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Educating for Democratic Consciousness

Counter-Hegemonic Possibilities

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Ali A. Abdi and Paul R. Carr

This book has received the AESA (American Educational Studies Association) Critics Choice Award 2013.
There is a widespread, but mainly untenable, assumption that education in Western societies (and elsewhere) intuitively and horizontally aids the democratic development of people. An argument could be made that in contemporary liberal democracies, education was never designed for the well-being of societies. Instead of the full inclusion of everyone in educational development, it becomes dominated by those with a vested interest in the role of the liberal state as a mediating agent that, ultimately, assures the supremacy of the capitalism and neoliberalism. This book extends beyond a theoretical analysis of democratic education, seeking to tap into the substantial experiences, perspectives and research of a wide range of leading scholars from diverse vantage points, who bring themselves and their work into the debate connecting democracy and education, which elucidates the reference to counter-hegemonic possibilities in the title.
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Chapter 1. Framing Contemporary Democracy and the Potential for Counterhegemonic Possibilities | Paul R. Carr & Ali A. Abdi

Extract

The role of education in developing human well-being has been discussed extensively by educators, policy makers, and political leaders. The direction of analysis in this case is usually eschewed in favor of learning programs leading to better life (or more specifically, employment) prospects for people. But the focus on human well-being cannot be simply stamped out as a part of nature; necessarily, it has to be nuanced, itemized, and both subjectively and communally located and contextualized. That is, while learning projects could add something good that can be measurable and generalized, they could also omit or even depress many other intersections that define the way people read—and engage with—the world that surrounds them, critically or uncritically interact with the institutions that control their being, and unintentionally disempower themselves in often objectifying systems that attempt to re- and mis-direct them from achieving their potential (Carr, 2010). With these concerns in mind, it is clear that the space between the social and the educational is a very active one, and is more often than otherwise, mediated by the political. With public policy being the most potent intervener in socio-educational connections, being conceptualized, formulated and implemented via political power, the intersections can be heavy and congested, with intense ideological and practical subterfuges that aid the life contexts of some while disempowering many.

While the intentions of the social-educational-political continuum may not deliberately claim so, learning processes and outcomes are never devoid of select philosophical groundings and intentions that bend...

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