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Democratic Education brings democratic values into a child's educational life. It can include self-determination within a community of equals, as well as such values as respect and trust.
There are a growing number of democratic schools.
The history of democratic education spans from at least the 1600s. While it is associated with a number of individuals, there has been no central figure, establishment, or nation that advocated democratic education.
Enlightenment era 
In 1693, John Locke published Some Thoughts Concerning Education. In describing the teaching of children, he declares, “None of the things they are to learn, should ever be made a burthen to them, or impos'd on them as a task. Whatever is so propos'd, presently becomes irksome; the mind takes an aversion to it, though before it were a thing of delight or indifferency. Let a child but be order'd to whip his top at a certain time every day, whether he has or has not a mind to it; let this be but requir'd of him as a duty, wherein he must spend so many hours morning and afternoon, and see whether he will not soon be weary of any play at this rate.”
Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s book of advice on education, Émile, was first published in 1762. Émile, the imaginary pupil he uses for illustration, was only to learn what he could appreciate as useful. He was to enjoy his lessons, and learn to rely on his own judgement and experience. “The tutor must not lay down precepts, he must let them be discovered,” wrote Rousseau, and urged him not make Émile learn science, but let him discover it. He also said that we should not substitute books for personal experience because this does not teach us to reason; it teaches us to use other people’s reasoning; it teaches us to believe a great deal but never to know anything.
19th century 
While Locke and Rousseau were concerned only with the education of the children of the wealthy, in the 19th century Leo Tolstoy set up a school for peasant children. This was on his own estate at Yasnaya Polyana, Russia, in the late 19th century. He tells us that the school evolved freely from principles introduced by teachers and pupils; that in spite of the preponderating influence of the teacher, the pupil had always had the right not to come to school, or, having come, not to listen to the teacher, and that the teacher had the right not to admit a pupil, and was able to use all the influence he could muster to win over the community, where the children were always in the majority.
20th century 
Dom Sierot 
In 1912 Janusz Korczak founded Dom Sierot, the Jewish orphanage in Warsaw, which was run on democratic lines until 1940, when he accompanied all his charges to the gas-chambers of the Treblinka extermination camp.
Influential democratic schools 
In the 1960s, hundreds of schools opened based on Summerhill.
Beginning in the 1980s, several dozen schools opened based on Sudbury Valley.
There are now more than twenty democratic schools in Israel.
Free schools movement 
Progressive education (including many schools based on Summerhill) became a broad movement in the 1960s and 1970s, but was largely renounced by the 1980s.
Networks supporting democratic education include:
- The Alternative Education Resource Organization launched in 1989 to create a "student-driven, learner-centered approaches to education."
- The annual International Democratic Education Conference, first held in 1993.
- The Australasian Democratic Education Community, which held its first conference in 2002.
- The European Democratic Education Community was founded in 2008, at the first European Democratic Education Conference.
IDEC 2005 named 2 core beliefs: self-determination and democratic governance. EUDEC has both of these beliefs, and mutual respect is also in their belief statement. IDEN supports schools that self-identify as democratic.
Democratic education comes in many different forms. These are some of the areas in which democratic schools differ.
Most democratic schools have no mandatory curriculum, considering forced learning to be undemocratic. Most democratic schools officially offer voluntary courses, and many help interested students to prepare for national examinations so they gain qualifications for further study or future employment. Some democratic schools have no official offering of courses, although courses can be offered or requested by school members.
Administrative structure 
Most democratic schools have weekly meetings open to all students and staff, where everyone present has an equal vote. Some include parents. The power of these school meetings usually covers anything from the appointment or dismissal of staff and the creation or annulment of rules to general expenditure and the structure of the school day. At some schools all students are expected to attend these meetings, at others they are voluntary. The main school meeting may also set up sub-committees to deal with particular issues, such as conflict resolution.
Conflict resolution 
Within the purview of democratic values, there is wide scope for how conflicts are resolved. There may be a formal system, with due process and the rule of law. There may be rules but no punishments. Other possibilities include, but are not limited to, a consensus process, mediation, and informal dialogue.
