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The Class Council: Preparing Young People for Democracy

According to the recent Deutsche Shell’s Jugendwerk report on German youth, young Germans are not generally apolitical. Young people have difficulties with politics, but the much bigger problem lies on the other side: it’s that politics is reluctant to involve young people.[1] It’s important to young people to have a say and to utilize their competence to contribute. Young people’s wish list for school would include improvements like more small workgroups, more projects, more independent research by themselves, more classroom discussion, to have more say in class planning, a trustful relationship to their teachers.[2] The ways of teaching and learning mentioned by the young themselves promote cooperative learning and democratic skills.

The facts stated by the Shell report and representative surveys of the Institut für Schulentwicklungsforschung (IFS) indicate that teachers have to show more effort in promoting the process of democratization at school. Célestin Freinet’s concept of a class council effectively pursues at least three goals of political education: young people gain democratic awareness, they improve their skills in making judgments themselves, and they practise getting involved. The class council is the democratic pillar upon which Freinet pedagogy stands.

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