Democracy in the Classroom?

Authors:

Paul R. Carr at Université du Québec en Outaouais

Paul R. Carr

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Abstract

Democracy is a highly desirable but contested concept in education. However, little is known about how current and future educators perceive, experience and relate to democracy, which could have a significant impact on how students learn about, and become involved in, civic engagement and democracy. This paper reports on a study of 129 College of Education students, finding that they generally have a narrow conceptualization of democracy, primarily focused on electoral politics, only weakly connecting it to education. Social justice, in particular, was highlighted as requiring more attention. Introduction Educational systems and governments have become increasingly concerned with standards, accountability and high academic achievement, as evidenced by the No Child Left Behind legislation (Essex, 2006), but it is unclear how the concept, experience and reality of democracy is to be interwoven into the educational experience (Westheimer and Kahne, 2004). In the debate on the purpose of education, some research has focused on the “decline of civic education and the willingness of young people to assume active citizenship roles” (Corporation for National and Community Service, 2005:1), or the disengagement from the formal political and voting process (Patterson, 2003). If there is agreement that democracy should somehow be cultivated and infused in education (Alexander, 1999), the evidence on how educators should do so is not abundant (Westheimer and Kahne, 2004). This study explores the perspectives, experiences and perceptions of current and future educators, who are students at a university in Northeast Ohio, in relation to democracy in education. This research attempts to further our understanding of how educators conceptualize, experience and approach democracy, and, moreover, how this might frame how they teach about, influence, and engage in democracy, which will undoubtedly have an effect on students, inside and outside of the classroom. 

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About S. R. Zelenz 102 Articles
S.R. Zelenz has worked in education for 20 years. Working with students from all walks of life, cultures, races, and social diversity, Zelenz’s research in Educational Leadership led to finding a better way to approach learning for students with trauma histories. Many were juvenile offenders, gang members, diagnosed with varying behavioral disorders, or had family histories of violence, murder, or narcissistic parenting. This research could not be effectively accomplished without further understanding: how epigenetic trauma inheritance may be impacting these students; how brain development from trauma may be impacting their behavioral and emotional development; as well as deep understanding of psychology and its varying classifications for behavioral and personality disorders. The goal is to find solutions for changing the conversation and making a real difference for these students. She has also worked with nonprofits of varying focus areas for the last 25 years. Her undergraduate degree in Arts Administration and Music prepared her for managing nonprofits of any size as well as procuring funding so that they can achieve their goals. Pairing her nonprofit background with her education background, she has been able to make a difference for over 200 nonprofits worldwide, written curriculum for schools across the globe, and assisted many arts organizations through performance and management.