181Educ. Pesqui., São Paulo, v. 40, n. 1, p. 181-196, jan./mar. 2014.
In the interstices of citizenship: the inevitable, urgent
character of the dimension of civic virtue in education
Eduardo Nuno Fonseca
This article has two central points. The ﬁrst is to problematize
the conceptualization of citizenship according to its moral
meaning; the second is to evaluate its respective implications
for any educational projects that recognize the relevance of
education for citizenship in the school context. Therefore,
a few considerations will initially be made regarding the
polyhedral dimension of the concept of citizenship. We will
particularly emphasize that, besides requiring knowledge
and competences, participatory citizenship also covers the
domains of personal and extra personal resources, as well as
the dispositions leading to action. Moreover, there is a bond
between each citizen’s moral constitution, democracy itself,
and the experiencing of democracy. Finally, we will approach
democratic citizenship, which involves one’s capacity to
move beyond one’s own individual interests in order to be
committed to the good of the community. In this perspective,
citizenship raises a latent tension that must be wisely settled.
The educational process therefore occurs in the slippery border
between indoctrination and the respect for free individual
choice, thus calling for strict faithfulness to the guiding
compass of human rights (UNESCO, 2006), which favors
defending people’s dignity, the right to the development of
personality, and the ﬁghting of all forms of discrimination
(ROLDÃO, 1992; SANTOS, 2011).
Democracy — Citizenship — Education — Character.
I- This article is part of a chapter of the
Education doctorate thesis A Educação para
a cidadania no sistema de ensino básico
português no âmbito da formação do caráter:
análises e propostas – dois estudos de
caso, submitted to Instituto de Educação da
Universidade de Lisboa in late 2012; the thesis
was supported by Fundação para a Ciência e
a Tecnologia (FCT) (SFRH/BD/45232/2008).
We wish to thank this work’s supervisor, Maria
Odete Valente, Ph.D., who since the 1980’s
has indelibly marked the Portuguese education
context in the area of personal and social
education and citizenship.
II- Universidade de Lisboa, Lisboa, Portugal.
Educ. Pesqui., São Paulo, v. 40, n. 1, p. 181-196, jan./mar. 2014.
Nos interstícios da cidadania: a inevitabilidade e urgência
da dimensão da virtude cívica na educação
Eduardo Nuno Fonseca
Este artigo tem dois objetivos centrais. O primeiro é
problematizar a conceptualização da cidadania, de acordo
com sua acepção moral e o segundo é equacionar as
respectivas implicações para qualquer projeto educativo que
reconheça a importância da educação para a cidadania em
contexto escolar. Assim, primeiramente serão feitas algumas
considerações a respeito da dimensão poliédrica do conceito
de cidadania. Especiﬁcamente, salientaremos que a cidadania
participativa, além de requerer conhecimentos e competências,
abrange igualmente o domínio de recursos pessoais e
extrapessoais, bem como as disposições conducentes à ação.
Ademais, existe um vínculo entre a constituição moral de cada
cidadão, a democracia e a vivência democrática. Finalmente,
abordaremos a cidadania democrática, a qual envolve a
capacidade da pessoa de se mover além dos seus próprios
interesses individuais, para que possa comprometer-se com o
bem da comunidade onde se encontra inserida. A cidadania,
nessa perspectiva, origina uma latente tensão que necessita
ser prudentemente dirimida. O processo educativo, portanto,
desenvolve-se na fronteira escorregadia entre a doutrinação e
o respeito pela livre escolha individual, devendo existir uma
ﬁdelidade intransigente à bússola balizadora dos direitos
humanos (UNESCO, 2006), os quais privilegiam a defesa
da dignidade das pessoas, o direito ao desenvolvimento da
personalidade e o combate a todas as formas de discriminação
(ROLDÃO, 1992; SANTOS, 2011).
Democracia — Cidadania — Educação — Caráter.
I- Este artigo faz parte de uma seção de
um capítulo da tese de doutoramento em
Educação intitulada A Educação para a
cidadania no sistema de ensino básico
português no âmbito da formação do carácter:
análise e propostas – dois estudos de caso,
submetida ao Instituto de Educação da
Universidade de Lisboa no ﬁnal de 2012, a qual
foi apoiada pela Fundação para a Ciência e a
Tecnologia (FCT) (SFRH/BD/45232/2008). Um
merecido reconhecimento à supervisora
desse trabalho acadêmico, a professora
doutora Maria Odete Valente, a qual marcou
indelevelmente, desde a década de oitenta
do século XX, o contexto educativo português
na área da formação pessoal e social e da
II- Universidade de Lisboa, Lisboa, Portugal.
