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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 16. Vibrant Democracy Requires More Than Facts and Acts: “Ordinary Politics for Youth Political Engagement” | Kristina R. Llewellyn & Joel Westheimer


Paulo Freire, the late Brazilian educator and author, was fond of telling a story he heard from a Spanish factory worker living and working in Germany. The worker was hoping to organize his colleagues politically to fight for better wages and working conditions. But every time he tried to elicit the other workers’ views and enroll them in an organizing course he had designed, he got blank faces and stony silence. When the workers did talk, they appeared apathetic and uninformed, wanting only to earn their money and return to Spain once they had made enough. Not wanting to give up, and knowing that the workers enjoyed playing card games after work, he began to join them in the nightly games. Slowly, through informal discussions about their daily experiences on the job and in the community, politics became one of the more lively and central discussion topics in their social gatherings. Political action soon followed. But, the organizer observed, the workers’ political knowledge and curiosity as well as their implicit familiarity with power relations on the job emerged (initially) only through the informal card-game banter and not from formal, direct questions about their ideas or understandings of politics.1

Although this story derives from efforts by a labor organizer to mobilize German guest workers in Spain, citizenship education and political science researchers everywhere could draw an important lesson from it as well: The common research findings that indicate political ignorance or apathy—especially among youth—might be partially or...

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