". . .a government resting upon popular suffrage cannot be
successful unless those who elect and who obey their governors are educated. Since a democratic
society repudiates the principle of external authority, it must find a substitute
in voluntary disposition and interest; these can be created only by education.
In Dewey's assessment, an educated populace secures the neccesary freedoms
upon which a democratic society is built. By his definition, a democratic society
may be measured firstly, by the extent to which the
interests of a group are shared by all its members, and secondly, by the extent to which
groups may freely interact with each other.
Since democracy cannot admit the domination of
single interests, or privileged perspectives, members of a democracy must
be capable of using the open forums of exchange afforded by democracies to present
alternative perspectives. The antithesis of a free and open society is one
in which there are internal and external barriers to free exchange,and the absence of
information and communication about the experiences of other groups
besides one's own.
An uneducated populace cannot, obviously, offer the challenges to thought, or the novelty which
are the basis of any society's regeneration. In Dewey's estimation:
Diversity of stimulation means novelty, and novelty means
challenge to thought. The more activity is restricted to a few definite lines__as it is when there
are rigid class lines preventing adequate interplay of experiences__the more action tends to
become routine on the part of the class at a disadvantage, and capricious, aimless, and explosive on
the part of the class having the materially fortunate position. Plato defined a slave as one who
accepts from another the purposes which control his conduct. This condition obtains even where
there is no slavery in the legal sense. It is found wherever men are engaged in activity which is
socially serviceable, but whose service they do not understand and have no personal interest in.1
On the other hand, a society which ensures and provides for the participation of
all of its members equally, i.e., through the preparatory processes of education may
be considered to be democratic. The kind of education that democracies offer thus
gives the individual a personal interest in the societal processes which organize
her/his life, as well as control over her/his own destiny. To do so, democratic societies
need to equip the individual with "the habits of the mind which secure social
changes without introducing disorder."
1ohn Dewey. The Democratic Conception in Education Democracy and Education.1916.
All citations are from the same source.
||Democracy and Education