183Educ. Pesqui., São Paulo, v. 40, n. 1, p. 181-196, jan./mar. 2014.
This articles aims to evaluate and
problematize the conceptualization of
citizenship in the perspective of its moral
meaning and the respective implication for
any educational projects that recognize the
relevance of education for citizenship in the
school context. Citizenship is an ancient
notion that we ﬁnd in both the Greek polis
and the Roman civitas, where those who were
considered citizens had a voice in the town’s
administration. Today, the breadth, the horizon,
the responsibility, and the challenge of being a
citizen in the twenty-ﬁrst century have grown
exponentially, taking on a universal sense like
never before in the history of humanity.
Citizenship has grown past the national
level to reach global scope and form a globalized
super-citizenship that, in a condensed way,
now gradually comprehends both the local,
regional, national, and supranational spheres.
According to Freire-Ribeiro (2010, p. 67),
“more than being a national citizen, we must
be citizens of the world”, or, according to Reis-
Monteiro (2003), in the context of the Roman
Empire, one could proudly say, civis romanus
sum! (I am a Roman citizen!), but today,
every human being should be able to say,
civis humanus sum! (I am a human citizen!).
It is therefore a substantial responsibility of
the educational system in its contribution to
development in general and to the education
of the new generations.
With regard to the concept of citizenship,
its limits have grown wider and wider over time.
From the emphasis on the exclusionary sense
of belonging in a city (classical citizenship)
to the conquest of a number of rights, mainly
deriving from the axiological model of the
French Revolution (modern citizenship), to a
dimension designated as socio-liberal, where
each individual fully and sovereignly enjoys a
set of rights (FREIRE-RIBEIRO, 2010).
The concept of citizenship is historically
indebted to several traditions of political
thought. The liberal tradition emphasizes
civil and political rights, expressed in
the individual freedoms (of thought,
expression, participation, and association).
Communitarianism, in turn, stresses a sense
of community belonging, thus emphasizing
social and cultural rights. Finally, citizenship
emerges to the democratic tradition as
citizens’ active participation in society
(AFONSO, 2010). With this backdrop, which
has characterized the conceptual essence of
citizenship as manifested in several aspects,
yet stressing the simultaneously individual
and gregarious nature of the human being, i.e.,
as a subject of rights/duties with the power to
be a participant actor in the community, it
is reasonable to pose this question: to what
extent is it possible to dissociate citizenship
from moral dimensions? If citizenship requires
at least a certain form of character, namely a
civic virtue or a civic or democratic character,
then education for citizenship should take in
the relevant concepts of character as well as
practices for character formation (ALTHOF;
BERKOWITZ, 2006, p. 511).
But what are the arguments for taking
in the moral dimension into the essence
of citizenship? The answer will have some
evident implications regarding education
for citizenship. A few authors have claimed
that true democratic citizenship necessarily
comprehends moral development, therefore
requiring moral education, which is one
unavoidable aspect of citizenship. The
corollary argument to this is that education
for citizenship is invariably normative, thus
comprehending the moral dimensions inherent
to civic membership (CARR, 2006; HOGE, apud
ALTHOF; BERKOWITZ, 2006). Subsequently,
we will note that these dimensions are of
different kinds, and expose the aspects we ﬁnd
Eduardo Nuno FONSECA. In the interstices of citizenship: the inevitable, urgent character of the dimension of civic...
