translated from Spanish: The importance of teachers’ beliefs in citizenship training

At the end of 2018, President Jail Bolsonaro makes a controversial call on Brazilian students to film teachers who consider being politically «indoctrinating» students in the classroom.[1] In Chile, in early 2019 a teacher was fired for having used the word «dictatorship» in the context of his language classes to refer to the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet. Before being fired, the principal told him that «those issues were better not to be addressed, than if the children thought it was a military government, well, it was better to leave it at that.»[2] Later and after the so-called «social outburst» of October 2019, Marcela Cubillos, Minister of Education at the time, announces the development of a bill to curb «indoctrination» in educational establishments, after denouncing that teachers were transmitting slogans and anti-government political propaganda to her students.
Today, given the triumph of the Apruebo option of a new Magna Carta and initiated a process that includes the choice of constituents, expectations may arise for teachers of a work free of beliefs and political positions, especially those in charge of the areas of political and citizen formation.
These cases represent the end of a controversy and old debate regarding the teaching role and neutrality in the delivery of knowledge, in general, and in terms of political training in particular. The measures taken in the examples cited are based on the expectation – equally motivated by political beliefs or ideologies – that the teaching exercise must take an apolitical stance, scinding the technical and professional activity of political action, the public affairs of the private and the personal life of professional life (Ginsburg & Kamat, 2009).
It is also expected to act focused on standardized objectives, where the teacher is understood as a transmitter of predefined knowledge and with procedures based solely on scientific and technical components. Critics of these measures point out that such practices seek to control and prescribe the actions of teachers in an act of denial of professional autonomy which, in practice, deprofessionalizes them (Ruffinelli, 2017). At the same time, these actions would violate the freedom of chair, understood as the power available to teaching professionals, whatever their level of teaching, «to investigate, teach and publish on any subject they consider to be of professional interest, without risk or threat of any sanction, except through the proper demonstration of inexcusable breach of professional ethics» (Madrid , 2013, p. 356).
Thus, the debate as to whether or not teachers are desirable to reveal their political positions is full of judgments and regulatory purposes. This implies a tension in the teaching exercise, especially those in charge of citizen training, considering that it is a socialized generation in a dictatorial or post-dictatorial context where political issues were highly avoided (Jara Ibarra, 2019). This is further in line with the challenge of now exercising immersed in a new high-politicization scenario, where contingency often inevitably requires the treatment of these issues in the classroom.
Beyond these cases, which, again, represent the extreme of controversy, it is necessary to recognize that every professional work is motivated by belief systems at the individual and social level, a reflection that applies to all professions and all pedagogical disciplines. So it is worth asking: is it possible for a teaching exercise in which personal beliefs do not play a central role?
The above, understanding that teachers make daily decisions about what to teach and how to teach it, that is, they implement the content framework according to their own epistemological and ideological beliefs about learning. Beliefs in the field of education and teaching are covered by multiple coatings, involving macrosocial, institutional and microideological levels that are constantly intertwined and interacted with (Pachler et al., 2008), and where these beliefs, in turn, define each of the decisions, underlie particular forms of action and are transformed into default ways of making , thinking and judging things (Knowles, 2018; Pachler et al., 2008).
It is thus difficult to pretend that education professionals can transmit a battery of containmentstandardized in a totally neutral, hygienic pedagogical work oriented exclusively to an externally imposed objective, where the set of beliefs and visions of its own do not manage to break in (Duplass, 2014; Ruffinelli, 2017). Moreover, the school curriculum itself – formal or informal – on which teachers rely for the transmission of their contents in class, is a cultural selection or decision of what the school transmits (Kwan-Choi Tse, 2009; Magendzo, 1986), being a pedagogical device through which the cultural reproduction of the groups that make up society operates (Bernstein, 1975; Bourdieu & Passeron, 2001). The curriculum, therefore, is not ideologically neutral (Cox et al., 2015; Cox & Garcia, 2015; Ginsburg & Kamat, 2009).
In Chile, since 2016 there has been the mandate of a Citizen Training Plan for all levels of education, together with the implementation of a citizen education subject for the latest levels of middle education. Previous research has detected great diversity and heterogeneity regarding what each school understands by and consequently form in politics and citizenship (Jara Ibarra et al., 2019; UNDP, 2018). Therefore, considering the space that would remain for discretion, beyond concentrating efforts to analyze the presence – or not – of an impossible neutrality in the delivery of the contents of the area of citizenship, it is interesting to observe and analyze the beliefs of teachers regarding citizen formation, as this could impact the type of citizenship that establishments will enhance, the way in which they will try to develop civic commitment. In addition to the pedagogical approaches they will take to address more controversial issues, so typical of the political context and debate and which may give rise to the controversies referred to above.
It becomes relevant then to know the beliefs of teachers in relation to citizenship education, their visions of democracy, its institutions and the different forms of participation, a problem observed internationally, but generally neglected for the Chilean case. In this sense, from the Center for Comparative Education Policies[3] diego Portales University is conducting research that advances in observing teachers’ beliefs regarding the citizen and political training of their students, how this relates to their pedagogical practices and decisions and how they address the treatment of controversial topics in the classroom. This, with the intention of contributing to the knowledge and hopefully strengthening of citizen training in our country, producing evidence on the different pedagogical strategies that they can bring directly to the teachers who face the challenge of educating citizens in a context of dizzying change and great political challenges for the current and new generations.
The content poured into this opinion column is the sole responsibility of its author, and does not necessarily reflect the editorial line or position of El Mostrador.

Original source in Spanish

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