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Resistance and devotedness: learning democracy under pressure

If we imagine democratic education as school communities practising participation, to what extent can schools escape the current approach taken in the public education system? What if they encounter hostility and restrictions? Can we learn democracy through transgressions and resistance?

¡Mis lentejas me las dejas! (Hands off my lentils!)
Protest, Granada, 8 May 2018 (Kathryn Palmateer)

The stories in this article show how resistance by a school community, albeit fleeting in some cases, and devotedness, can change children’s education. The three examples depicted here show that transgressing the dominant bureaucratic, methodological or ideological approach can prove effective for a while, though repressive dynamics kick in again when conflicts emerge. Flexibility and initiative are key factors in enabling such projects. But hostility on the part of the public administration also seems to inspire families and activists to some extent to take control of their kids’ education and call for change in the state education system. These initiatives are often tolerated and sometimes even supported (co-financed or recognised) by the authorities, but when it comes to conflicts of interests, bureaucratic arguments take precedence. Still, resistance enables these communities to create, learn and relearn democratic processes, think about their local context and take action based on their conclusions. A situated pedagogy works with critical interventions that incorporate the particularity of a place: it understands and combats structures of oppression with reference to the immediate context. (Gruenewald 2003, Kitchens 2009). After all, thinking in these terms, what better way could there be of learning democratic resistance through first-hand experiences than fighting for local initiatives and adopting a solidarity-based approach?

Read the entire article on the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation’s website

The article is part of the Critical Dialogue on Democracy initiative by the Global Working Group Beyond Development, concerned about the “multidimensional crisis faced by our world”. The working group gathers/produces knowledge “around possible paths of solutions and making local/global dynamics and crisis phenomena more visible to global social movements”. Their current issue aims to “deepen our understandings around the crisis of democracy and possible responses that can get us out of the crisis”. The introduction to Beyond Development can be found on the Radical Ecological Democracy website. Further articles are being posted in the coming weeks.