The polyhedral dimension of the
concept of citizenship
According to Althof and Berkowitz (2006)
and Audigier (2000, apud FREIRE-RIBEIRO,
2010), in agreement with what the International
Commission on Education for the Twenty-
ﬁrst Century has declared on the concept of
education (wholeness of being rather than
reductionism), it is now a consensus, particularly
in recent academic research and positions
adopted by renowned institutions, to conceive
a competent, involved and effective citizen as
someone possessing certain features that are
necessary for fully participating in the political,
economic, social and cultural spheres. In the
Commission’s report, education comprehends
four pillars that exalt the wholeness of being
and oppose any reductionisms. Two of these
pillars are closely related with personal and
social education, and they help us focus on,
rather than neglect, certain human dimensions,
namely, learning to live together, and learning
to be. In this perspective, understanding others,
being able to start common projects, managing
and settling potential conﬂicts, and living
autonomously and responsibly are considered
educational goals for the human being
throughout its education, where it develops
holistically as a person in an ongoing dialectics
that represents a symbiosis between spirit and
body, intelligence and sensitivity, aesthetical
sense, personal responsibility, and spirituality
Such citizenship therefore needs a set of
competences (i.e., cognitive, procedural, ethical,
and action competences) that encompass
the four domains below in a balanced,
creative, contextualized way: 1) political and
civic knowledge: concepts like democracy,
understanding the structure and mechanisms of
the legislative process, citizen’s rights and duties,
contemporary problems and political issues; 2)
intellectual skills: the ability to understand,
analyze and evaluate the trustworthiness of
information about government and public
policies on certain matters; 3)social and
participation skills: the ability to think, argue
and express opinions in political discussions;
conﬂict solving skills; knowing how to
inﬂuence policies and decisions through
petitions and lobbying, building alliances
and cooperating with partner organizations;
and 4) having certain values, attitudes and
dispositions with a motivational power: interest
in political and social affairs; a sense of
responsibility, tolerance, and recognizing one’s
own mistakes; an appreciation for the values on
which democratic societies are founded, such as
democracy, social justice and human rights. In
this last aspect, i.e., human rights, which form
the core of the adherence to democracy values,
their conceptual philosophy stresses the dignity
of every human being, as well as respect,
freedom, solidarity, tolerance, understanding or
the civic courage.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights
(UDHR) sets citizenship as a “common ideal to be
achieved by every people and every nation”. The
same document aims for every citizen:
[...] to make efforts, through learning and
education, to develop the respect for these
rights and freedoms and promote, through
national and international progressive
measures, their universal recognition and
application. (UNESCO, 2006)
Therefore, such expressions, to which
education for citizenship must connect itself, are
not meant to be invoked only in extremis as rights
that must be observed at high authority levels,
but are also called for in their human expression
at the concrete levels of daily life. They are not,
therefore, abstract, distant categories, but, rather,
operating realities that rearrange interpersonal
relationships. This rearrangement brings in
references that delimit spaces where plurality,
heterogeneous expressions of conduct, and
human viewpoints can rightfully coexist, thus
causing tolerance to become in itself a virtue
in line with other normative criteria (ALTHOF;
185Educ. Pesqui., São Paulo, v. 40, n. 1, p. 181-196, jan./mar. 2014.
BERKOWITZ, 2006; AUDIGIER, 2000, apud
FIGUEIREDO, 2005, p. 35; LEGRAND, 1991 apud
FONSECA, 2001, p. 53).
Lately, in the Portuguese context,
the concept of citizenship has also been
conceptualized as relying on three dimensions: (i)
citizenship as a principle of political legitimacy;
(ii) citizenship as identity construction; and
(iii) citizenship as a set of values (SANTOS,
2011). Citizenship is thus considered in order
to also include values, attitudes and behaviors
that can be expected from a good citizen and
society itself (SANTOS, 2011, p.5). We therefore
agree with several authors (AFONSO, 2010;
CAETANO, 2010; MENEZES, 2005; PEREIRA,
2007; RODRIGUES, 2008; ROLDÃO, 1992,
1999) who have strongly argued for citizenship
not to be conceived in a minimalistic way. In
order to be a good citizen, having cognitive
and information capacities is clearly a
necessary condition, yet not a sufﬁcient one.
These authors highlight that, in a democratic
context, the functioning of democratic
political institutions that include participatory
citizenship is vital, as well as “internalizing
values associated with individual freedom and
respect for others”, developing “attitudes that
translate an enlightened, intervening social
behavior” (ROLDÃO, 1992, p.105), and following
“dispositions to act” (MENEZES, 2005, p. 18) that
involve “competences of an ethical, cognitive
and affective nature” (AFONSO, 2010, p.128).
Heater (1999, p.336) thus summarizes
the various valences one must incorporate in
order to be actually considered a full citizen:
“a citizen is a person furnished with knowledge
of public affairs, instilled with attitudes of civic
virtue, and equipped with skills to participate in
the political arena”. This segmentation helps us
understand the richness and the multifaceted,
holistic character of the concept of citizenship,
namely, the interrelation and the identical
weight of civic knowledge and competences
and dispositions (virtues), thus reﬂecting what
the Character Education Partnership called a
civic character (ALTHOF; BERKOWITZ, 2006).
