Education’s Role in Democracy: The Power of Pluralism
Thayer-Bacon, Barbara J.
My task in Beyond Liberal Democracy in Schools (2008) was to develop a relational, pluralistic social political theory that moves beyond liberal democracy. I find Dewey is a key source to help us find our way out of liberal democracy’s assumptions and show us how to move on. He (1949/1960) offers us the possibilities of moving beyond individualism, with his theory of social transaction and he (1938/1955) shows us how to move beyond rationalism in his arguments for truths as warranted assertions. A transactional description of selves-in-relation-with-others describes us as becoming individuals out of our social settings. At the same time that we are becoming individuals within a social setting, we are continually affecting that social setting. Individuals are not aggregates with separate boundaries that have no relation to one another. In fact, the ‘self’ is fictive, and contingent. Our ‘selves’ are multifarious and fractured, due to repressive forces imposed upon us by others as well as supportive forces offered to us by others. Others bind us and help us become free at the same time. The democratic theory I develop is a radical democratic theory that represents feminist and multicultural concerns. This theory is radical because of my efforts to present an anti-racist theory that critiques basic foundational-level assumptions embedded within both individualism and collectivism. The theory moves beyond modernism and critical theory as it seeks to address postmodern concerns of power and exclusionary practice without appealing to grand narratives such as Reason, the Scientific Method, or Dialogue. I follow Dewey’s social transactional lead and describe our world as one that is pluralistic, relational, and in process as we continually contribute to the on-going constructing of knowing. I argue, in agreement with Dewey (1916/1996), that a democracy is a mode of associated living, not just a view of political democracy, and that it needs to be struggled for on all fronts, with all our social institutions, including: political, economic, educational, scientific, artistic, religious, and familial. This comprehensive view of democracy is consistent with the transactional relational assumption I describe, for it recognizes that social institutions are no more autonomous and separate from each other than individuals are separate from each other. For this essay, I explore education’s role in helping us understand how connected we all are to each other, moving us closer to living in a world we may someday call a democracy.
Etica & Politica / Ethics & Politics
XII (2010) 1
EUT Edizioni Università di Trieste
Barbara J. Thayer-Bacon, "Education’s Role in Democracy: The Power of Pluralism", in: Etica & Politica / Ethics & Politics, XII (2010) 1, pp. 134−156.