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Educating for Democratic Consciousness

Counter-Hegemonic Possibilities


Edited By 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 15. Inventing Democracy: Teaching and Togetherness | Noah De Lissovoy


Formal liberal democracy is hollow in two senses: (1) it is ideologically disingenuous since, contrary to the image it ceaselessly proposes of itself, large numbers of people are excluded from genuine decision-making power within it; (2) it is substantively false in regard to the kinds of community to which it refers and aims to develop. Brought together by no more than the act of occasional voting, this “community” of citizens only temporarily crystallizes in order to conduct through its body the tremors of opinion measured by pollsters, and otherwise it dissolves into a social mass that is the mere object of analysis by pundits. As Cornel West (1999) puts it, this is a “truncated” form of democracy—as well as a highly truncated form of political community. Reduced to choosing now and then from a small assortment of personalities preselected by elites or, at best, passing judgment occasionally on narrow and technical adjustments to policy, participants in the political process of “the leading democracies” are precluded from grappling in any meaningful way with the essential social forces determining their conditions of existence, or with the basic sense of the political communities to which they belong or might belong.

In contrast to this actually existing and limited experience of democracy, I believe that if democracy is to be authentic it must include an interrogation of the fundamental norms governing collective life, as well as the possible meanings for the democratic community within which that life takes place. Pressing beyond...

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