Therefore, the civic character results
from the interaction of the three components of
citizenship: 1) literacy (encompassing political
and civic knowledge and intellectual skills),
participation, and morality: when any of these is
not included, citizenship becomes, respectively,
an alienated citizenship (lacking the knowledge
that enables tangibility in the context of an
enlightened, productive participation); 2) a
bench citizenship: due to much knowledge and
civic-moral heritage, it will not enter the real
game of social life, thus losing what Aristotle
(1998) considered the truly characteristic
feature of a citizen – participating in the
exercise of a nation’s public power; and 3) a
nihilistic citizenship: it may also have all the
other dimensions highly developed, but lacks
an axiological core that enables an enlightened,
effective and morally guided intervention (see
We do not intend to neglect the content
richness and the questions involved in making
education for citizenship real. We agree with
Menezes (2005, p.18) when he argues that,
besides requiring knowledge and competences,
participatory citizenship also comprehends
the domain of personal and extra-personal
resources, as well as the dispositions leading
to action. We therefore reject a minimalist
conception of education for citizenship that
reduces it to simply offering information and
developing competences without considering
the morality axis as seriously and with the
same concern as the former.
Therefore, the phrase ‘education for
citizenship’ holds an implicit recognition of the
tension between ethical and civic education,
as civic behaviors imply internalizing moral
values and expressing them in responsible acts
(PEREIRA, p.71). From the International Covenant
on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
(UNESCO, 1996, article 13) to the International
Commission on Education for the Twentieth-
ﬁrst Century’s (UNESCO, 1996) acclaimed
report, to Europe’s Education for Democratic
Citizenship and Human Rights project, launched
Eduardo Nuno FONSECA. In the interstices of citizenship: the inevitable, urgent character of the dimension of civic...
in 1997, the emphasis has always been on the
responsibility for educating the new generations
so that conditions can exist for harmonious
coexistence (regardless of any ethnical, social
or religious criteria) and for useful intervention
in society. In fact, this last project has so far
managed to build a conceptual framework that
is expressed in covenants, declarations, political
recommendations, and theoretical and applied
investigation works in the ﬁelds of democracy,
human rights, citizenship, pedagogy and teacher
training. In these areas, citizenship is understood
as proactive, ethical, and responsible, thus
detaching itself from the aforementioned
minimalist paradigm (SALEMA, 2010).
According to Kerr (2004), the backbone
of education for democratic citizenship is an
essential core of moral sensitivities that enable
the construction (acting, persevering and
valuing) of respect, trust, tolerance and self-
esteem. Knowledge and competences alone are
not enough to lead to practicing a responsible,
active citizenship. There must be the desire
and will to positively participate in this way in
society (SALEMA, 2005).
Citizenship and democracy
There is a bond between each citizen’s
moral constitution, democracy itself, and the
experiencing of democracy. Such concern with
individuals’ morality was expressed by the ﬁrst
education philosophers, such as Socrates, Plato
and Aristotle, and in the eighteenth century by
people like Baron Charles and Montesquieu,
who advocated the absolute necessity to watch
over people’s virtues so the proposed political
system, i.e., republic, could subsist. According
to a few thinkers, the civic character, or civic
virtue, emerges as a major guideline for building
a harmonious, consistent citizenship. Precisely
for this reason, it is argued that a character
does not come into being in social vacuum,
but only in the social fabric, reﬂecting itself on
the regular, everyday conduct of members of
society (JOHNSON; JOHNSON, 2006).
It is therefore essential for education for
citizenship to leave off the idea of a civism that
is both outside the subject and detached from
a sense of community integration. Without
the ethics component, social and political
Figure 1 – Citizenship restrained according to its three main dimensions
Source: the author.
187Educ. Pesqui., São Paulo, v. 40, n. 1, p. 181-196, jan./mar. 2014.
integration would result in a mere adaptation
to dominant tendencies (PEREIRA, 2007,
p.71). Ultimately, a democracy that is not
founded on its members’ actual self-governing
condition is not fully democratic. A democratic
society where social order and cohesion are
legitimately aimed at cannot overlook its
members’ individual predispositions. Nata and
Menezes (2010, p.3397) emphasize this at an
interpersonal level in heterogeneous societies,
The quality of our democracies relies on
the political system itself or on citizens’
‘virtues’. Democracy needs, among other
things, citizens who participate in the
political and civic life and who can both
tolerate and accept the participation and
identity of others, particularly when such
others think differently from them and are
themselves different from them.
Education philosopher John Covaleskie
(1999) argues, moreover, that without the
appropriation by citizens of a set of moral
dispositions, the alternative way to watch over
the maintenance of social order would be a
system that would put democracy itself at stake.
The author’s thinking is expressed as follows:
In a democratic society, character does
matter. For democracy to work, the
citizens must have a settled predisposition
to do the right thing far more often than
not. For social order to obtain, either this
must be true or the citizenry must be
subject to such pervasive surveillance and
regulation that their behavior is controlled
despite the lack of this predisposition. No
society in which supervision is the means
of social control can lay legitimate claim
to be democratic. Democracy requires
citizens who are, literally, self-governing.
