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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 3. Reshaping the Democratic Truth, and Rethinking Democracy without Elections | Paul R. Carr

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Understanding democracy has always been a much more dubious and complex venture than simply accepting it. Within much of the Western world, that which has generally proclaimed victory over the rest of humanity (Chomsky, 2007, 2008; Fukuyama, 2006), there is the common belief that we—obviously the superior ones—have been bestowed with the penultimate answer as to how to construct a society. We learn this in school, through the media, in popular culture, and, incessantly, through our political leaders. We are told (and taught) that we are fortunate to be able to vote, and if we do not vote, mysteriously, we have no right to critique our lot in life. We learn a great deal about how to vote, where to vote, when to vote, and, importantly, the need to vote. However, we spend considerably less time interrogating why we should vote (Westheimer, 2008; Shapiro & Purpel, 2005).

In this chapter, I explore the dichotomous relationship between what is (normative, hegemonic) democracy and what it could be. For the former, I discuss the meaning of elections and electoral, representative democracy, and for the latter, I allude to concepts, issues, and manifestations that might contribute to a more inclusive, robust, and meaningful form of democracy. I use a biographical narrative to underpin the analysis and also to draw attention to my own evolution in (re)thinking through the meaning of democracy. This evolution is part of a process, one that I believe echoes the critical pedagogical thinking around...

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