Democratic education: Aligning curriculum, pedagogy, assessment and school governance

In Philip Cam (ed.), Philosophy, democracy and education. Seoul, South Korea: pp. 101–120 (2003)
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Matthew Lipman claims that the community of inquiry is an exemplar of democracy in action. To many proponents the community of inquiry is considered invaluable for achieving desirable social and political ends through education for democracy. But what sort of democracy should we be educating for? In this paper I outline three models of democracy: the liberal model, which emphasises rights and duties, and draws upon pre-political assumptions about freedom; communitarianism, which focuses on identity and participation in the creation of political ends; and deliberative self-governance, whereby citizens deliberatively shape their collective lives in public forums—at various levels of government and in different political and social arenas. I argue that some kind of deliberative democracy is defensible as a preliminary justification for how citizens might shape their lives, and therefore compatible with other forms of democracy, insofar as they can result from democratic deliberations. Acceptance of such a view raises further questions about the purpose or aims of education consistent with this conception of democracy. I contend that it requires an educational model that is committed to aligning curriculum, pedagogy, assessment and school governance to produce a transformational environment that will inform our structures—a commitment to democratic education and not merely education for democracy. Lipman goes part of the way to achieving these ends, but learning how to be proficient at democratic decision-making is like all tasks children and adolescents learn to perform. It involves action, understanding, and awareness of what counts as doing the task adequately.

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Gilbert Burgh
University of Queensland


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