Relationship between Democracy and Education, Democracy in EducationJune 27, 2021
A school’s moral and political agenda is also referred to as a kind of “hidden curriculum” in how the child’s character is shaped in that school. For Dewey, this aspect of educational theory and practice is clear. “The formation of a certain character is the only true basis of a right way of life” and a “right life” is identical with democratic practices. Individuals achieve self-actualization by using their unique talents for the good of society, and therefore the most sensitive task of education in a democratic society should be to help the child develop self-actualizing character, temperaments and virtues. Dewey’s goal as an educational reformer is to transform American schools into instruments for the radical democratization of American society. If schools are to be an agent of social reform rather than of social reproduction, they need to be fully re-established8.
Dewey starts from the question of how the spirit, material and method of education have changed in different types of community experience. He says that education will vary depending on the dominant quality of life within a group. Therefore, education is a mirror of society as well as an instrument of social reform. In Chapter 7 of his classic work “Democracy and Education”, he examines the concept of education and democracy9. He presents two key criteria here for the value and quality of a social way of life: How diverse are the consciously shared interests; How rich and free are the interrelations with other social units and other social units? He states that these two richness and diversity point to direct democracy. These two features are the elements that define a democratic society. Societies in which mutual human relations and shared interests and experiences are rich (democratic society) will desire intellectual opportunities to be equitably accessible to all, as opposed to stratified societies with sharp classes. A class society needs only the education of the ruling classes; Societies that are mobile and contain many channels of change will want their individuals to be educated in such a way that their personal initiative and adaptability skills will develop.
Since education is a social process and there are many forms of society, the criteria for educational criticism and structuring point to a certain social ideal. Considering the two criteria proposed to measure the value of a social order, societies that impose internal and external barriers to free relations and sharing of experience are undesirable societies. Societies that promote the equal participation of their members in the well-being of society and that secure the flexible reorganization of their institutions through the interaction of different forms of relationships are democratic. Such a society should have a form of education that gives its members the mental faculties that will secure social changes without creating a personal interest in social relevance and control and disorder.
When Dewey evaluates three typical historical philosophies of education from this point of view, he comes to the following conclusions10: First, the Platonic philosophy of education had similar ideals, but it treated a class as a social unit rather than an individual. He was aware of the diversity of social categories, not of the diversity of individuals. Second, the so-called individualism of the eighteenth century enlightenment envisioned a society as large as humanity itself, and argued that in this society exchanges between free individuals should be carried out by the force of nature, without the need for restrictive social institutions. The ideal of society was all humanity, and if people were freed from the impositions of artificial institutional constraints (eg the state), the laws of nature could establish in human relations the marvelous harmony that Newton discovered in the solar system. Because nature showed the diversity of individual abilities and the necessity for the free development of individuals. So education had to be in harmony with these laws of nature. But in the individualist ideal of the eighteenth century there was no social organ to realize this free individual. Finally, third, the institutional idealist philosophy of the nineteenth century sought to realize this ideal through the nation state, but in doing so limited the social purpose in question to members of the same political unit. It reproduced the lower position of the individual vis-à-vis the institution.
Prepared by: Sociologist Ömer YILDIRIM
Source: Omer YILDIRIM’s Personal Lecture Notes. Atatürk University Sociology Department 1st Year “Introduction to Philosophy” and 2nd, 3rd, 4th Grade “History of Philosophy” Lecture Notes (Ömer YILDIRIM); Open Education Philosophy Textbook