Therefore, character formation — the
fostering of virtue — is the critical role
of education in any society, but perhaps
never more than in a society that would
be democratic. (COVALESKIE, 1999, p. 181)
Despite the different opinions on the
concept of citizenship, a consensus has been
currently reached on the conviction that
democracies’ stability and the development
of societies inspired by, and based on, human
rights not only depend on a state’s organization,
but also on its citizen’s individual virtues and
attitudes of dialogue, respect, participation and
responsibility (GONZÁLEZ apud VALENZUELA,
2011, p.44). Therefore, paraphrasing Barber
(apud PACHECO, 2000, p.108), the phrase ‘public
school’ conceives not only a deﬁnition of whom
this education institution is primarily meant to
serve, i.e., the public; it also holds a certain
notoriety about the school that is deep-rooted
in the understanding of what being public is,
and in a national, common civic identity.
In line with the Comenian metaphor,
a school is a citizenship workshop and
constitutes nothing less than the foundation of
the democratic system, particularly in a context
where its protagonism as a socialization agent
has increased (early entry into the education
system, longer school hours and, ﬁnally,
compulsory education – in Portugal there is a
massiﬁcation of preschool education, full-time
school has become established, and compulsory
education has been recently extended to 18
years of age). Moreover, the contemporary
conjuncture, marked by the loss of traditional
socialization institutions and the disorientation
and insecurity of education interveners – due
to postmodern thought’s axiological plurality
and corollaries (uncertainty, ﬂeetingness and
relativism) –, also stresses this necessity (CAMPOS,
2004; ESTRELA; CAETANO, 2010, p. 10).
On the trail of Montesquieu’s thought,
other thinkers such as Benjamin Franklin and,
in the nineteenth century, Alexis de Tocqueville,
also manifested themselves, showing the need to
attend to morality as a crucial factor for freedom
and the achievement of prosperity at national
level (BROGAN; BROGAN, 1999; MCDONNEL
Eduardo Nuno FONSECA. In the interstices of citizenship: the inevitable, urgent character of the dimension of civic...
apud RYAN; BOHLIN, 1999). In the same line
of argument, denouncements have been made
against the ruinous outcomes of not considering
moral education as a decisive element, and this
not only as a fulﬁllment of human nature, but
due to the resulting implications to the future
of individuals and the nation. It is noteworthy,
considering the resulting social context, that 19
out of 21 remarkable civilizations have been
found to have collapsed not because of their
conquest by other peoples, but because of the
moral decline that found its way into the heart
of these civilizations (JOHNSON; JOHNSON,
2008; LICKONA, 2004; RYAN; LICKONA, 1987).
In this respect, one famous remark by pre-
Socratic philosopher Heraclitus is recurrently
invoked: character is destiny (BERKOWITZ;
BIER, 2005; JOHNSON; JOHNSON, 2008; RYAN,
1986, 1999; RYAN; BOHLIN, 1999; SCHAPS et
al., 2001). This is because living with others in
society raises many challenges that each person
has to deal with and overcome the best possible
way, thus making a public morality real.
Therefore, the Greek polis consciously fostered
particular habits among its citizens, virtues that
the Greek perceived as necessary to live in the
city, in order to have a civilized life (RYAN;
To Althof and Berkowitz (2006)
and Johnson and Johnson (2008), solving
conﬂicts and knowing how to deal fairly with
differences, whether in an intergroup or an
interpersonal perspective, are other aspects
of the exercise of citizenship. In fact, these
axis have been recently recognized by the
Citizenship Education Policy Study Project, the
goal of which was to identify the demands that
contemporary citizenship would require in the
twenty-ﬁrst century. The basic characteristics a
citizen should have for the sake global society’s
very stability would necessarily involve taking
responsibility for one’s own functions, as well
as understanding, accepting and tolerating
cultural differences, and solving conﬂicts in
a non-violent, human rights-respecting way
(NARVAEZ, 2001, p.4-5).
Therefore, we see the need to cater to
the values of responsibility, tolerance and
respect for others as the indispensable content
of a citizenship that satisﬁes the demanding
local, national and global challenges that
the contemporary world holds for mankind.
Living together in peace implies, therefore, the
existence of a basic set of universal values, an
ethics that is common to humanity, revolving
around the rights of human beings and
democracy. It requires also that the members
of a community recognize and share the soul
of their collective identity, which constitutes the
center of gravity of the important education for
citizenship (REIS-MONTEIRO, 2003)
Moreover, it is undeniable that an
axiological core exists in which a few
minimum universal principles underlie the
generality of cultural and religious bases,
so as to ensure the responsible freedom of
human being and enable true intercultural
dialogue (ARAÚJO, 2005; CARNEIRO, 1999).
