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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 8. Democratic Public Education in the Age of Empire and the Multitude | Dennis Carlson

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These are particularly unsettling times in public education and in American cultural politics, a time of both catastrophe and possibility, despair and hope. To some extent, of course, all times as unsettling, at least within the context of modernism and the inexorable drive by a capitalist economic system to make and remake culture to open up new markets and create new products, and also to control the “labor problem” that haunts it and eludes any quick fixes (Carlson & Apple, 1998). Marx and Engels (2011, sec. 1, para. 18, lines 12–14) observed that “all that is solid melts into air” as capitalism continuously develops and redevelops all cultural spheres of production. But certain times are also more unsettling than others, and we are in the midst of one of those great unsettling eras comparable in its own way to that great unsettling time in the mid-19th century when capitalism transformed culture, setting the stage for another major unsettling time corresponding to a shift to mass industrial production, mass consumerism, and mass media in the early 20th century. Antonio Gramsci (1971), the great democratic social theorist of that era, referred to it in terms of the emergence of “Fordism,” as both a means of organizing production and consumption and also as a commonsense way of thinking about social policy, the purpose of education, and so on (pp. 277–320). The mass production model was introduced into all aspects of civil society and the state and became (to use Foucault’s language)...

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