Size: Democratic schools vary in size from a few students to a few hundred. Even an individual unschooler can be described as learning democratically, if people treat her with democratic values.
While types of democratic education are as numerous as types of democracy, a general definition of democratic education is "an education that democratizes learning itself." The goals of democratic education vary according to the participants, the location, and access to resources.
There is no unified body of literature, spanning multiple disciplines, on democratic education. However, there are theories of democratic education from the following perspectives:
Cognitive theory 
During the practice theory movement, there was renewed interest in child development. Jean Piaget's theory of universal steps in comprehension and general patterns in the acquisition of knowledge was challenged by experiences at democratic schools. "No two kids ever take the same path. Few are remotely similar. Each child is so unique, so exceptional."
Jean Lave was one of the first and most prominent social anthropologists to discuss cognition within the context of cultural settings presenting a firm argument against the functionalist psychology that many educationalists refer to implicitly. For Lave, learning is a process ungone by an actor within a specific context. The skills or knowledge learned in one process are not generalizable nor reliably transferred to other areas of human action. Her primary focus was on mathematics in context and mathematics education.
The broader implications reached by Lave and others who specialize in situated learning are that beyond the argument that certain knowledge is necessary to be a member of society (a Durkheimian argument), knowledge learned in the context of a school is not reliably transferable to other contexts of practice.
Criticism based on cognitive theory 
The human brain is not fully developed until adulthood. A disadvantage of teenagers being responsible for their own education is that "young brains have both fast-growing synapses and sections that remain unconnected. This leaves teens easily influenced by their environment and more prone to impulsive behavior".
Criticism based on ethics 
Letting children direct their own education could be considered irresponsible parenting.
Political theory 
There are a variety of political components to democratic education. One author identifies those elements as inclusivity and rights, equal participation in decision-making, and equal encouragement for success. The Institute for Democratic Education's principles of democratic education identifies several political principles,
- The interaction between democratic philosophy and education,
- Pluralistic education,
- School administration by means of democratic procedures,
- Education based on respect for human rights,
- Dialogic evaluation,
- Dialogic relationships, and
- Critical social thinking.
Effect on quality of education 
The type of political socialization that takes place in democratic schools is strongly related to deliberative democracy theory. Claus Offe and Ulrich Preuss, two theorists of the political culture of deliberative democracies argue that in its cultural production deliberative democracy requires “an open-ended and continuous learning process in which the roles of both ‘teacher’ and ‘curriculum’ are missing. In other words, what is to be learned is a matter that we must settle in the process of learning itself."
The political culture of a deliberative democracy and its institutions, they argue, would facilitate more “dialogical forms of making one’s voice heard” which would “be achieved within a framework of liberty, within which paternalism is replaced by autonomously adopted self-paternalism, and technocratic elitism by the competent and self-conscious judgment of citizens."
As a curricular, administrative and social operation within schools, democratic education is essentially concerned with equipping people to make "real choices about fundamental aspects of their lives" and happens within and for democracy. It can be "a process where teachers and students work collaboratively to reconstruct curriculum to include everyone." In at least one conception, democratic education teaches students "to participate in consciously reproducing their society, and conscious social reproduction." This role necessitates democratic education happening in a variety of settings and being taught by a variety of people, including "parents, teachers, public officials, and ordinary citizens." Because of this "democratic education begins not only with children who are to be taught but also with citizens who are to be their teachers."
Preparation for life in a democracy 
The "strongest, political rationale" for democratic education is that it teaches "the virtues of democratic deliberation for the sake of future citizenship." This type of education is often alluded to in the deliberative democracy literature as fulfilling the necessary and fundamental social and institutional changes necessary to develop a democracy that involves intensive participation in group decision making, negotiation, and social life of consequence.
Civic Education 
The concept of the hidden curriculum includes the belief that anything taught in an authoritarian setting is implicitly teaching authoritarianism. Thus civic education, if taught in a compulsory setting, undermines its own lessons in democracy. A common belief in democratic schools is that democracy must be experienced to be learned. This argument conforms to the cognition-in-context research by Lave.
Arguments about how to transmit democracy, and how much and how early to treat children democratically, are made in various literatures concerning student voice, youth participation and other elements of youth empowerment.