Therefore, a common ground of citizenship
is necessary, in a soil of quicksands, in order
to avoid the distress of ethical apathy and
nihilism, and an increasing anomy.
Citizenship and social
As a last point, democratic citizenship
involves one’s capacity to move beyond one’s
own individual interests in order to be able
to commit to the good of the community
(ALTHOF; BERKOWITZ, 2006, p. 500-501). In
this conception, commitment and action in the
civic and political domain cannot be dissociated
from people’s condition of being concerned
with matters and valuing their action as they
recognize that their contribution in this sphere
is a valid, consequent one (COLBY, 2002). Althof
and Berkowitz (2006, p.512) recognize that, by
incorporating into the concept of citizenship
a pro-social involvement within a democratic
political system, this involvement relies heavily
on each citizen’s character.
189Educ. Pesqui., São Paulo, v. 40, n. 1, p. 181-196, jan./mar. 2014.
In other words, the active citizenship
pursued in the educational project is highly
demanding, particularly in a society where
immediate reward-craving individualism and
frenzied consumerism proliferate, undermining
the exercise of solidarity, empathy and
compassion. Renouncing this huge social
pressure and unselﬁshly giving a tangible
contribution to others is truly a challenge
nowadays. A wide, important class of moral and
social obligations exists that is not reducible to
the category of duties that may have become
explicit or registered.
A democratic, liberal and responsible
citizenship cannot be just a theoretical
topic about abstractly conceived rights and
obligations (CARR, 2006). Johnson and
Johnson (2008) argue that the civic virtue
exists when both the spirit and the letter of
public obligations are fulﬁlled. Therefore, it is
essential to privilege the development of a solid
moral constitution that is informed by different
human qualities. This dimension must be
ﬁrmly ﬁxed in ethical dispositions or character
qualities such as honesty, justice, moderation,
courage and compassion (CARR, 2006. P.451).
Besides the pro-social character of
citizenship, we also need it to be an effective
citizenship that values individuality and the
personal fulﬁllment inherent to each person.
In a more personal perspective, effective
citizens should be able to guide their conduct
and pursue their several projects in light of a
personal conception of good that is strongly
wished or that which is considered humanly
worth obtaining. A citizenship so built is
also the subject of formation or fostering of
signiﬁcant values and virtues (CARR, 2006,
p.444). Therefore, Reis-Monteiro (2003)
argues that education for citizenship is
always associated, whether formally or not,
with moral education, since, as Aristotle
(1994) had stressed, the singularity of human
beings in comparison with animals is shown
in the unique capacity of understanding good
and justice, evil and injustice.
Citizenship and the civic
atmosphere in educational
Finally, the moral and civic atmosphere
in school has always been an important facet
of education; therefore, the newness in the
Portuguese context is now attached to the levels
of regularity and intensity, as well as to a gradual
decay (CARVALHO, 2000; RANGEL, 2006). This
decay has been more widely studied in Portugal
since the 1980’s, with researchers warning about
this disturbing scenario formed by elements
ranging from insults to improper language, to
alienation, to drug use, to bullying (JUSTINO,
2005; MARQUES, 1998; WONG, 2011).
While it is sensible not to advocate a
perspective of education or a strategy at the
level of students’ personal and social education
solely based on the signs that society is currently
showing, on the other hand, it would also be
illegitimate not to take into account such calls
that stress the need for intervention and can
help us understand conspicuous facets of the
educational context itself and its most direct
interveners, i.e., students and their families. We
recognize that a non-harmonious environment
within an educational establishment disturbs
the nature and purposes of educational acts;
it also harms learning itself, the emotional
and professional stability of teachers, and
the general atmosphere, which is an equally
relevant axis for promoting proper moral and
Whether we start from a pre-theoretical
foundation or just follow common sense, it is
hard to accept that children and young people
can acquire and experience practical wisdom
and justice in the absence of some level of
control over their inclinations and desires
(increase in obesity, teenage pregnancy, sexually
transmitted diseases, drug and alcohol abuse
and violence in its multiple expressions are the
corollaries of neglecting moderation and self-
control in people’s lives) (CARR, 2006). There
are obviously other factors contributing to this,
namely: irresponsible parenting, commercial
exploitation of violence, sexual culture, easy
access to pornography, alcohol and drugs, few,
if any, examples considered as role models by
the younger generations (CARR, 2006, p.452).
