March 13th, 2013

We Need More Democracy in Education, Not Less

Harold Jarche:

I think we may soon get invited to another shotgun wedding, this time between techno-utopians, with financial speculators as bridesmaids, and libertarians, who feel the state and teachers have screwed-up education. It’s education as socialization, but socialization to the dominant business paradigm. But any problems with the education system are a result of the governance and economic environment in which it resides. It is through democracy, all of us, that we can improve education. Public education does not need a VC-backed Silicon Valley start-up to be saved. It needs more of us to participate in it. It needs democracy…

…We have not yet been able to effectively integrate democracy and business. Our current education systems, while flawed, still have some democratic oversight. In a networked world, our society needs to be more democratic, not less. Just as some business leaders are beginning to realize the potential of democracy in the enterprise, now is not the time to remove democracy from education. If work is learning, and learning is the work, there is little hope for democratic business if education becomes a business. For our future to remain democratic, both education and business need to be based on its fundamental principles. We are at a crossroads. Let’s cancel this wedding.

While I agree wholeheartedly with the sentiment, the problem is that even the definition of “democracy” is being rewritten by the monied reform interests. Charters are “democracy” since they add choice regardless the business agenda. The parent trigger is “democracy.” Or worse.

When we argue for the “freedom to learn” for our kids (and for ourselves,) it can’t be a “freedom to learn…about the things we think you should learn in the ways we think you should learn them.” Real learning, passionate, authentic, relevant learning is much harder to organize…and to monetize. 

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