries to find a way to               The limited scope of the new approach
teach politics in a globalized world.                    also means that nothing will be said
Its aim is to bridge the gap between po-                 about tasks and objectives of civic or
litical science and politics in the class-               democracy education such as social
room. While the world has changed rap-                   skills, media or intercultural competen-
idly since the end of the Cold War and                   cies - to name but a few.
political science did its best to adjust to
the new situation, politics in the class-                Basic problem
room wasn't able to keep pace.
                                                         Democracy education developed (once
Scope of the approach                                    upon a time in the West) in and for na-
                                                         tion-states, when nation-states were the
Civic education and democracy educa-                     unrivalled centres of politics.
tion and EDC (Education for Democratic                   Since then the world of politics has
Citizenship) and ESD (Education for                      changed: other actors (international or-
Sustainable Development) and HRE                         ganizations, NGOs, transnational cor-
(Human Rights Education) and numer-                      porations) and levels (European, trans-
ous other approaches in this field all                   atlantic, global) have become more and
share crucial elements (that is why the                  more important.
differences between them are not al-
ways easy to tell).                                      But democracy education is still largely
                                                         bound to nation-states and their political
And all these approaches deal with a                     systems. Teaching is still based on the
great variety of important topics ranging                national model of democracy, although
from community-oriented social learning                  political scientists point out that - at
to national political participation.                     least for European countries - a national
The Policy Approach to be introduced                     political system cannot be understood
here focuses on a relatively small part                  or analyzed without taking the EU into
of civic education: on teaching politics                 account.

    Ragnar Müller: Teaching Politics in a Globalized World, DARE Discussion Paper, June 2008           3
    More than two thirds of “national” deci-              Functional differentiation in the EU
    sion-making is shaped by Brussels.                    multi-level system means for example
    This doesn't mean that all these laws                 that institutions and levels of the system
    are made by Brussels exclusively but it               work together completely differently de-
    means that they are made by the multi-                pending on the issue at stake.
    level system of the EU.

                       Multi-level system of the European Union

= supranational level (Commission, Council of the EU, EP, European Council, ECJ etc.)
= national level (government, parliament, interest groups, parties etc. in 27 member states)
= subnational level (regions, Bundesländer, local authorities, départements etc.)

    And it is the EU bargaining at the WTO                So the European Parliament by now
    meetings where regulations for interna-               plays a major role in a lot of EU policies
    tional trade are issued - to give only one            but its influence in the Common Foreign
    example for politics on the global level.             and Security Policy is limited. And there
    So what is the use of telling students                are more examples to illustrate the
    that democracy means that we elect a                  point that there is no single and simple
    parliament which elects a government                  model for EU decisions.1
    which makes binding decisions for us                  Dealing with globalization in the class-
    all without telling them that there is                room leads to similar problems. There is
    much more to the picture than meets                   no single “globalization” but functional
    the (national) eye?                                   differentiation with regard to dimensions
    And what is the use of having separate                or areas of society, culture, politics,
    teaching units for the political system of            economy etc.
    one's own country, for God's own coun-                So how can we deal with complex top-
    try, for the European Union and the                   ics like EU or globalization in the class-
    United Nations when in fact they work                 room in a more appropriate way? It is
    together in decision-making. This leads               exactly this question the Policy Ap-
    to polity-centred teaching informing stu-             proach tries to answer.2
    dents and adult learners about the
    (single) institutional system of the EU               Basic idea of the approach
    which is misleading in the best case
                                                          Taking policies instead of polities as
    and simply wrong in most others.
                                                          starting points for teaching politics is the
    Two of the most important features of                 basic idea of the Policy Approach. Up to
    politics in the 21st century are complex-             now, typical curricula throughout
    ity and functional differentiation. And               Europe look like the one shown in the
    both are striking features of the EU be-              graph. Different polities are treated
    ing considered as a laboratory and                    separately.
    model for politics in the 21st century.

