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Democracy, Freedom and Education

An exploration of the notions of democracy in the k to 12 school setting, its implications, nature and global perception

Daniel Graus

on 16 July 2013

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Transcript of Democracy, Freedom and Education

Imagine a school that engages all students with content so that they may all achieve equal outcomes and levels of understanding, where a harmonious environment is the aim and focus of education and all students experience fair access to equal facts and truths with the aim of producing a peaceful, educated population that is able to work towards the greater good as a collective citizenship body.
Does anyone disagree that this should be the aim of schooling?
Some academics have raised concerns that democratic practices in education do not reflect the model that was just described.

Democratic education practices have been criticised for encouraging disorder and lacking focus.
Modern representative democracies take a variety of forms and often vary from the older concept of direct democracy. This may have implications for models of democracy that may be employed in schools.
The term democracy has its origin in the Greek words '
' “common people/district” and '
' “strength/power”.
But what is democracy?
Is our education system currently a democracy?
What does democracy in the education system aim to do?
• Aims to develop real democracy through active participation by all those involved in classrooms and the educational institute
• Students have the power to make decisions about their learning – the power is shared rather than appropriated in advance by a minority of people
What are the positives of democracy in education?
Would it be possible to implement this into our schools?
• We love to talk about Educational Reform - ways in which we can change education for the greater good of students, teachers, and ultimately society as a whole
• In the context of of modern education and reform, scholars describe ideal classroom environments with keywords such as “student centered” and “free” and “Democratic”.
Educational “Reform”.
John Dewey is often considered to be the first major proponent of democratic education.

Dewey (1916) argued that that an experience is not passive or cognitive but rather primarily active and based upon perception of action (including consequences).

He surmised that all meaningful experiences are often social and centred on trial and error phases that involve reflective experiences (project or problem based learning). That is to say, meaningful learning experiences much more than simply being provided with information and being expected to memorize it.

As a passionate supporter of collaborative learning and democracy, Dewey believed that education was one of the major forces in the construction of democratic society.
•However, describing our modern education system requires the use of another important term: Compulsory.
•Is this a fundamental contradiction of a democratic education? We want to give students choice and freedom, yet attendance is compulsory, and the school system still has the greatest amount of control over what students do in their average school day.
Educational “Reform”.
o How much freedom is too much freedom?
oCan there be such a thing as “Guided Democracy”?
oThere was a time before “Educational Reform”, where classrooms were “talk and chalk” and students did what they are told - society still survived, did it not?
Summerhill School: Case Study
Democracy is government by the people. A democratic school is one shaped by the students and teachers.
"Education should transform society towards a greater freedom and democracy”
Summerhill had focus on individual and collective caring and self-esteem to promote learning by choice
Summerhill had successful outcomes in demonstrating how individuals would behave effectively in society
Philosophy: Hate breeds hate and love breeds love. Love means approving of children, and that is essential in any school.
Neill had a salient and valid principle for education that would shape the wider society with love and respect.
Should we attempt to bring greater freedom into our classrooms?
•We have a problem. We want students to experience freedom of choice and democracy in their schooling so they can take that experience into their life and live in a democratic society, but we can’t do that without a certain degree of anarchy.
• “Oppression - Overwhelming control - is necrophilic; it is nourished by love of death, not life. The banking concept of education, which serves in the interests of oppression, is also necrophilic.” - Paulo Freire, from “Pedagogy of the Oppressed”
•“Students identified “too much freedom” as a key factor that enabled them to drop out of school, and attendance is a strong predictor of dropping out.” - Bridgeland, Diulio & Morison, from “The Silent Epidemic - Perspectives of High School Dropouts.
Two Schools of Thought
“Social efficiency as an educational purpose should mean cultivation of power to join freely and fully in shared and common activities. This is impossible without culture, while it brings a reward in culture, because one cannot share in intercourse with others without learning - without getting a broader point of view and perceiving things of which one would otherwise be ignorant. And there is perhaps no better definition of culture than that it is the capacity for constantly expanding the range and accuracy of one's perception of meanings.” - John Dewey, from Democracy and Education.
- What do you think Dewey is saying here?
Reference List and Further Reading
Atlee, J. S. (2008). Democracy: A Social Power Analysis. Retrieved April 17, 2012, from http://www.co-intelligence.org/CIPol_demoSocPwrAnal.html
Bai, T. (2011). Against democratic education. Journal of Curriculum Studies, 43, 615-622.
Bridgeland, J. D. (2006). The silent epidemic: Perspectives of high school dropouts. Washington, DC: Civic Enterprises, LLC.
Cam, P. (2000). Philosophy, Democracy and Education: Reconstructing Dewey Teaching Philososphy for Democracy. Seoul: Seoul University Press.
Carta, M. (n.d.). http://usinfo.org/mirror/usinfo.state.gov/products/pubs/whatsdem/whatdm3.htm. Retrieved April 17, 2012, from http://usinfo.org/mirror/usinfo.state.gov/products/pubs/whatsdem/whatdm3.htm
Dahl, R. A. (1998). On Democracy. New Haven: Yale University Press.
Deng, Z. (2011). Confucianism, modernization and Chinese pedagogy: An introduction. Journal of Curriculum Studies, 43, 561-568.
Dewey, J. (1919). Democracy and education: An introduction to the philosophy of education. New York: Macmillan.
Freire, P. (1993). Pedagogy of the oppressed. New rev. 20th-Anniversary ed. New York: Continuum.
Horne, H. H. (1932). The Democratic Philosophy of Education. New York & London: The Macmillan Company.
Weber, C. (1960). Basic philosophy of education. New York: Rinehart and Company, Inc.
images: gettyimages.com - educational use only.
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