Criticism based on political theory 
Economic theory 
Core features of democratic education align with the emerging consensus on 21st century business and management priorities. Such features include increased collaboration, decentralized organization, and radical creativity.
Criticism based on economic theory 
Self-directed children may not learn skills such as reading, writing and arithmetic, which are needed for economic success.
Education in a democratic society 
As English aristocracy was giving way to democracy, Matthew Arnold investigated popular education in France and other countries to determine what form of education suited a democratic age. Arnold wrote that "the spirit of democracy" is part of "human nature itself", which engages in "the effort to affirm one's own essence...to develop one's own existence fully and freely."
During the industrial age, John Dewey argued that children should not all be given the same pre-determined curriculum. In Democracy and Education he develops a philosophy of education based on democracy. He argues that while children should be active participants in the creation of their education, and while children must experience democracy to learn democracy, they need adult guidance to develop into responsible adults.
Amy Gutmann argues in Democratic Education that in a democratic society, there is a role for everyone in the education of children. These roles are best agreed upon through deliberative democracy.
The journal Democracy and Education investigates "the conceptual foundations, social policies, institutional structures, and teaching/learning practices associated with democratic education. By "democratic education" they mean "educating youth...for active participation in a democratic society." 
- Joseph Agassi - Israeli philosopher and proponent of democracy
- Michael Apple - Social scientist, democratic education scholar, University of Wisconsin–Madison
- Matthew Arnold - Wrote about education in an age of democracy
- Pierre Bourdieu - Anthropologist, social theorist, College de France
- Émile Durkheim - Sociologist, functionalist education theorist
- George Dennison - American writer, author
- John Dewey - Social scientist, progressive education theorist, University of Chicago
- Michel Foucault - Post-modern philosopher, University of California, Berkeley
- Peter Gray - Psychologist, democratic education scholar, Boston College
- Amy Gutmann - Political scientist, democratic education scholar, President of the University of Pennsylvania
- Daniel Greenberg - One of the founders of the Sudbury Valley School.
- John Holt - Critic of conventional education and proponent of home-schooling
- Homer Lane - Democratic education pioneer, founder of the Ford Republic (1907–12) and the Little Commonwealth (1913–17)
- A.S. Neill - Democratic education pioneer, founder of the Summerhill School
- Claus Offe - Political Scientist, theorist of deliberative democratic culture, Hertie School of Governance
- Karl Popper - Philosopher at the London School of Economics
- Bertrand Russell - Philosopher, author of "On Education" and founder of Beacon House School
Training Programs 
Israel's Institute for Democratic Education and Kibbutzim College in Tel Aviv collaborate to offer a Bachelor of Education (B. Ed.) degree with a Specialization Certificate in Democratic Education. Student teaching placements are in both regular schools and democratic schools.
Legal Issues 
The United Nations and democratic education 
United Nations agreements both support and place restrictions on education options, including democratic education:
Article 26(3) of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that "Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children." While this in itself may allow parents the right to choose democratic education, Articles 28 and 29 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child place requirements on educational programs: Primary education is compulsory, all aspects of each student must be developed to their full potential, and education must include the development of respect for things such as national values and the natural environment, in a spirit of friendship among all peoples.
Furthermore, while Article 12(1) of the Convention mandates that children be able to have input on all matters that effect them, their input will have limited weight, "due weight in accordance with the age and maturity of the child."
In 1999, Summerhill received a 'notice of complaint' over its policy of non-compulsory lessons, a procedure which would usually have led to closure; Summerhill contested the notice and went before a special educational tribunal. Summerhill was represented by a noted human rights lawyer, Geoffrey Robertson QC. The government's case soon collapsed, and a settlement was offered. This offer was discussed and agreed at a formal school meeting which had been hastily convened in the courtroom from a quorum of pupils and teachers who were present in court. The settlement guaranteed that future inspections of Summerhill would be consistent with Summerhill's educational philosophy.
See also 
- List of democratic schools
- List of Sudbury schools
- Constructivism (learning theory)
- European Democratic Education Community
- International Democratic Education Conference
- European Democratic Education Conference
- Rouge Forum
- Hidden curriculum
- Provenzo, E.F. Jr. (ed) (2008) Encyclopedia of the Social and Cultural Foundations of Education. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. p 238.
