Workshop 4 - The rise of populism in Europe: What should we know? How should we react?

In recent years, populist and right-wing parties, as well as ultra-conservative and eurosceptic movements, have experienced a massive surge all across Europe. Viktor Orbans Fidesz in Hungary, the Sverigedemokraterna in Sweden, the Front National in France, the Alternative für Deutschland in Germany. How can citizenship education respond to these developments? What causes of populism can we identify in the first place? The workshop with Nick Startin and Ivan Krastnev, hosted by Caroline Hornstein Tomic set out to discuss these questions.

The easy-jetters: a lost generation?

The participants of the workshop were a bright mix of nationalities, from Hungarian, Polish and German, to British, French and American. And they all had very different, sometimes worrying stories to tell about their experiences with citizenship education - or the lack thereof. Students from Hungary particularly pointed out the difficulty of identifying with the European project, without receiving any kind of citizenship education. Nick Startin had a similar story to tell, though from a British perspective. Few schools in Britain teach European history, or about the structures of the European Union. "People are not capable of making informed decisions on that basis", Startin said "Sure, even if we taught kids more about the European project, still many of them would be against it, but at least they would be able to take a stance".

We need systemic changes!

Some participants also agreed, that surely a conference like NECE is a very important and helpful event for exchanging experiences with citizenship education and networking, however they also stressed the point that what is being discussed here sometimes amounts to a kind of elitist utopia in which people should be educated to discuss matters of European politics and a European civil society, whereas a lot of people in the EU - say in eastern Hungary - are probably having entirely different problems, like trying to make a living. Populism uses the lack of knowledge of people to serve its own interests. So in order to be able to combat it successfully, citizenship education needs to be made accessible and indeed attractive to people who are not lucky enough to be able to visit conferences and educate themselves in political matters.

Citizenship Education
Conference Day: 

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