23 SES 06 D, Values and Education
In Dewey’s Democracy and Education (1916) schooling is a public good. He offers no clear definition of the public in this work, but uses the term when referring to commonality. In the absence of carefully defining an actual public and its diverse make-up, Dewey minimises differentiation and the interplay between different individuals that is crucial to his philosophy; we are left to ourselves to resist defining normatively the public as unified in political philosophy and unitary in form. In present times belief in collectivity and commonality in schooling has been severely shaken, and schooling as a field, like many other aspects of public life, has been dismantled through privatisation. While the majority of schools in European countries remain state-funded, their policies of modernisation share a commitment to the logic of human capital and reconstruct schooling in forms that takes us further away from Dewey’s democratic ideal (Rasmussen, 2015). Dewey recognised limits to idealist thinking, but argued that “…the democratic ideal of education is a farcical yet tragic delusion except as the ideal more and more dominates our public system of education” (p.98). The argument constructed through this paper supports Dewey’s democratic ideal as the fundamental purpose of schooling, whereby individuals develop their potential through free and equal exchange within their social groups, and through engagement with others unlike themselves. The paper argues, however, that public education has developed very differently from the common school Dewey envisaged, and that we must return to debating and refining definitions of ‘public education’.
Drawing on the work of Nancy Fraser (1990) the paper will use her ideas on pluralist publics and counterpublics to help re-conceptualise schools as public education. This work is significant in a world where schools are regarded as important mechanisms for building social cohesion and combating new global challenges to security and stability, yet themselves are fragmented in structure and purpose. For example, schools in England vary significantly in their philosophy of governance, legal form and ownership type. In 2014 the United Kingdom introduced legislation requiring all independent fee paying, and state-funded academy and free schools in England to promote through their governance “…fundamental British values of democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty, and mutual respect and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs” (Independent School Standards, 2014), and statutory guidance for English state maintained schools to do the same. Schools, particularly state-funded schools, are already held accountable to a myriad of interests resulting in contested purposes. They struggle to reconcile their responsibility to the common good because they operate within and manifest in their forms a world of difference. Dewey’s (1916) conceptualisation of education as the “continuous reconstruction of experience” through “constant interaction and change”, however, is dependent upon both commonality and difference. Reconsidering Dewey’s (1916) ideas on democracy in education in the light of pluralist notion of publics provides a framework for reconciling difference and the common good in a fragmented school system.
This paper constructs a theoretical argument, drawing on public sphere and democratic education theory. The argument is developed by applying theoretical concepts to policies and practices of schooling that have been written about in depth by the author elsewhere (Boyask, 2015; Boyask, 2016). The paper is situated within critical policy sociology that uses illuminative techniques from social science (Ozga, 1987), and embeds its arguments within cultural and historical discourse.
The paper concludes that a democratic ideal can re-enter the public education imagination. An important starting point is to move beyond distinctions between public and private entities, and identify qualities of publicity (used in the sense of the condition of being public) in all kinds of education settings. Conceptualising the spheres in which different kinds of schools operate as potential counterpublics where discourses of democracy might flourish is a sympathetic alternative to demonising them as private or privatised spheres. Fraser (1990) suggested that rather than viewing the public sphere as a single site, we must recognise the multiplicity of publics. In this paper publics and counterpublics are defined as groups of people who legitimately carry the public opinion of their group (see Habermas, 1991), through their participation in the processes of opinion-formation and decision-making. Following Fraser (1990) counterpublics or subaltern publics sit outside of mainstream public spheres, and strong counterpublics have the potential to influence the discourses within mainstream publics.
Boyask, R. (2016) Primary School Autonomy in the Context of the Expanding Academies Programme, Educational Management Administration and Leadership, 0(0), doi:10.1177/1741143216670649 Boyask, R. (2015) The Public Good in English Private School Governance, European Educational Research Journal, 14(6) 566–581. Dewey, J. (1916) Democracy and Education: An introduction to the philosophy of education. New York: The Macmillan Company. Fraser, N. (1990) Rethinking the Public Sphere: A Contribution to the Critique of Actually Existing Democracy, Social Text, 25/26, 56-80. Habermas, J. (1991) The structural transformation of the public sphere: An inquiry into a category of bourgeoisie society; Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press. Ozga, J. (1987) Studying education policy through the lives of policy makers. in S. Walker and L. Barton (Eds), Changing Policies, Changing Teachers: New Directions for Schooling? pp. 138–150, Philadelphia, PA: Open University Press. Rasmussen, P., Larson, A., Rönnberg, L. and Tsatsaroni, A. (2015) Policies of 'modernisation' in European education: Enactments and consequences, European Educational Research Journal, 14 (6), 479-486.
00. Central Events (Keynotes, EERA-Panel, EERJ Round Table, Invited Sessions)
Network 1. Continuing Professional Development: Learning for Individuals, Leaders, and Organisations
Network 2. Vocational Education and Training (VETNET)
Network 3. Curriculum Innovation
Network 4. Inclusive Education
Network 5. Children and Youth at Risk and Urban Education
Network 6. Open Learning: Media, Environments and Cultures
Network 7. Social Justice and Intercultural Education
Network 8. Research on Health Education
Network 9. Assessment, Evaluation, Testing and Measurement
Network 10. Teacher Education Research
Network 11. Educational Effectiveness and Quality Assurance
Network 12. LISnet - Library and Information Science Network
Network 13. Philosophy of Education
Network 14. Communities, Families and Schooling in Educational Research
Network 15. Research Partnerships in Education
Network 16. ICT in Education and Training
Network 17. Histories of Education
Network 18. Research in Sport Pedagogy
Network 19. Ethnography
Network 20. Research in Innovative Intercultural Learning Environments
Network 22. Research in Higher Education
Network 23. Policy Studies and Politics of Education
Network 24. Mathematics Education Research
Network 25. Research on Children's Rights in Education
Network 26. Educational Leadership
Network 27. Didactics – Learning and Teaching
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