Learning Democracy? Civic Education in South Africa s First Post 2014-05-07آ  Learning Democracy? Civic

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  • Learning Democracy?

    Civic Education in South Africa’s First Post-Apartheid Generation

    Robert Mattes

    Department of Political Studies

    Centre for Social Science Research

    University of Cape Town

    Cape Town, South Africa

    robert.Mattes@uct.ac.za

    David Denemark

    Political Science and International Relations

    University of Western Australia

    Crawley, 6009

    Western Australia

    david.denemark@uwa.edu.au

    Richard G. Niemi

    Department of Political Science

    University of Rochester

    Rochester, New York 14627

    niemi@rochester.edu

    Abstract This paper uses an original 2012 survey of 2,518 11

    th Grade students from 45 High

    Schools in metropolitan Cape Town to examine the political values and activities of high

    school students in South Africa‘s first post-Apartheid generation. We do so in order to

    explore whether the socialization and education of Cape Town‘s young can impart a

    critical, engaged democratic citizenship, even in the face of high levels of poverty,

    unemployment, racial inequality and violence. We show that their levels of ―Demand for

    Democracy‖ are not substantially higher than recent national or municipal samples of

    adults. We then explore the relative explanatory power of a number of factors related to

    political knowledge and efficacy, their understanding of the meaning of democracy, and

    the role of various dimensions of their schooling as well as their family backgrounds,

    race, gender, and economic circumstances. While previous research has found that South

    Africans‘ level of education is not related to demand for democracy, we find that some

    aspects of the educational process can be exploited to increase popular demand.

    Students‘ knowledge of politics and their understanding of democratic processes,

    procedures, and citizenship, as well as their educational expectations (which likely

    reflects home factors) are all highly related to their views of democracy. While

    economic insecurity reduces students‘ demand for democracy, race per se has no effect.

    Prepared for presentation at the

    7 th

    General Conference of the European Consortium for Political Research

    Bordeaux, France, September 7, 2012

    mailto:robert.Mattes@uct.ac.za mailto:david.denemark@uwa.edu.au mailto:niemi@rochester.edu

  • 1

    Learning Democracy?

    Civic Education in South Africa’s First Post-Apartheid Generation 1

    Introduction and Overview

    According to political culture theory, instability and political change are the consequence

    of incongruity between mass attitudes and values on one hand, and political institutions on the

    other (Eckstein 1966). Viewed through this lens, the demise of dozens of totalitarian and

    authoritarian regimes over the past four decades resulted from their failure to supply sufficient

    economic and political goods to satisfy citizens, or more broadly, the mismatch between their

    operating norms and those of their mass public. However, just because popular norms had

    evolved beyond what could be contained by these old regimes does not mean that mass publics

    in new democracies have developed the norms and predispositions necessary to make democracy

    work.

    South Africa provides a classic illustration of this problem. While the old apartheid

    regime attempted to legitimate itself by claiming to allow African ethnic groups to govern

    themselves and develop according to their own cultural norms, and simultaneously protect

    traditional cultures from the polluting impact of modernity, these claims were constantly exposed

    by the harshness of everyday life, whether in the urban townships, the farms of ―white‖ South

    Africa, or in the Bantustan homelands, and by the near totalitarian reach of the apartheid regime

    and its intrusion into the most intimate aspects of the lives of coloured, Indian and black South

    Africans. Thus, in the language of political culture theory, apartheid ultimately fell because the

    norms of racial separation, racial hierarchy and white superiority were rejected by the vast

    majority of the South African populace.

    Yet while popular rejection of its key norms may have led to the demise of apartheid, it

    is by no means certain that South Africans sufficiently endorse the norms supportive of a liberal

    democracy. South Africans—of all races—pay minimal lip service to the idea of democracy,

    and significant minorities appear willing to countenance one party rule or strong man

    dictatorship, especially if these regimes would promise economic development (or may simply

    believe erringly that those regimes are consistent with democracy) (Mattes and Thiel 1998;

    Mattes 2002; Bratton and Mattes 2001; Bratton, Mattes and Gyimah-Boadi 2005; Mattes and

    Bratton 2007). South Africans also display high levels of intolerance of political difference

    (Gibson and Gouws 2003) and the highest levels of xenophobia measured anywhere in the world

    (Mattes et al 2000).

    The question remains, then, how can we explain the failure of South Africa‘s new

    democratic citizens to embrace democracy and both its explicit protections and freedoms, and the

    implicit values of tolerance and respect for the equality of all before the law? And can the

    educational system teach support for democratic values and a commitment to its procedures?

    To answer this question, we use an original, 2012 survey of a representative sample of

    2,518 high school students from 45 schools in metropolitan Cape Town, South Africa to measure

    their levels of demand for democracy. We then attempt to explain demand for democracy with

  • 2

    regard to a range of factors, such as students‘ knowledge of South African politics, their

    understanding of the meaning of democracy, and the role of various dimensions of their

    schooling, including the classroom environment and extracurricular activities designed to

    promote critical thinking and active involvement in decision-making, as well as their family

    backgrounds, race, gender, and economic circumstances. Overall, we sought to establish the

    relative impact of socialization and education on young citizens‘ political values and activities,

    and the extent to which schools can impart a critical, engaged democratic citizenship, despite the

    ongoing vicissitudes of unemployment, political divisions and social uncertainty.

    While previous research has found that South Africa is one of the few countries in the

    world where demand for democracy does not increase with levels of education, we identify

    various parts of the educational process that can indeed make students ―more democratic.‖ In

    particular, students‘ knowledge of politics and their understanding of democratic processes,

    procedures, and citizenship, as well their educational expectations are all highly related to their

    views of democracy. Economic insecurity reduces demand, but suprisingly race has no effect.

    These results may enable us to identify those things that South African teachers might profitably

    pursue to increase future citizens‘ embrace of democracy, and thereby forge a viable path to

    ―learning democracy.‖

    Setting the Stage: Education, Race and Politics in South Africa

    One important underlying factor for understanding South African attitudes toward

    democracy and democratic citizenship is the history and nature of education in the country.

    James Gibson has observed that alongside the former Soviet Union, South Africa is the only

    country for which we have data where higher levels of education do not translate into higher

    levels of political tolerance (Gibson 2005). While increasing levels of education are routinely

    found to be one of the most important predictors of support for democracy (e.g., Rose, Mishler,

    and Haerpfer 1998; Shin 1999; Markowski 2005; Rose, Mishler, and Munro 2006), South Africa

    is the only country in Africa in which education does not increase public demand for democracy

    (Bratton, Mattes, and Gyimah-Boadi 2005; Mattes, forthcoming 2014).

    At first glance, this would seem to reflect the legacies of apartheid education. For nearly

    half a century, National Party governments focused national resources on the education of white

    school children, and used school curricula to impart an Afrikaner version of the nation‘s history

    (Lowry 1995: 1006, cited in Allais 2009: 258). Textbooks were dominated by themes of black-

    white conflict and black barbarism (Du Preez 1983, cited in Finchilescu and Dawes 1998: 565).

    National Party governments also devoted considerable attention to the education of black

    children, though for very different reasons. With the introduction of ―grand apartheid‖ in the late

    1950s, the fates of black children living in the nominally self-governing Bantustans were handed

    over to the education ministries of those new governments. Within ―white South Africa,‖

    however, the National Party government took direct control of black education. While it

    massively increased the number