Teaching Free Speech and Political Literacy in an Authoritarian Age
Chapter 2. Rethinking Democracy in Education
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RETHINKING DEMOCRACY IN EDUCATION
What knowledge is of the most worth? This is a question that is of central importance to any educator. However, in today’s world we quite often answer it in increasingly narrow, instrumental terms. From the current dominant neoliberal perspective, valuable knowledge is knowledge that helps people become productive members of the workforce in an increasingly competitive globalized world. So while most bureaucrats and corporate leaders are quick to point out the importance of job skills, they are typically much less ready to emphasize the fact that we also live in a democracy, a society based upon the notion of majoritarian rule and fundamental liberties. This is not often pointed out because we also live in a culture that is quickly becoming more and more inequitable as power is increasingly being shifted away from democratic institutions to serve corporate interests and a secretive military-intelligence apparatus.
It is important to remember that speaking in historical terms, democracies are relatively rare. Yet, in an era where standardized testing has run amok, one rarely sees business leaders and journalists fretting over low voter turnouts or the public’s lack of knowledge of public affairs. When we talk about public schools it is crucial to be mindful that our democracy’s continued existence depends on a robust version of political literacy being taught to present-day← 33 | 34 → youth. This is because democracy itself is a form of cultural memory. In this sense, the collective amnesia created by a...
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