4                 Ragnar Müller: Teaching Politics in a Globalized World, DARE Discussion Paper, June 2008
                           Typical curriculum for teaching politics

    Political               Political
                                                    European                    United
   system of               system of                                                                     etc.
                                                     Union                      Nations
 [own country]               USA

         This traditional approach makes it diffi-                   3 Dimensions: Polity - Politics - Policy
         cult to get an appropriate picture of poli-                 “A distinction is drawn between the three
         tics in the globalized world where for-                     following political dimensions: Polity, politics
         eign and domestic policy are intermin-                      and policy. Polity is taken to mean the for-
         gled, traditionally important categories                    mal dimension of politics, that is, the struc-
         won't fit any more and borders are dis-                     ture of norms, the way in which procedures
         mantled.3                                                   are regulated and the institutions in which
         It's next to impossible to teach the EU                     politics takes place.
         system as a whole given the fact that                       Politics means the procedural dimension,
         decision-making varies greatly between                      or rather the decision-making processes,
         different policy areas. And there is sim-                   the settling of conflicts and the enforcing of
         ply no way to teach the “Political system                   goals and interests. This dimension encom-
         of [Germany]” successfully without re-                      passes several of the classic issues associ-
         ferring to the European level in every                      ated with political science (who is able to
         other sentence. So why teach them                           enforce their interests?; what mechanisms
         separately? Why not forget about poli-                      are in place for regulating conflict?; etc.).
         ties and systems for a while and think of                   And finally policy is the substance-based
         policies first?                                             dimension of politics and refers to solving
         While the guiding question of traditional                   problems and fulfilling tasks by the adminis-
         approaches is: how does the EU sys-                         trative system drawing on decisions that are
         tem work?, the Policy Approach asks:                        binding for all.”
         how does policy-making in a policy area                     [Ragnar Müller/Wolfgang Schumann (2003), Teach-
         look like?                                                  ing Politics, D@dalos Online Textbook: www.dadalos.
                                                                     org/politik_int/politik.htm, 17.04.2008]

                   Policy Approach curriculum for teaching politics

  european                 Environmental
                                                               Social                    Education
   national                                                                                                     etc.
                            e.g. “How can                      Policy                     Policy
                             we save the
local / regional

              Ragnar Müller: Teaching Politics in a Globalized World, DARE Discussion Paper, June 2008             5
        Implementing the approach                                Firstly, on your way to find a didactical
                                                                 perspective you will have to choose an
        Let us take environmental policy as a                    example because it is impossible to
        starting point and look for a didactical                 deal with as broad a field as environ-
        perspective to deal with environmental                   mental policy. You may decide to bring
        policy which meets your crucial learning                 climate change to the centre of the
        target: understanding politics in the 21st               stage. There are a lot of good reasons
        century. Therefore,                                      for this, as climate change
        • you want learners to see that differ-                  • is something the learners might be
           ent levels are involved;                                  interested in,
        • you want learners to get an impres-                    • is very important,
           sion of exemplary political processes
                                                                 • is in the news,
           on each of the different levels;
                                                                 • is dealt with on all levels,
        • you want learners to get a glimpse of
           the interaction and interdependence                   • is a major playground for NGOs,
           of these levels in the political proc-                • etc.
           ess, which also includes networks
                                                                 Having chosen climate change as ex-
           consisting of actors on different lev-
                                                                 ample there are still many possibilities
                                                                 for a didactical perspective.
        • you want learners to get acquainted
                                                                 You might, for example, want to focus
           with new actors like NGOs, transna-
                                                                 on the particularities of global problems
           tional corporations or foundations.
                                                                 and global governance. Your guiding
                                                                 question might be to challenge the in-
                                                                 congruity of high pressure to cope with
Climate change / global warming                                  the problem and insufficient solutions.
“Global warming is the increase in the aver-                     Characteristics of international politics,
age temperature of the Earth's near-surface                      crucial conflicts (North-South, economy-
air and oceans since the mid-twentieth cen-                      ecology) and common pathologies
tury and its projected continuation. The av-                     (tragedy of the commons, prisoners’ di-
erage global air temperature near the                            lemma) would play a prominent role. In
Earth's surface increased 0.74 ± 0.18 °C                         this case a possible title for your unit
during the hundred years ending in 2005.                         would be: “Why is climate change not
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate                           stopped?”
Change (IPCC) concludes ‘most of the ob-                         Taking into account that climate change
served increase in globally averaged tem-                        calls for action on all levels including
peratures since the mid-twentieth century is                     the individual level you might want to
very likely due to the observed increase in                      choose a different option and build your
anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentra-                          teaching unit around the guiding ques-
tions’ via the greenhouse effect. (…)                            tion: how can we save the climate? This
Over the past several years, increased                           might also be the title of your unit and
awareness of the scientific findings sur-                        would call for an interdisciplinary ap-
rounding global warming has resulted in po-                      proach (politics, economy, geography,
litical and economic debate. Poor regions,                       biology, physics).
particularly Africa, appear at greatest risk                     The following graph shows possible
from the suggested effects of global warm-                       contents for a teaching unit and gives
ing, while their actual emissions have been                      some examples for inter-level and
small compared to the developed world.”                          trans-level topics to be dealt with so
[taken from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/                       that the crucial learning target can be
Global_warming, 19.04.2008]                                      met: understanding politics in the 21st