- Locke, John (1692) Some Thoughts Concerning Education, para 73.1.
- Rousseau, Jean-Jacques (1904), Emile ou l’éducation, Garnier Frères, Paris, p 197: “. . si nous trouvons que ce travail n’est bon à rien, nous ne le reprendrons plus.”
- Rousseau 1904, p 22 “Il ne doit pas donner des préceptes, il doit les faire trouver.”
- Rousseau 1904, p173: “Qu’il n’apprenne pas la science, qu’il l’invente”
- Rousseau 1904, p121 “Substituer des livres à tout cela, ce n’est pas nous apprendre a nous servir de la raison d’autrui; c’est nous apprendre à beaucoup croire, et à ne jamais rien savoir
- Tolstoy, Leo, in The School at Yasnaya Polyana in Tolstoy on Education , translated by Leo Wiener (1967), University of Chicago Press, p 233
- Korczak, Janusz (1991), Von Kindern und anderen Vorbildern, Güterslohe Verlagshaus (translated from the Polish), p.78
- Korczak, Janusz (1979) Von Kindern und anderen Vorbildern, Güterslohe Verlagshaus, pp 82-83
- Free Schools, Free People
- Sudbury schools
- Hecht, Yaacov (2010) Democratic Education: A beginning of a Story, Innovation Culture, ISBN 978 097452529751995. pp 57-68
- Free Schools, Free People
- About AERO
- Berlin IDEC
- For example, Summerhill and the Kapriole
- Sudbury Valley School
- [Sands school]
- Moo Baan Dek
- Windsor House School
- Democratic School of Hadera
- Nuestra Escuela
- Autorska Szkola Samorozwoju ASSA
- Tokyo Shure
- The Highland School
- Gould, E. (2003) The University in a Corporate Culture. Yale University Press. p 224.
- Williams-Boyd, P. (2003) Middle Grades Education: A Reference Handbook. ABC-CLIO. p 296.
- Greenberg, D. (1987) "Learning," Free at Last — The Sudbury Valley School. Retrieved August 13, 2010.
- Human brain development timeline
- H. Kelsen, Ethics, Vol. 66, No. 1, Part 2: Foundations of Democracy (October , 1955), pp. 1–101
- "Parents are expected to make decisions about their child's education." Parenting
- English, L.D. (2002) Handbook of International Research in Mathematics Education. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. p 21.
- "Course for consultants on democratic processes", Institute for Democratic Education. Retrieved 1/13/09.
- Offe, Claus and Ulrich Preuss. “Democratic Institutions and Moral Resources” “Political Theory Today.” David Held, ed. Cambridge: Polity, 1991, 168.
- Offe, Claus and Ulrich Preuss. “Democratic Institutions and Moral Resources” “Political Theory Today.” David Held, ed. Cambridge: Polity, 1991, 170-1.
- Blacker, D.J. (2007) Democratic Education Stretched Thin: How Complexity Challenges a Liberal Ideal. SUNY Press. p 126.
- Bridges, D. (1997) Education, Autonomy and Democratic Citizenship: Philosophy in a Changing World. Routledge. p 76.
- Gutmann, A. (1987) Democratic Education. Princeton University Press. p 321.
- Gutmann, A. (1987) p 99.
- Curren, R. (2007) Philosophy of Education: An Anthology. Blackwell Publishing. p 163.
- Portis, E. (2003) "Democratic Education and Political Participation," Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Political Science Association, Philadelphia Marriott Hotel, Philadelphia, PA. Retrieved 1/15/09.
- Greenberg, D. (1992), Education in America - A View from Sudbury Valley, "Democracy Must be Experienced to be Learned." Retrieved August 13, 2010.
- see, for example, Democratic Education by Amy Gutmann
- Mendel-Reyes, M. (1998) "A Pedagogy for Citizenship: Service Learning and Democratic Education," New Directions for Teaching and Learning. 73, pp 31 - 38.
- Sehr, D.T. (1997) Education for Public Democracy. SUNY Press. p 178.
