Civic fragmentation or voluntary association? Habermas, Fraser, and charter school segregation

Educational Theory 60 (6):643-664 (2010)


In this essay, Terri Wilson puts the argument developed by Kathleen Knight Abowitz that charter schools could be considered as counterpublic spaces into interaction with empirical research that explores patterns of voluntary self‐segregation in charter schools. Wilson returns to the theoretical tension between Jürgen Habermas and Nancy Fraser over the inclusivity of the public sphere. Wilson argues that Fraser's concept of counterpublic space rests on an oversimplification of Habermas's concept of the public sphere and, further, that justifying school choice through Fraser's “multiplicity of publics” offers few resources for questioning the increasing segregation of schools. According to Wilson, Habermas's normative project—and his concept of “idealization,” in particular—offers both an answer to Fraser's critique and a better application of “the public sphere” to the issue of school choice. Wilson concludes by considering how Habermas's understanding of the public sphere as a normative ideal might serve as a useful resource for evaluating the public‐ness of charter school reform

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