The relationship of heritage to citizenship education

Heritage and citizenship education informs and is informed by each other in the creation of identity
Figure 1: The relationship between heritage and citizenship education

Figure 1 demonstrates how democratic citizenship defines the rights and responsibilities towards those material and intellectual aspects that are valued and survive from the past. These values and ethics, as well as the material and non-material remains of the past provide a historical and cultural dimension to inform democratic citizenship.

The diagram also suggests a relationship between heritage, democratic citizenship and identity. 'The core meaning of any individual or group identity, namely a sense of sameness over time and space, is sustained by remembering; and what is remembered is defined by the assumed identity' (Gillis 1994, 3). Wagner (2000) suggests that the relationship between identity and remembering is what is meant by the term heritage. He defines heritage as 'a particular complex of remembering, whereby the term "complex" is also meant to capture the ideational character of a physical representation (materialization) which heritage can take in the form of buildings, sites, practices'. 'Identity' and heritage have a constructivistic but also necessary relationship. Identity marks a perspective which constructs heritage as its necessary other: for identity to be meaningful it needs a source which provides legitimacy to what is in essence a voluntaristic act (an act of choice): the positing of an identity. The relationship between heritage and identity is a contingent one: no identity without an act of remembrance of some origins and that which is remembered as origins is constructed into the identity's heritage.

"...heritage could be a powerful force in giving the necessary insights into the issues that are at the heart of active citizenship."

Similarly there is a contingent relationship between democratic citizenship and identity. Democratic citizenship concerns the individual and relations with others, and the construction of personal and collective identities. In achieving these and the environment of living together with others, democratic citizenship has to deal with the individual and the social, the particular and the universal, and the construction of a future. Therefore the membership of groups, communities and peoples also construct the individual's identity. However, it would be difficult to maintain social groupings without the individual member having an identity.

Through the construction of an identity, heritage and democratic citizenship are inextricably linked and if these relationships are accepted then there are certain implications for society and for education in both citizenship education and heritage. Citizenship education identifies rights and responsibilities regarding heritage (Copeland forthcoming a).

to construct a personal heritage
recognition of a common heritage
having a heritage to exchange
historical competence in terms of understanding the role of evidence and the need for its interpretation
opportunities for individuals and groups to bring about cultural heritage change
discovering memory, material culture, history and identity commitment to
  • protecting the heritage
  • sharing/exchanging the heritage
  • tolerating other heritages
a sense of responsibility for the welfare of cultures
understanding and valuing cultural and community diversity and respect for other people
recognition of a common heritage with its varied components
Table 3: Rights and responsibilities of heritage

Table 3 demonstrates that in many ways the rights are balanced by the responsibilities - for example while the individual has a right to bring about cultural heritage change, there is also a responsibility for the welfare of cultures; also whilst the individual has a right to a personal heritage he or she also has a responsibility to protect the heritage of others.

Heritage provides a cultural dimension for citizenship education:

  1. enables an understanding of contemporary issues by drawing on experience and knowledge of relevant facts, ideas and processes from the past of cultures
  2. demonstrates an understanding of people's cultural needs and wants and the implications of these for social and racial equity
  3. enables an understanding of the causes of, and possible approaches to, resolving conflict and controversy in a democratic society
  4. enables critical appreciation of decision-making processes in the cultural heritage
  5. leads to understanding of how cultural heritage values and ethics influence people's decisions and actions
  6. develops informed and reasoned opinions about cultural issues and how they influence political, economic and environmental issues

Clearly heritage could be a powerful force in giving the necessary insights into the issues that are at the heart of active citizenship.


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Last updated: Wed Jul 10 2002