If students do not learn self-discipline
and respect for others, they will continue to
sexually exploit each other, and neither the
number of clinical counseling sessions nor the
access to contraceptives will be enough. If they
do not have courage and justice habits, they will
not end the phenomena of extortion, bullying
and violence (KIDDER, 1991; KILPATRICK, 1992;
LICKONA, 1993, 2004; RYAN; BOHLIN, 1999).
A democratic regime vitally needs
intervention at the educational level, not only
because of the aforementioned social violence
and school problems, but also because of the
worsening in intolerance and xenophobia, the
decline in traditional values and authority,
the disbelief in the rule of law, and the new
ethical problems emerging from scientiﬁc-
technological progress, particularly in the
ﬁeld of life sciences (REIS-MONTEIRO, 2003).
Clearly, the lack of consensus does not lie
in diagnosing the seriousness of the social
and cultural situation, which is notorious in
developed societies, but rather on what should
be done, particularly through school as a social
institution (CARR, 2006).
In the sphere of strategies related to
social and personal development, we believe
it is legitimate to consider the assumption that
the moral pathology in school institutions is
also rooted in the absence of a good character.
Therefore, we argue that approaches related
with character formation deal with the root of
the problem, making them the best course of
action to take in order to reverse the situation.
This is because such approaches emphasize
the emotional and action dimensions. Indeed,
Marques (1999) argues that, in the Portuguese
context, the civic atmosphere in schools in the
last three decades (environment, practices and
conducts) have been negatively affected by the
devaluation of the affective and behavioral
aspects in the educational efforts for personal
and social formation in schools.
To ﬁnish, we reafﬁrm that the concept
of citizenship, in the perspective of its
multiple facets and implications, requires a
moral dimension to be present, particularly
in the context of a democracy, since it will
have implications for social harmony and the
achievement of a society’s very prosperity.
Public morality is a goal on which depend
the cohesion and the quality of relationships
among people and among the several groups
that form the social fabric. In the complex
social foundation, dissents emerge that must
soon be overcome in a fair, orderly, sensible
way. Now, the inexistence of a civic character
overly hinders this intent.
In order to subsist, democracy needs,
more than any other political system does,
motivation for being virtuous, value sharing,
and similar goals. People have to be conscious
that they are part of a broader human group,
thus caring about society as a whole and having
moral bonds with the community (JOHNSON;
JOHNSON, 2008, p.224). Another relevant
aspect was stressing the necessary character of
the phrase ‘active and effective citizenship’ as a
precondition to form values, lest it become just
In sum, the fostering of virtues must
always be present in each and every personal
development of a worthy, responsible and
intervenient citizenship. Therefore, it does not
seem to us exaggerated to assert that education
for citizenship actually needs a foundation
based on character education, as though a
precondition to it– “a precondition of good
citizenry is a virtuously ordered character”
(CARR, 2006, p. 453). This was also the
understanding in the English society, which
has determined that education for citizenship
become a compulsory discipline, in which the
concept of character education clearly stands
191Educ. Pesqui., São Paulo, v. 40, n. 1, p. 181-196, jan./mar. 2014.
out (ARTHUR, 2003a, 2003b, 2003c, 2005;
KERR, 2003; KIWANI, 2005).
In the light of what was argued above,
education for citizenship should not be limited
to transmitting and promoting notions or
reﬂections about values. It is simultaneously
relevant to create habits and attitudes through
experiences in a process of acquiring and
internalizing values, thus characterizing a
character formation that breaks free from a
solely cognitive paradigm of morality (CUNHA,
1996; FONSECA, 2007).
We recognize, however, that the
positioning we have taken is a controversial
one, although at no point did we put in question
the other components (participation, political
literacy, etc.). But simply the fact of marking
the virtue component as key for being a citizen
certainly triggers ideological and political
questions, thus ﬁtting into what Pacheco (2000,
p.110-111) mentions as the “political language
of character”. This language is used, according
to his arguments, by conservative political
movements whose framework emphasizes a
citizenship associated with morality projects
that conceive school and other socializing
spaces (family and community) as privileged
contexts for indoctrinating traditional values.
Now this is, in our view, the reﬂection on the
indoctrinating aspect of potentially depending
on an ideological agenda, which means,
ultimately, forming citizens who are unable to
exercise their ethical self-determination.
However, we agree with Caetano’s (2010)
lucid and preventive position concerning the
possibility of a directive approach with safety
and authority, yet without any manipulative
traces. Nevertheless, we admit the intrinsic
difﬁculties and tensions, which substantially
derive from the complex compatibility between
an education committed to maximum didactical
persuasion and the development of students’
critical spirit and autonomy, as argued by
Savater (2006, p. 165).