    6                    Ragnar Müller: Teaching Politics in a Globalized World, DARE Discussion Paper, June 2008
          Teaching environmental policy / climate change – example:
    global             polity: UN system, world conferences (Rio 1992 & succeeding conferences,

                                                                                                                            Linkage and collaboration of the levels (Agenda 21, UN Decade …)
                       role of NGOs and experts)
                       politics: typical processes of international policy-making (bargaining, no
                       hierarchy, North-South cleavage etc.)
                       policy: i.e. Kyoto Protocol

  european             polity/politics: collaboration of the EU multi-level system in environmental
                       policy; development of this policy area due to connections with EU’s
                       internal market; role of European Commission
                       policy: 1st Environment Action Programme; EU Emission Trading Scheme

   national            polity/politics/policy: Sustainability Strategy of the respective national
                       government (development, implementation, international background,
                       consultation with NGOs etc.); implementation of EU directives (i.e. Habitat)

local / regional       regional and/or local initiatives against climate change, possibly with regard
                       to their national, European or global (Local Agenda 21) context

  individual           i.e. consumer behaviour, tourism, energy, traffic, mobility, CO2 footprint;
                       connection with international processes (Fair Trade, contributing to the
                       work of NGOs etc.)

                                 understanding politics in the 21st century

          century which means coming to terms                      are not treated as topics but as cross-
          with multi-level policy-making, with net-                cutting issues. Maybe this is the most
          works and new actors.                                    important difference to traditional ap-
          Such a teaching unit, of course, will take               proaches.
          a whole term. So there would be one
          policy area per term. Learners would get                 References
          to know multi-level decision-making in                   1) See for example SIMON HIX (20052), The Po-
          four to six different areas during their                    litical System of the European Union, Pal-
          school life. This would sum up to a pic-                    grave Macmillan.
          ture of, for example, EU policy-making                   2) “How to teach complex topics like EU and
                                                                      globalization” is the (translated) title of the Ph.
          which is by no means comprehensive
                                                                      D. thesis of the author this paper builds upon.
          but maybe more adequate than the one                        It is available in German language on the
          learners have after having been told how                    Internet: www.online-dissertation.de.
          the EU institutional system works.                       3) Among countless publications making this
          In the framework of the Policy Approach,                     point see ULRICH BECK (2000), What is Glob-
          globalization and European integration                       alization?, Blackwell Publishers.

               Ragnar Müller: Teaching Politics in a Globalized World, DARE Discussion Paper, June 2008                     7
   Teaching environmental policy / climate change – possible structure:
getting in          global          confrontation of climate scientists’ future scenario with Rio’s
                                    Framework Convention on Climate Change; elaborating the
                                    guiding question of the teaching unit (incongruity of urgent global
                                    problems and insufficient solutions)

section 1           global          Rio Earth Summit: preliminary events, way to results, bargaining,
                                    conference process, conflicts, role of NGOs); Agenda 21 as the
                                    most important result of the conference

section 2            local          Local Agenda 21 (basic idea, priorities, structure and problems
                                    of an on-site Local Agenda 21 project )

section 3         individual        How do I act sustainably? (consumer behaviour, traffic, CO2
                                    footprint etc.); what does sustainability mean?

section 4          national         Sustainability Strategy Report of the respective government
                                    (which includes cross-links to the global and European level)

section 5         european          EU environmental policy (decision-making, development of this
                                    policy due to interdependence with EU's internal market); CO2
                                    emission trading scheme

conclusion      across levels       CO2 emission trading in the respective country (origin of the
                                    idea in the Kyoto Protocol, common determining of total volume
                                    on the European level, national agency for emission trade,
                                    consequences for a local company)

    The paper outlines a new approach to teaching politics in a globalized world. Instead of
    starting with institutions and systems (polity), the Policy Approach starts with decisions
    and outcomes (policy). European integration and globalization are not treated as topics
    but as cross-cutting issues. As a result, politics in the classroom gets closer to the reality
    of multi-level governance. Environmental policy was chosen as an example to show what
    this approach might look like in practice. Main learning target is to understand (multi-
    level) politics in the 21st century.

                                           Democracy and Human Rights Education in Adult Learning
                                            EU-Project No. 134263-LLP-1-2007-1-DE-GRUNDTVIG-GNW

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