Democracy and Education | Higher Ed Gamma

In 1974, education historian and education policy analyst Diane Ravic wrote about the Great School Wars, returning with vengeance.

The old fight – tracking, community control, public funding for religious schools, multicultural education and even bass – was once thought to have resurfaced, while critical race theory, a school of new Flashpoint with charter “public choice,” publicly funded tuition vouchers , Equity, standardized testing, teacher accountability, transgender student rights and sex education, have exploded.

Even a glance at the news headlines reveals the depth and intensity of the deep cultural divide surrounding K-12 education. Here are some examples:

  • “Public schools equip children with critical race theory, ‘sexual disorder’ and ‘racial confusion’
  • “Pennsylvania school passes 2 bills to limit sex content, gender identity discussion in schools”
  • “School boards are becoming the most feared battlefront for the culture war”

San Francisco has become a sensitive issue in this educational culture, whether the issue involves the name of a public school, a so-called racially sensitive mural display by communists in the 1930s, the use of the word “principal” as part of an administrative title, or a district math curriculum at Berkeley, Harvard. , Stanford, and UCLA professors claim to drop out students, especially those from low-income backgrounds who are less prepared for post-secondary STEM education.

I recently spoke to a journalist who was asked by his editor to write about the relationship between education and democracy. It’s certainly a filled, extraordinarily complex subject.

Democracy has the Dwivedi concept of education as its foundation: as a means of production to create conscious, reflective, independently thinking citizens, rather than passive, compliant drones.

John Dewey’s civic-minded approach, of course, has inspired a generation of academics who aspire to transform their classrooms into models of democracy, to develop students who can think critically, question established beliefs, conduct independent, in-depth research, and engage in various activities. Maybe. Active learning form.

Then here’s how education actually works in today’s democracy:

  • Where state legislatures penetrate the classroom, instruct to cover or ban the issues in question, and identify explanatory structures such as critical race theory that are out of bounds.
  • Where elected local school boards intervene in curriculum and pedagogical content, pedagogy, grading standards, and retention and promotion policies, and institute evaluation and accountability systems that undermine teacher autonomy.
  • Where activist parents demand complete transparency about what their children have been taught, refuse to allow their children to take certain tests, and demand the right to exclude their children from lessons or lessons they deem inappropriate.

While talking to the reporter, I thought a lot about what it means to be democratic for the education system.

  • Does this mean curriculum should be controlled:
  1. A state education board
  2. State Legislature
  3. An elected local school board
  4. The children of those parents go to a certain school
  • Makes a democratic system of education
  1. Consists of public schools strictly divided along the neighborhood or district line
  2. Different types of schooling, private, parochial, charter, education pods and homeschooling, each with its own curriculum and teaching methods
  • Is it possible to have both democratic control of K-12 schools and academic independence for teachers?
  • Is a democratic system of education compatible with qualification grouping and other forms of tracking?
  • Should a democratic system of education have highly selective or specialized or vocational public high schools, each with its own curriculum – or should all public high schools be given the same opportunity? Also, if there is an electoral high school, what should be the criteria or process of selection?
    Since neighborhoods tend to be stratified along lines of class, ethnicity, and caste, are neighborhood schools democratic?
  • In a democratic society should students be able to go to a school across the district line – or will it ruin the quality of many existing schools?
  • Are magnet schools a democratic solution to educational inequality or do such schools contribute to inequality?
  • Should parents be able to see teachers’ lesson plans?

I think it’s fair to say that the history of primary and secondary education in the United States is actually a series of ongoing debates about education and democracy. Although the areas of debate have changed over time, the risks are no less than these questions:

  • How can we ensure that the marginalized group – including 19 peopleM Catholic immigrants of the century or their early 20sM The Jewish equivalent of the century is today’s English language learner or disabled child or those who are gender-inquisitive – facing a safe, supportive, healthy school environment that will maximize their learning opportunities?
  • Who has the right to decide what is taught in school, evolution, ebony, or critical race theory?
  • Should American society embrace the idea of ​​a general school of Horace standard to ensure that all students start at the starting line, or should the choice of education system, options, and various options be maximized?

Those of us who go to college should not think that we are too vulnerable to the kind of cultural conflict we have experienced across the K-12 landscape. Nor should those who teach in California or New York be aware that their states have nothing to do with the kind of controversy that is going on in Texas and Florida over guns on campus or on campus.

Even in the Blue State, faculties need to acknowledge that institutional autonomy is declining, and that their legislatures are becoming much more interfering with admissions, curriculum requirements, credit transfers, remedial education, and institutional spending priorities.

Also, one-shot infusion faculties of funding in public colleges and universities should not be blinded to worrying long-term trends, for example in terms of population and student readiness and interest, which will inevitably hamper higher education.

Democracy is not just about free elections and suffrage. It’s about empowerment. It’s about conflicting interest groups and lobbies, each claiming their own values ​​and priorities.

Today, more and more campus stakeholders believe that they should have a greater voice in institutional work. While the most striking example can be found in the rise of undergraduate student unions and the rise of first graduate unions, it has surprisingly discovered for many faculty members that in campus decision-making, many of them have only one voice, and not necessarily the loudest or most influential.

Democracy is messy, and does not necessarily produce the best results. Academic politics is particularly intense, not because (usually Henry Kissinger is to blame) the power is so low, but because wars are never just a struggle for power or a claim to self-interest. These competitions ultimately aim at building consensus on values, attitudes, missions, and institutional priorities.

At their best, colleges and universities and their departments work according to a distinct form of shared governance, which combines the best between two distinct concepts of democracy: intentional democracy and participatory democracy. Consequently, representation in the political process and in that process is just as important as the outcome decisions.

If campus politics isn’t ultimately about a broad sense of mission and collective good, then the academy is really nothing more than another corporate entity in today’s brutal, callous bureaucratic society.

Steven Mintz is a professor of history at the University of Texas at Austin.

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