Political Education and the Need for Alternative Models

Political education is often a catch phrase with negative associations attached and therefore, almost always triggering prejudicial attitudes-even some outright xenophobia such as keep politics out of educational curriculum! This article briefly looks at this politically charged issue and how it is being tackled in Turkish secondary schools. It also examines some other issues concerning schooling and what parents need to know about politics and education in Turkey. The author gratefully acknowledges his appreciation to Professor Gokmen C. Ozcan for preparing the outline of this article.

How Political Education Has Changed

In the United States we pride ourselves in having an extremely complex system of government and a free press that works for the public’s right to know what goes on in our political process. We also have the most robust and diverse school system in all of the world, which aspires to educate all of our children without political favouritism or exclusion. Unfortunately, our political education in the United States has lagged behind that of other developed countries, even though we spend more on our public education than any other nation. The whole thing is getting a bit convoluted and the political culture that pervades American schooling is now at odds with the rest of the developed world.


The problem with our political education is that our politicians are rarely picked to be taught by their parents. This is probably the greatest single cause of political correctness, which seeks to keep politics and other issues out of the school room. Yet, by attacking political education we are in fact attacking the whole concept of democracy itself. Without those fundamental principles governing our politics, there can be no check and balance, and without those checks and balances, there can be nothing to prevent corrupt and venal political leaders from taking full advantage of the freedoms provided to all Americans. This means that our political education has been sadly lacking in recent years and Turkey has an excellent system of political education. Just because Turkey is relatively new and not yet considered an expert on political issues doesn’t mean that it isn’t good for America.

Issues And Ongoing Challenges

The second problem with American public education has less to do with our politicians than it does our educational system. The problem is that the bureaucracy of American public education has grown so out of control that no one knows how to even start fixing it. For decades, our schools have been overbooked, the funding for them has been cut, and teachers and students are required to work uncharacteristically long hours with little preparation time. These circumstances combine to create an overwhelming environment where bureaucracy almost overtakes and interferes with the education process. In short, for all the problems that are currently facing our American public education system, there’s one great problem that no one seems to be talking about: the failure of our public education system to prepare students for life.

Political education can help American citizens understand and deal with the realities of politics in this country. For instance, just consider the fact that nearly half of all public school students in New York City live below the poverty level. In other words, their parents couldn’t afford to send them to a better school if they were available. By teaching young Americans about public education, political education can help them develop skills essential for navigating the political system. This would be especially important if the student were to enter politics after school and find themselves working in a government office.

In a future article in this series, we will look at how political education can be applied to the study of political science, economics, and psychology. There is obviously much to learn about these topics, but the key is to focus on the political processes that produce public policies. For instance, we might examine how citizens in Argentina debate a change in the constitution that would affect many industries. Or we might learn how students debate the validity of scientific findings. We’ll also examine how theoretical models can inform policy making, and we’ll explore how political education can help us understand the work of social scientists.

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