Approach to Education for Democracy


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Education is supposed to be structured in such a way that it achieves positive change in the society. Thus, the ideals of a democratic education have been promoted in various theories. Such an education system infuses the process of learning with the basic societal values to be able to bring about the kind of change that is necessary for a better society. Such an education no longer views the students as passive recipients of information. Instead, the system views the learners as active creators of knowledge in the process of learning. The kind of education system that is founded on such an approach is a vibrant learning community where there is respect for every member of the society based on the values of social justice and democracy (Horton 98). The education should be such that it supports the development of every individual within a caring society, helping them to achieve self-learning, engaging within the society, and positively contributing to the society. Therefore, it is imperative to compare Freire to Dewey with the aim of coming up with the most effective pedagogy and theory in creating the kind of education that produces a positive contribution to society.

Comparison of Theories

Education is an important part of the society and should have an impact towards the betterment of every member regardless of diversity. Various theorists have come with their ideas about what it means for education to contribute to the society. Two such theorists are Paulo Freire and John Dewey. In the Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Freire proposes the need to replace capitalism with just social order. In the process, the society should be such that all the members have their humanity (Freire 1). Such a society should not have any person or group that is oppressed, going against classism, racism, discrimination and all forms of inequality. Thus, after overthrowing the oppressors, the once oppressed should not turn out to be oppressors (Freire 7). In Democracy and Society, Dewey suggests the importance of making the society more democratic, and thus, education should be designed in such a way that it achieves this aspect (Dewey 3). Within the democratic society, the people should have the independence to perform their roles and contribute to the humanity without any form of oppression.

While the two theories differ in their fundamental assumption based on the role of education within the society, the two philosophies have some similarities. According to Freire, education has an important role of educating the members of the society such that the oppressed will liberate themselves from the oppression (Freire 1-2). On the contrary, Dewey views education as the means for achieving a society that is democratic through meaningful and experimental learning (Dewey 4-5). In the case of the theory proposed by Freire, education appears to be focused only on the oppressed in the society, as they require to be liberated through learning. However, the theory fails to approach the need for change in the society in general. In fact, Dewey has proposed the same approach. In this case, the theorist proposes the change in society, through education that will be more democratic, and hence, make the society better for every member.

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However, the two theories match from the perspective of changing the society such that there are no elements of classism, racism, discrimination, or any other form of inequality. From the two theoretical perspectives, education is the basis for the promotion of an equal and just society for all. Thus, the theories suggest the need to have a kind of education that engages all the students to play an important role in changing their societies in a positive manner. The theories are such that they communicate to every member of the education system, including the teachers and the students since they all play an important role in developing this kind of a society (Hildreth 922). As such, the theories suggest a system of education where the learners do not simply sit and wait for the input of the teachers, but are completely involved and engaged in creating the content and the learning process in general through experiment.

Critical Reflection on Appropriate Theory and Pedagogy

The most effective theory and pedagogy in education is the one proposed by Dewey, though borrowing from critical aspects of other theories that propose making the society better for all the members. Democratic education is critical to make the society better for every person (Dewey 5). Clearly, change must begin as early as possible in the education process since from a young age, children should be taught about the need to make their society better for every member. As opposed to Freire who appears to focus on adult education as the main drivers towards liberation, Dewey proposes the focus of teaching democracy to children from the elementary level. The work of Dewey remains the most effective explanation of the concept of developing a democratic society through education. From his perspective, the learning process should not be a passive process, but a dynamic, unrelenting, and the vigilant reflection of the beliefs and hypothetical forms of understanding based on the ideas that support it as well as additional deliberation to which it is inclined.

The theory is highly applicable to various models of education that includes engagement of the learners in the learning process, such as in Public Achievement learning teams. Within the learning process, the teachers and leaders of the teams actively engage the learners by making them to have a voice and choice in the way they are taught (Hildreth 923). Thus, using such a theory and pedagogy, the education goes past the traditional curriculum, creating a more engaging, and relevant experience for the students as important members of society. Using the democratic approach to education, every member of the learning team has a high sense of belonging as they are allowed to air their opinions, which are all respected. In this case, regardless of diversity, such as in gender, race, and ethnicity all the members of the team are respected and treated equally (Solorzano 340). America, though a democratic society, has major aspects of discrimination based on race, religion and ethnicity. Thus, by infusing the ideals of democracy on the learners, it is possible to change the society from such an early age.

It is true as Freire proposes that education is the basis for changing the society to become more fair and just. However, the focus should not only be on the oppressed but also on the importance of using the education to change the entire society. Making the general society democratic will be beneficial to all the members, including the oppressed and will change the mindset of the oppressors, thus making a fair and just society for all (Horton 98). The learners will be taught how to appreciate diversity by working on their own. In addition, by working in teams to come up with their ideas and experiment, they will learn how to create change within their societies. In fact, such education is vital for democracy as such a society is based on independence of thought and effective change is in the minds of such individuals. The education is needed in which there will be shared decision-making, self-directing learning, and personalized project-based work; hence, promoting democratic values in their learning.


Theories that focus on the kind of education approach that is necessary for the modern society have been developed. In fact, the theories proposed by Freire and Dewey among others have introduced their ideas of what the modern education should look like. With their strengths and weaknesses, the philosophies propose changes to the education system from the past focus on the learner as a passive recipient of knowledge, to individuals who will be actively engaged in the learning process. The democratic approach to education is the most effective in the modern learning environment to create a democratic society where all the members are viewed fairly and justly. After all, in a democratic society, there are no inequalities of whichever nature and every person feels like a part of the society. Therefore, education from the elementary level should focus on building such ideals as Dewey proposes. In essence, such learners will mature up to initiate real change in their societies.

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