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The worst enemy of democracy is the lack of education in a society because it is a tool that is used to liberate the minds of the society and give them a better life. In this essay I shall firstly discuss the Purpose of a democratic education. I shall then describe the values (of its premises) of shared educational authority. Then Critically analyse why is Gutmann`s shared educational authorities are considered to be democratic and lastly, I shall fully examine the benefits of Gutmann`s theory of a democratic education in a post-apartheid South African schools.
To fully understand the purpose of a democratic education, firstly we must understand the meaning of democracy and the best definition was proposed by Lincoln when he said:
“Government of the people by the people and for the people” (Lincoln, 1863, pg.55)
In simple words it refers to an individual having a say in decision making of a society thus we can state that it is the rule of the majority. The purpose of a democratic education is to cultivate character formation and the character that is being cultivated must be consistent with conscious social reproduction (Gutmann, 1987), In other words it cultivates characters that embrace non-racialism, non-discriminatory and understand bring the roles and responsibilities of being an active democratic citizen.
Furthermore, the purpose of democratic education is to bring about civic virtue which refers to an action of a society which create a consensus in establishing a better, prosperous and co-operating life amongst citizens (Gutmann, 1987) thus this all leads to Democratic Citizenship and education is a core (main) source (tool) that is being used to shape the character that is expected at the end of the development (Gutmann, 1987).
In simple broken words we can state that the purpose of a democratic education is to bring harmony, stability and getting along of citizens in a country promoting healthy discussions of topics, ideas, opinions which are all equally valued which result in active participation of citizens in the nation. For example, South African schools are multi-racial and stand against the use of discrimination and tolerate freedom through being an active citizen by re-enforcing learner’s participation in different activities thus this serves as an evidence of the purpose of a democratic education promoting harmony and getting along of citizens regardless of your gender, race and other sorts of identity.
Amy Gutmann proposed the democratic education theory based on the three normative theories which are Education 1 sociological view ( Parental control), The state control ( Institution E2) and lastly E3 General enlightenment ( Individual control) she rejects and partially modifies them because these normative theories don’t provide a sufficient ground on the distribution of education and the authority of education (Gutmann, 1987). In other words, she discovers where does the power rooted and how are the resources distributed (Who delivers/decides and Who receives/entitlement).
Firstly, in support of Parental control (E1) Education authority is in the say (Hands) of Parents, the parents exercise authority/power over their children for consequences and right reasons (Gutmann, 1987). Parents are required to teach their children by nature because they have the best interest in their children thus, we can rely on them because they get to produce responsible active citizen which are the end products of parenting (Locke, 1960). On the other hand its Unconvincing to have parents undertaking a major role in equipping their children with intellectuals skills and knowledge for Rational deliberations they cannot be counted upon, in addition parents cannot teach their kids to be rational citizens because they teach what they believe what they believe thus there are high chances of religious racial intolerance (Gutmann, 1987).
Furthermore, in regards of giving the parents authority in their Children’s education, what about the Child headed families, will they be given authority since they have no parents to rely upon, secondly what about the children who are being abused at their homes and tend to runaway from home. For example, In South Africa we have a huge number of cases of parents molesting their children and if we give them the authority it will mean that we are giving them authority to abuse their children further. Lastly parents tend to live their lives through the children.
Through institutional use of education (E2) the Educational power is upon the authority of the state. The state uses Education as a tool to promote social cohesion and harmony in a society amongst citizens (Plato, 1970). According to Gutmann (1987) it is used as a tool to cultivate unity amongst citizens as well as promoting active critical citizens who can be useful and contribute to the strengthening of a democratic nation.
Furthermore Gutmann (1987) rejects the state that we it acts as a political parent meaning we entrust our political rights and responsibilities to the state. For instance, the state provides laws and all the citizens must conform to those laws. Secondly, she states that is it possible to have the best constitution in a country if we settle constitutional matters in a constitution court, yet we can have the best constitution, but the constitution will not speak and meet the needs of every citizen in a country. (Gutmann, 1987).
