Current and past Slovenian-American bilateral cooperation projects
Contemporary democratic societies are encountering many demanding challenges such as decreasing political participation in the democratic societal sphere. In most European countries one can detect an almost annual drop in citizens’ political participation at local, national and European levels. Due to the dramatic changes in political, security and societal conditions in Europe in the last decade, today’s youth is being brought up in a fundamentally different spirit. In the pursuit of ‘creating’ more participative citizens for the future, there is an ongoing debate regarding civic and patriotic education, as well as active citizenship among the youth. Differing opinions may be found on how to realise this education, and what forms and methods should be involved. In general, two different concepts are at odds. The first one is the discipline of patriotic education while the second one attempts to cultivate a sense of taking responsibility and of the acceptance of democratic culture while simultaneously maintaining a critical stance on the very political system – active citizenship. Contemporary societies are liberal and maintain respect for the individual’s rights and freedom. Members of such societies must be aware that a democratic society is a venture common to all and whose importance requires each and every one to participate therein. But contemporary democracy can be dangerously eroded by alienation arising from deep inequalities, a sense of apathy or unconcern that can emerge in marginal social groups. If societies want to avoid these phenomena, they must take action in the direction of the (re)distribution of goods. However, implementing such programmes requires a sense of mutual adherence among the members of society. Therefore, development of both patriotism and active citizenship among members of societies are needed, but the question remains, however, in what sense society should combine both concepts, if at all. The proposed project will analyse different approaches across different political and societal systems towards questions and dilemmas mentioned above. Proposed research project aims to focus on certain aspects of active citizenship and patriotic education of Slovenian and US pupils and compare approaches towards both civic and patriotic education used in high schools in Slovenia and United States.
This project will examine women’s political action and involvement in Slovenia and the Midwestern region of the United States in relation to the social exclusion of young women into the educational system in both countries. The role of women in political structures varies greatly due to social standing emerging from broader cultural systems of gender, socio-economic class, and political history. Through statistical data, targeted individual interviews and focus groups, we will identify and analyze current gender roles and cultural beliefs to explain which groups of women pupils are excluded from the educational system on various levels (primary, secondary, tertiary) and how does this exclusion influence to the involvement of women in current political systems. Additionally, our goal is to establish both the strengths and weaknesses of current involvement, and processes by which women’s involvement in political organization and formal leadership may be strengthened; we hypothesize that one of the important factors of non-involvement of women into the political system is the lack of formal and informal education, which is direct consequence of social exclusion of young women. Our research questions include: To what degree (if at all) are young women excluded from gaining formal education in both countries? To what degree are women involved in political action in both countries? Is their participation most likely to include only voting, or more supportive forms of involvement? Are women increasingly engaged as leaders in the current political climate? Are women more likely to engage in formal or informal political leadership? How do voting publics view women candidates and/leaders within the current gender constructs? We have proposed an international comparative study as a key mechanism for understanding not only differing gender systems and differing educational systems, but also how those systems impact and alter political involvement. To forward this comparison, we selected these sites for demographic similarity but also for political and historical difference. The Midwestern region of the United States is predominantly rural with key urban centers. It is mainly a conservative bastion, although has had distinct political leadership by women. Similarly, the nation of Slovenia too has a distinct urban core surrounded by rural and small population centers. The nation’s experience of Communist control and, more recently, European Union leadership have provided distinct opportunities for women in the country due to contrasting political cultures.
According to an interactionist approach, political leadership derives from a process in which political leaders matter, inasmuch as they not only shape the course of the decision making process, but are, simultaneously, themselves shaped and constrained by a set of factors. Therein, the interdependence between the structures and rules that influence leadership and personality of leaders is highlighted. There are several definitions of political leadership. Edinger for instance, defines leaders as “persons who exercise control over the behavior of others so as to move them in the desired direction”. Leach and Wilson characterize “the ability to inspire or persuade others to follow a course of action where there is at least some initial resistance to following it as the essence of leadership”. Such perceptions of leadership tend to focus on personal traits, abilities and skills, in order to analyze the way in which the leader operates, in other words, the leadership style. Proposed research project aims to focus on certain aspects of executive (mayoral) leadership in Slovenian and US municipalities, referring both to the institutional settings within which local community political leaders (mayors) operate and to the behavior, personal traits and perceptions of the leaders. We will classify different leadership styles in accordance with the relevant literature (POLLEADER typology). This classification of leadership styles is based on the leader’s political values, in relation to the leadership orientation and predisposition (perception and tasks) and his/her attitude to the exercise of power. More precisely, emphasis will be placed on the construction of two dichotomies. The first refers to the “strategic” or “reproductive” orientation, and the second to “authoritarian” or “cooperative” attitude to the mayor. These dichotomies further elaborate John and Cole’s approach on leadership styles (the visionary, the consensual facilitator, the city boss and the protector). After identifying the leadership styles of the local political executives (mayors) in Slovenian and US municipalities we will explore different variables that influence political leadership. Leadership style is dependent partly on the opportunities and constraints determinate by the contextual factors such as the local government system with its horizontal and vertical power relations, national context, municipal size, party system and so on, and partly on the personal traits and the perceptions of the mayors exercising leadership.