Democratic participation in schooling is a rather recent phenomenon. Early American educators clearly did not intend nor believe that students should have a voice in their own education. The colonial school was authoritarian, teacher-directed, and often punitive. The meaning of “democratic education,” until the twentieth century, implied the problem of entrance (i.e., that all children be able to enter the “common school“) and not the problem of substance (i.e., that education should be structured democratically). Only in the early twentieth century did “progressive” educators raise the possibility of democratizing the classroom itself. John Dewey, of course, was both the foremost initiator as well as narrator of this movement to democratize the school. In his view schooling in a democratic society requires democratic rhetoric. The structure of the school must reflect its stated democratic aims. He implies that if the ends of education are the creation of a democratic citizen and society, this purpose must be reflected in the “democratic organization” of the school itself.
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