22 SES 02 D, Social Responsibility: Participation and Democracy
Expressed in the words of Dewey (1916), “A democracy is more than a form of government; it is primarily a mode of associated living, of conjoint communicated experience” (p. 87). Embedded in this perspective, democracy enables individuals to form a shared living by enhancing the communication of ideas across different communities (Ben-Porath, 2012). To teach individuals how to develop a democratic manner and promote the democratic values, education is an efficient way of equipping citizens with the necessary skills that advance democracy (Dewey, 1916; Gutmann, 1987).
In particular, higher education has a responsibility to strengthen the quality of democratic systems in addition to its role of pioneering the dissemination of scientific knowledge (Fiss, 2012). Colleges and universities are ideal sites for experiencing democratic citizenship (Thomas & Hartley, 2010) with their diverse student populations as different groups come together, air their voices, and establish common values such as respect and tolerance (Hamrick, 1998; Ross, 2014). Chomsky (2000) further argues that higher education institutions should be even subversive so that liberatory ideals could flourish through the educational system and create a vibrant democratic culture in the society.
Turkish democracy seems to be at risk as indicated by the low scores observed on different dimensions of Democracy Index such as civil liberties, having a mean score of 3.53 out of 10, and political participation and culture, having a mean score of 4.44 out of 10 (Economist Intelligence Unit, 2014). More specifically, Turkish higher education institutions seem to have a similar profile with the general trend as university students’ democratic attitudes are low or moderate (e.g., Karatekin, Merey, & Kuş, 2012). In a recent study (Dündar, 2013) conducted with the students of a leading Turkish university on democratic processes in their university setting, students pointed out that there was little room for them to participate to the decision-making processes. Moreover, they expressed that they did not want to articulate their opinions publicly for fear of being blacklisted and ethnically discriminated. Similarly, Özbilen (2014) reported that the students, who were actively engaged in the decision making process of the university administration, did not have any expectations that their university would have their voice for the prospective changes. It is evident that universities should provide a more democratic atmosphere to their members. In an attempt to address this, the current study, first and foremost, aims to understand the expectations of university students regarding a democratic university. Second, to understand how well universities advocate and prompt the democratic values, this study explores the university students’ perceptions of the university environment regarding democratic ideals. More specifically, it seeks to answer the following research questions:
1. What are the characteristics of a democratic university environment as perceived by university students?
2. Is there any significant difference among the dimensions of democratic principles (respect to ideas, participation to decision-making, and tolerance) as perceived by the university students regarding their university environment?
3. What are the effects of certain demographic variables (gender, attending a student club, reading newspaper, and home residence) on university students’ perceptions of their university environment regarding respect to ideas, participation to decision-making, and tolerance?
Considering that the Council of Europe Higher Education Series has a strong commitment to the core values of democracy and human rights along with the Lisbon Recognition Convention and Bologna Process and believes that higher education has a public responsibility for developing the democratic culture (Council of Europe, 2014), this study may offer a platform for policy debate in the higher education area in Europe by addressing the democratization of higher education in Turkey and highlighting the portrait of a democratic university.
Ben‐Porath, S. (2012). Citizenship as shared fate: Education for membership in a diverse democracy. Educational Theory, 62(4), 381-395. Chomsky, N. (2000). Paths taken, tasks ahead. Profession, 32-39. Council of Europe (2014). Higher education and research. Retrieved from http://www.coe. int/t/dg4/highereducation/default_en.asp Dewey, J. (1916). Democracy and education: An introduction to the philosophy of education. New York, NY: Macmillan. Dündar, S. (2013). Demokratik unsurun bir öğesi olarak öğrencilerin karar süreçlerine katılımı [Students’ participation to the decision-making process as a tool for democratic school]. Educational Sciences: Theory & Practice, 35, 853-875. Economist Intelligence Unit (2014). Democracy index 2014: Democracy and its discontents. Retrieved from http://www.eiu.com/public/topical_report.aspx?campaignid =Democracy 0115 Fiss, O. M. (2012). The democratic mission of the university. Albany Law Review, 76(1), 2013. Fraenkel, J. R., & Wallen, N. E. (2006). How to design and evaluate research in education. New York: The McGraw-Hill Companies. Gutmann, A. (1987). Democratic education. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Hamrick, F. A. (1998). Democratic citizenship and student activism. Journal of College Student Development, 39(5), 449. Karatekin, K., Merey, Z., & Kuş, Z. (2013). Öğretmen adayları ve öğretmenlerin demokratik tutumlarının çeşitli değişkenler açısından incelenmesi [Analysis of demmocratic attitudes of pre-service teachers and teachers in terms of some variables]. Kastamonu University Kastamonu Education Journal, 21(2), 561-574. Özbilen, D. (2014). Student views on classroom representative meetings in the preparatory program of a Turkish university. Journal of Teacher Education and Educators, 3(2), 227-244. Ross, S. N. (2014). Diversity and intergroup contact in higher education: exploring possibilities for democratization through social justice education. Teaching in Higher Education, 19(8), 870-881. Thomas, N. L., & Hartley, M. (2010). Higher education's democratic imperative. New Directions for Higher Education, 152, 99-107.
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