Several contemporary scholars
(PEREIRA, 2007; ROLDÃO, 1992, 1999;
SANTOS, 2011) argue that education within
the school context – by promoting individuals’
personal, social and moral formation based on
consistent reference frameworks and claiming
to itself principles inherent to the full dignity
of the human person that are included in the
constitutions of democratic states – translates
a tension and a serious problem. Roldão (1992,
p.106) interessantly speciﬁes this latent tension,
arguing that this educative process “occurs in
the slippery border between indoctrination and
the respect for free individual choice”, thus
calling for strict faithfulness to the guiding
compass of human rights (UNESCO, 1996), which
favors defending people’s dignity, the right to
personality development, and the ﬁghting of all
forms of discrimination (SANTOS, 2011).
The goal established in 1986 in Portugal’s
Lei de Bases do Sistema Educativo (Education
System Bases Act) includes two binomials that
might be considered as containing internal
antinomies (freedom/responsibility and
autonomy/solidarity). However, we support this
composition and believe that the conception
achieved lucidly captures the possibility of
joining these dimensions together. Although
freedom and autonomy are often considered as
bastions of an emancipative, non-heteronomous
education, they do not necessarily imply rejecting
objective values, which are normative and
guiding for delimited, directed conducts – such as
responsibility and solidarity. Therefore, we argue
that an active, responsible, free, autonomous,
and solidary citizenship cannot emerge
detached from the reﬂection and development
of personal references and criteria that are
conduct-normative. In fact, these guidelines
are present in the conceptual framework still in
effect in the founding text of the Act of 1986,
the content of which laid the foundations for the
emergence of education for citizenship in public
elementary education in 2001, which remains
until the present time as a pressing concern in
the Portuguese school system.
We are ﬁnishing this reﬂection about
the interstices of citizenship with a general
implication we consider relevant, and, lastly,
with the still up-to-date thought of pedagogue
Paulo Freire. The implication stems from the fact
that, as the inevitability and urgency of the civic
dimension of education are openly faced, issues
related with the access to teaching – i.e., the initial,
continued and specialist training of teachers
– will have to be properly considered. In this
perspective, Portugal’s Recomendação do Fórum
de Educação para a Cidadania (Recommendation
of the Education for Citizenship Forum) says,
with regard to human resources qualiﬁcation,
that the initial and continued training of teachers
is crucial for the educational efforts in all school
situations (FCG, 2008), particularly concerning
education for citizenship.
The answer to the question of how to
train, qualify and motivate educators for a
positive character formation of the younger
generations in the school context has to be
made real in a serious way, while extracting
its due consequences. As Narvaez and Lapsley
(2008) correctly argue, it is not about discussing
whether or not teachers should teach values,
but how well equipped teachers are (and, we
would add, how are they selected) to exercise,
in the best possible way, their action in this
complex, demanding process that is ﬁlled
with interpersonal challenges and dilemmatic,
morally defying issues.
In line with these arguments, Patrício (1995,
1997) has stressed the need for an anthropological
competence, the essence of which is rooted in
the construction of the human in man. Being an
employee to the human, rather than just a public
employee (or, according to Baptista (2005), a mere
teaching-specialist-employee), requires teachers’
training to include dimensions in the sphere of
values that comprehend both reﬂection and the
To close this article, we quote the words
of the author of Pedagogy of Freedom, who
appropriately conceived education in a holistic,
integral way. In this perspective, the author
emphasizes the ontological and anthropological
nature of the human being, and stresses that
citizenship derives from the educational
process, which is substantively formative. A
progressive, emancipatory education cannot
neglect the dimension of civic virtues, nor can
individual freedom and autonomy be confused
with licentiousness and a solely science and
As men and women inserted in and formed
by a socio-historical context of relations,
we become capable of comparing,
evaluating, intervening, deciding, taking
new directions. And thereby constituting
ourselves as ethical beings. It is in our
becoming that we constitute our being so.
Because the condition of becoming is the
condition of being. In addition, it is not
possible to imagine the human condition
disconnected from the ethical condition.
Because to be disconnected from it or to
regard it as irrelevant constitutes for us
women and men a transgression. For this
reason, to transform the experience of
educating into a matter of simple technique
is to impoverish what is fundamentally
human in this experience: namely, its
capacity to form the human person. If we
have any serious regard for what it means
to be human, the teaching of contents
cannot be separated from the moral
formation of the learners. To educate is
essentially to form. (FREIRE, 1998, p.38-9)
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Received on december 18th, 2012
Approved on March 26th, 2013
Eduardo Nuno Fonseca is an Education doctoral student at Instituto de Educação da Universidade de Lisboa (Portugal).