Finding the 'Common Good' in the Discovering Democracy Resources

Why the 'common good'?

The results of the National Assessment Program, Civics and Citizenship Years 6 and 10 report, released in December 2006, demonstrated that students in the testing sample at Years 6 and 10 had an inadequate grasp and struggled to demonstrate a high level of proficiency in their understanding of civics and citizenship concepts, including that of  the ‘common good’. The report recommended ‘more targeted teaching’ to remedy the weaknesses it found in students’ understanding.

Towards a definition

The concept of the ‘common good’, that is the idea that societies and communities can transcend their disparate parts and work towards a higher, mutually beneficial purpose, is most commonly associated with the philosophy of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, the French Enlightenment philosopher and writer.

For Rousseau, this ‘common good’ was the aim of the ‘general will’, a democratic expression of a community that went beyond a collection of individual interests, and which had ‘sovereign’ status in as much as it emanated from the people and yet represented an abstract ideal that was not representative of any one interest or faction.

An approach to teaching

The ‘common good’, of course, lies at the centre of most communities. Indeed, it gives communities their reason for being. What it is, how it is constituted, how it is realised in governance, and how it evolves and changes overtime are, however, some of the questions we should be asking when we use the Discovering Democracy resources.

The documents on this page will assist teachers in their own understanding of the 'common good', as well as provide initial help with how the Discovering Democracy resources might be used to extend students' understandings of the 'common good' and of its place in Australia's democracy.