The town-planner J. Borja (1) defined the city as "that European, Mediterranean,
but also American, Asian, physical, political and complex
cultural product that we have characterised in our ideology
and our values as a concentration of population and activity,
a social and functional mixture, capable of self-government
and an area of symbolic identification and civic participation.
The city as a place of encounter, exchange, where city equals
culture and trade. A city of place and not a mere nexus of
The political philosopher Isidre Molas (2) wrote that "the contemporary city constitutes a
primary setting for social life and interrelation; and subsequently
for solidarity. That this should be left to private enterprise
or organised collectively by the city itself is an optional
aspect, which is not to say irrelevant. As such a setting
it provides a limited packet of possibilities, within which
people operate and make choices. In other words, it determines
the possibilities of true freedom to exercise the universal
liberties granted by democratic system. In the face of individualism,
the city is a setting for solidarity. In the face of isolation,
it's a setting for communication.
The city provides the best material conditions from which
to forge a general offer of diffusion of the learning and
the knowledge needed for live in society and, at the same
time, can create the greatest range of inequalities in its
distribution. The city is a shop window filled with an array
of offers and possibilities waiting to be chosen, but very
often they aren't taken advantage of or else there's an unequal
distribution of the freedom to do so. Town-planning has shown
us that the urban layout itself can lead to inequality of
conditions, but we've also learnt that this is not the brought
about by fate, but by the action of people.
...The municipal system, because of its proximity to the citizens,
is the most open and the most transparent. Its decisions and
its administrations are the most palpable and therefore the
ones that most easily generate public opinion. It is therefore
a school of citizenship.
...The city, then, is a setting and an educational agent which
practises public opinion and freedom before the concentration
of power; expresses pluralism before the tendency to gregariousness;
defends citizenship before the unequal distribution of power;
strives for solidary individuality before the tendency towards
individualism. It provides the fabric for the civic customs
that create the sense of reciprocity, which in turn gives
rise to the feeling that there are interests which must be
protected. It unites with its bonds of community living.
It allows the formation of human beings who are aware both
of their duties and of their rights."
In this framework education appears clearly
as an action that goes beyond the family and the school. While
including them as key factors, education comprises now a multitude
of parameters and agents that have gone unrecognised until
today and includes the entire population.
When the city of Barcelona, at the 1st International Congress
of Educating Cities in 1990, the City Council coined the phrase
"educating city", it did so with the clear conviction
that the city is an educating city merely for being
a city; it is the source of education in itself, with its
multiple spheres and for all its inhabitants.
The city is, therefore, educative, per se: there is
no question that urban planning, culture, the schools, sport,
environmental and health, economic and budget issues, and
matters related to transport and traffic, safety and services,
the media, etc. include and generate forms of citizen education.
The city is educative when it imprints this intention on
the way it presents itself to its citizens, aware that its
proposals have attitude-related and co-existential consequences
and generate new values, knowledge and skills. All areas are
involved and are of concern to the entire city population.
This intention constitutes a political commitment that must
be borne, first of all, by the municipal government, as a
representative policy body of the citizenry, and one which
is the closest to the latter, but it must also be shared
necessarily with civil society. It involves the incorporation
of education as a means of obtaining a more educated citizenry
that feels a greater solidarity and which is happier.
The above-mentioned compromise is based on three basic premises:
understandable information -necessarily discriminating- provided
to the citizens, participation of the latter from a critical
and co-responsible perspective, and, finally, -although no
less important, - evaluation of needs, proposals and actions.
For the educating city, the great challenge of the
21st century is to deepen the practice of democratic values
through appropriate orientation and actions. We must introduce
into the legal-political framework of any democracy the pedagogical
factors that can allow us to use the information, participation
and evaluation as axes in the learning and educational processes
and in the process of citizen building.
The above-mentioned commitment involves, for the local government
itself, certain relationships and ways of working amongst
the members of the governing team, given the transversality
of the question.
Many municipal policies still consider the educating city
only as a series of actions that are in one way or another
related to the conventional education institutions or ages.
The policies of the educating city often appear to
be of interest to and involve only the departments of education
or related institutions.
The educating city is a new paradigm, a necessarily
shared project that involves all the departments of the local
administrations, the different levels of government and civil
society. Transversality and co-ordination are essential in
order to give sense to actions that incorporate education
as a process that exists throughout one's entire life.
The local authorities must propitiate, provide and articulate
the communication required for mutual knowledge of the different
actions that are being undertaken and for the establishment
of the consequential synergies for action and reflection,
through the creation of joint platforms that make it possible
to pursue the principles of the Charter of Educating Cities.
The specific forms of this development and concretion of the
concept of the educating city are as different as each
and every city, with their different rhythms and levels of
involvement. This has much to do with the city's own history,
location, specificity and its political project.
Undoubtedly, the road to creating an educating city
is a long one, but it is also stimulating and positive and
must be marked out and taken by everyone: local governments
and civil society alike.
It will thus become a demand of the citizens, an achievement
that knows no going back, as stated in the Prologue to the
Charter of Educating Cities: "A new right of the inhabitants
of the city is therefore affirmed: the right to an educating
General Secretary from 1994 to September 2012
1 "La ciutat del futur i el futur de les ciutats". Borja, Nel·lo,
Fundació Campalans. Barcelona, 1998
2 "The Educating City" AAVV
- City Council of Barcelona, 1990