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From Comrade to Citizen
Gregory E. Hamot
Extracted from Democracy at Large: Vol 1 No. 4 2005
September 2005

Civic Knowledge is based on an understanding of the principles and practice of democracy. Six concepts lie at the core of global education for democracy:

  • Representative democracy: free, fair, open and contested elections through which an inclusive citizenry chooses governmental representatives.
  • Rule of law: just treatment for all citizens through a constitution based on rule of law that places appropriate limits on a representative government elected by the people.
  • Human Rights: guaranteed equal protection of natural rights for all individuals through the due process of law.
  • Citizenship: the source of authority for the constitution and the government, whereby citizens take ownership of their country by consenting to the manner in which it is governed and by choosing those who will govern.
  • Civil society: a collection of independent associations that can act unrestrained on any matter that does not endanger the human rights of others and that can check the political forces within a society that might like to circumvent government and the rule of law.
  • Market economy: governmentally protected and regulated personal investments involving a free exchange of goods and services based on competition that allows prices to be set through the free consumer choices of the people.

Civic knowledge also includes an understanding of the various interpretations of citizenship in democracies around the world and of perennial issues embedded in the core principles of democracy, like the potential clash between freedom and equality. This knowledge gives citizens the ability to communicate with a common vocabulary and act together for common civic purposes.

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