Politicizing Teacher Education


Teaching is, and always has been, a political profession. It is so in a double sense, as it is both politically regulated as well as politicall influential. Teachers of all subjects fulfil an important role for every political system: they transmit the skills and knowledge a society considers important, they are a part of and legitimize power structures, and they shape their students’ perception of what a good society and good citizenship look like. Processes of depoliticization can be found on both dimensions. This becomes visible as a scientisisation of political governance and a discursive depoliticization of teaching through calls for teacher neutrality. The findings of a survey among pre-service teachers at Heidelberg University, presented in this paper, show that student teachers of all subjects feel a responsibility to educate their students to participate as active citizens in a democracy and that they are motivated by a willingness to improve society through teaching. The data indicates that a lack of reflection and knowledge in key areas related to this aim (teachers’ neutrality, laws regarding political activities of teachers, connections between political and educational systems) hinders them from doing so. This is, it will be argued, a result of a depoliticized teacher education. A politicized teacher education should then, through interdisciplinary approaches to pedagogy, informed by political theory and political science, enable student teachers to critically reflect on the role of schools and teachers for and in a democracy. It should foster an understanding of both politics in general and the politics of teaching in particular (for example through clarifying misconceptions about teacher disclosure) that is currently missing from teaching education programmes. In the light of growing inequality and ongoing structural discrimination in and the economization of education systems worldwide, future teachers need to be prepared to become agents of change – political subjects – themselves, accepting their professional mandate as a political mandate. A politicized teacher education thus also includes improving student participation in teacher education.