Educators and education for democracy: Moving beyond “thin” democracy

Paul Carr

Abstract


Do our educational systems encourage, support, and cultivate a democratic experience for students? The debate over democracy in education could be characterized in terms of representative versus participatory democracy, with the former highlighting electoral processes (thin), and the latter focusing on critical engagement and social justice (thick). This paper reports on a study of College of Education students in the United States of America, highlighting three themes: 1) the predisposition among university students to understand democracy and politics in a thin way; 2) the potential for university teachers to do democracy in education; and 3) the importance of understanding power and difference in relation to democracy. The research leads to the development of a framework for conceptualizing democracy in education, highlighting, in particular, what educators can do to become more critically aware and engaged.