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Educating for Democratic Consciousness

Counter-Hegemonic Possibilities

Series:

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 17. Multiculturalism and Democratization in Switzerland and Canada | Angela Stienen & Carl E. James

Extract

In summer 2011, we participated in a debriefing session at York University, Toronto, with 15 teacher candidates from one of Switzerland’s universities. The teacher candidates were on a three-week educational visit at the Faculty of Education, learning about schooling and teaching in Toronto’s highly diverse public elementary schools. In the discussion about how Toronto schools deal with the educational needs and issues of its culturally diverse student population, the Swiss teacher candidates reported that they were astonished by the public school board’s system of “alternative” schools—specifically, the Africentric Alternative School.1 They learned that these schools are designed to meet the particular educational needs of students and address inherent institutional discrimination that might account for the issues faced by students. The Swiss students—of whom only two had an immigrant background—suggested that such schools were encouraging segregation, exclusion, and discrimination. They argued that schools should “mix up” students of different social, cultural, gender, sexuality, and ability backgrounds, and teach them how to get along with each other so that their differences would not matter. The Swiss students also stressed that teachers should be able to encourage and promote all children in the same way regardless of their differences. “That’s what is socially sustainable, not separation,” commented one student. They advocated for a multicultural society based on mutual adaptation and equal treatment, and they were convinced that this was made possible through difference-blindness.

By contrast, teacher candidates at York University who participated in the course, “Dialogue between Religions...

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