Lastly on the individual control (E3), The educational supremacy is upon the authority of an individual. According to Mill`s (1989) he states that the natural state of mankind is freedom and Equality therefore Individuals are perfect, Rational beings they bring freedom that they can exercise although according to Mill being rational is when you poses the characteristics of a natural state Like Adam and the central feature this theory is embracing neutrality but Gutmann (1987) is in contrast with Mills that neutrality cannot be assured or guaranteed, that controversial issues are meant to be discussed so as to produce Critical thinking vital children who will contribute and bring change to the society and never remain neutral about harsh decisions.
As the modification of the normative theories has taken progress. The shared Education refers to the role of the State, role of the parents and the role of individuals merging (Coming together). The value of shared educational authority is that it values the contributions of the parents, Secondly, it values the political education which is the State and Lastly it values professional authority. Shared educational authority merges the powers of the parents, the State and the individual to promote and develop a democratic society (Gutmann, 1987). In other words, we can say all these categories have a say in the decision making of the education, the distribution of authority supports the main value of democracy.
The shared educational authorities are considered democratic because it values all the three (3) categories of Education which is firstly the sociological view that parental education is perpetuated for specific conceptions of the virtuous life to let children discover various ways of life not the one that is entitled by their parents, The Institutional use in providing the society with adequate participation in politics, sharing subcommunities and lastly it values Individuals Control (Gutmann, 1987). A democratic state obliges choice among citizens not only through good life but through the concern of a civic virtue. To form the correct character in children that feels the power of accurate reason is an essential purpose of education.
Furthermore, it is democratic because it supports a Non-Neutral education stating that critical thinking, reasoning and arguing without giving an offence, The Non-Neutral education shapes a moral character where the Neutral education limits the choices of the learners, also it supports children by not just freedom of choice but also identification of participation in their families and the politics of the society (Gutmann, 1987).
It is democratic because democratic education develops a conscious social reproduction of a human character. Furthermore, it promotes Non-discrimination meaning that all children should receive equal compulsory education regardless of their race, gender and class. Lastly it promotes Non-repression amongst citizens that their freedom is secured from interference from external forces (Gutmann, 1987).
The benefits of Gutmann`s theory is evident in South African schools where we find the parents playing a role as School Governing Body (SGB) in to the school thus it serves as evident that power is being shared between the parents and the school which is being controlled by the state (Department of Education, 2001).
The new post-apartheid schools in South Africa do not embrace discrimination (Non-discriminatory) for example Multi-racial schools (Department of Education, 2008). Furthermore, through the curriculum that is proposed that learners should do different activities like debates it promotes Non-Neutral education because learners’ debate about controversial issues that affect the democratic society (Department of Education, 2008).
The other contribution of Gutmann theory is the role of Representative council (SRC) where we discover shared authority amongst learners and educators working in one mandate to bring harmony and stability inside the school (Mathebula, 2005). Lastly the benefit that we have from the theory is that parents do not pressure on an individual choice of education meaning they do not pressure their children on which career to follow but the decision lies on an individual to make correct choice upon what`s good and what they passionate for in life.
On the other hand, the role of the constitution of south Africa plays a huge role in cultivating democratic active citizens because the laws promote the civic virtue in bringing harmony and stability in a society where there`s a getting along amongst citizens in a country through the production of conscious social reproduction.
In conclusion we live in a democratic society where Non-discrimination and Non-repression and where the Non-neutral Education is being practised through the society that produces conscious social reproduction, the collective shaping of the future of humanity through democratic liberation. Although all these theories operate an ideal world because they do not put the interest of learners into consideration they believe that the three categories of education best suits what is best for the learners and what if its not what learners want but they will not have a choice but to conform to the standards that are being proposed to them because they viewed as incapable beings.
Education, D. o. (2001). Manifesto on values, Education and democracy. Pretoria: Government Printers.
Education, D. o. (2008). A bill Responsibilities of the Youth of South South Africqa. Pretoria: Government Printers.
Gutmann, A. (1987). Democratic Education. New jersey: Princeton University Press.
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