". . .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.
John Dewey


Democratic 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.



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