|Editor||A. Ross, Teaching Citizenship|
Children participate in the social life of various groups from the moment of birth. The first such a group is family, followed by peer groups in the courtyard, in the kindergarten and at school. Being a member of a group is conducive not only to establishing close emotional ties with others, but also to developing the sense of solidarity, unity and integrity. It also helps create one’s own hierarchy of values, provides emotional stabilisation and social identity. Through taking an active part in the life of a group, children become acquainted with patterns of social behaviour and prepare themselves for taking on various social roles. They learn social rules and experience and the consequences of their application, they formulate social theories and they acquire knowledge about social systems. Another crucial experience is the first contact with a formal institution, such as kindergarten or school. This is where the child learns his or her first lesson in civic education. A goal of school education is to help pupils to gain knowledge and develop the skills necessary for living in a community. Teachers concentrate on both of these in their work. But a less formal, but almost equally important, outcome of education is the promotion of certain attitudes among pupils. Attitudes towards civic rights and duties are affected by both formal and informal knowledge about the functioning of cultural and educational systems. This knowledge is the child’s source of their first and often subconscious ‘civic experiences’, which will contribute to future attitudes toward social participation. The way such attitudes are developed, their coherence and authenticity, are critical factors for civil conduct. This paper focuses on children’s attitudes towards a key element of civic education at school – class council elections. This is one of the most important lessons of school democracy. Elections confront formal knowledge about participation in social life with inner, personal convictions about who participates in this form of activity, and on what basis. An analysis of the deliberative choices made by pupils, and the consequences of their decisions, reveals the nature of explicit and implicit attitudes – informal and unconscious, but forming the basis of social behaviour. Understanding the motivation behind actions taken by children will help teachers realise how they influence their pupils in both intentional and unintentional areas.