Educational Philosophy and Theory 43 (4):365-386 (2011)

This paper explores the issue of democracy and the role of the democratic classroom in the development of society in general, and the way in which educators understand and deal with diversity in particular. The first part of the paper explores different meanings of democracy and how they can be manifested in the classroom. We argue that the idea of a ‘democratic classroom’ is far too broad a category; democracy is defined in action and can have realist or pragmatic characteristics, elitist or pluralist roots. The realist form of social education was championed by political scientist Charles Merriam, while a social educative process more dependent on pragmatic problem solving was pursued by educational philosopher John Dewey and those who followed in his theoretical wake. The history of democracy in the United States, and the battles of how to import different meanings of democracy into the classroom over the course of the 20th century is explored, suggesting that the educational establishment has a tendency to adopt more realist/elitist forms of civic education. We present five ‘democratic’ classrooms with different characteristics to illustrate the different characteristics social education can exhibit. In the second part of the paper we discuss the relationship between different types of democratic classrooms and issues of race/ethnicity/culture
Keywords participatory democracy  democratic processes  democratic classrooms  representative democracy  Dewey
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1111/j.1469-5812.2009.00616.x
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 58,242
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

Pedagogy of the Oppressed.Paulo Freire - 2008 - In David J. Flinders & Stephen J. Thornton (eds.), The Curriculum Studies Reader. Routledge.
Experience and Nature.John Dewey & Paul Carus Foundation - 1925 - Open Court Publishing Company.
Knowing and the Known.John Dewey - 1950 - Greenwood Press.

View all 40 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Add more citations

Similar books and articles


Added to PP index

Total views
75 ( #134,861 of 2,419,586 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
2 ( #350,726 of 2,419,586 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes