Yes, Virginia, There Is Democracy: A Critical Ethnographic Case Study On Voice, Democracy, And Childhood In A Democratic School
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The goals of our current school system reflect business and political interests that have combined to promulgate and implement policies that implicitly regard students as future complacent workers (Kohn, 2014). Cultural constructions of childhood also influence the ways in which students experience school; pedagogical practices, age-based grouping, and the limited control granted to students over their own learning are all practices rooted in a western construct of “child” (Kinard, 2012). The discourses surrounding children and childhood have determined what can be said, who may speak (the adults) and rendered others (children) silent, thus mitigating the possibilities of student voice in educational decisions. Alternative, more progressive models, such as found in democratic schools, are guided by pedagogical practices that challenge long-held cultural attitudes regarding children, and thus create new spaces for student voice in education. This study examined the ways in which student voice and democratic participation were situated in democratic and schools.
Study findings revealed the possibilities and limitation of student voice at Hillview. Student participants, on the one hand and within certain constraints, were willing to express their views and voice their concerns and opinions. However, socially constructed views of children and childhood positioned the child as Other to the adult, thus limiting possibilities for student voice in the school. The study also found that many practices at Hillview, including democratic participation, were deeply entrenched in neoliberal values of individualism and personal choice.