- Attachment in children
- Harvard Business Review, (http://blogs.harvardbusiness.org/hamel/2009/02/25_stretch_goals_for_managemen.html)
- "Matthew Arnold: Democratic Education reviewed by Russell Kirk". Teachers College Record. 1962. Retrieved May 20, 2013.
- Matthew Arnold (1962). Democratic education. University of Michigan Press. pp. 7–. ISBN 978-0-472-11652-2. Retrieved 20 May 2013.
- John Dewey (2010). Democracy and Education: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Education. Indo-European Publishing. ISBN 978-1-60444-120-8. Retrieved 20 May 2013.
- Amy Gutmann (29 March 1999). Democratic Education. Princeton University Press. ISBN 978-1-4008-2291-1. Retrieved 20 May 2013.
- & Education
- The Institute for Democratic Education at Kibbutzim College
- "Universal Declaration of Human Rights". United Nations. 10 Dec, 1948. Retrieved 14 May, 2013.
- United Nations General Assembly (Nov 20, 1989). "Text of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child". http://www.ohchr.org. UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. Retrieved May 11, 2013.
- United Nations General Assembly (Nov 20, 1989). "Text of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child". http://www.ohchr.org. UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. Retrieved May 11, 2013.
- "Summerhill on trial". BBC News. 20 March 2000. Retrieved 2008-01-28.
- "Summerhill closure threat lifted". BBC News (BBC). 23 March 2000.
- Peter Gray @ Psychology Today
- Alternative Education Resource Organization (AERO)
- Comprehensive Global List of Democratic Schools (via AERO)
- European Democratic Education Community (EUDEC)
- Institute for Democratic Education in America (IDEA)
Further reading 
- Apple, M. (1993) Official Knowledge: Democratic Education in a Conservative Age. Routledge.
- Bourdieu, Pierre. (1984) Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgment of Taste. London: Routledge.
- Bourdieu, Pierre and Jean-Claude Passeron. (1990) Reproduction in Education, Society and Culture. Theory, Culture and Society Series. Sage.
- Carlson, D. and Apple, M.W. (1998) Power, Knowledge, Pedagogy: The Meaning of Democratic Education in Unsettling Times. Westview Press.
- Carr, W. and Hartnett, A. (1996) Education and the Struggle for Democracy: The politics of educational ideas. Open University Press.
- Dennison, George. (1999) The Lives of Children: The Story of the First Street School. Portsmouth, NH: Boynton/Cook Publishers.
- Dewey, John. (1997) Experience and Education. New York: Touchstone.
- Durkheim, Émile. (2002) Moral Education. Mineola, NY: Dover.
- Foucault, Michel. (1991) Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison. New York: Random House.
- Gatto, John Taylor. (1992) Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Education. Philadelphia, PA: New Society.
- Giroux, H. A. (1989) 'Schooling for Democracy: Critical pedagogy in the modern age. Routledge.
- Gutmann, A. (1999) Democratic Education. Princeton University Press.
- Habermas, Jürgen. (1997) "Popular Sovereignty as Procedure’ “Deliberative Democracy". Bohman, James and William Rehg, eds. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
- Held, David. (2006) Models of Democracy. Stanford: Stanford University Press.
- Kahn, Robert L. and Daniel Katz. (1978) The Social Psychology of Organizations. New York: John Wiley and Sons.
- Kelly, A. V. (1995) Education and Democracy: Principles and practices. Paul Chapman Publishers.
- Manin, Bernard. "On Legitimacy and Political Deliberation" Elly Stein and Jane Mansbridge, trans. Political Theory. Vol. 15, No. 3, Aug. 1987: 338-368.
- Neill, A. S. (1995) Summerhill School: A New View of Childhood. Ed. Albert Lamb. New York: St. Martin's Griffin.
- Sadofsky, Mimsy and Daniel Greenberg. (1994) Kingdom of Childhood: Growing up at Sudbury Valley School. Hanna Greenberg, interviewer. Framingham, MA: Sudbury Valley School Press.
- Schutz, Aaron. (2010). Social Class, Social Action, and Education: The Failure of Progressive Democracy. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. introduction