It is commonly assumed that families and schools are, or should be, complementary partners in education. But are they, given feminist concerns about the family and its influence? This chapter argues, first, that families tend to exercise an influence that is in some respects antithetical to the development of democratic citizenship. Second, arguments against critical scrutiny of gendered practices on the grounds of the family’s status as a private sphere need re-assessment. While the discussion engages with international debates, its starting point is South Africa and its project of reconstructing schooling and consolidating the democracy achieved in 1994.
South Africa’s remarkable transition to democracy, marked by the election of 1994 and confirmed in the constitution adopted in 1996, is regarded in the public philosophy as much more than merely a formal achievement. The new constitution of May 1996 belongs to a citizenry which is trying to overcome traditions of oppression, segregation, exploitation and authoritarianism, and to establish a non-sexist as well as a non-racial democracy. Yet while much has been said and written to celebrate the achievement of liberation, this democracy is still new—stronger in the habits of resistance and still formulating the detailed implications of the moral vision produced by victory over apartheid.
This vision is reflected in a widely shared public understanding of what democracy means in this context: there will be citizenship for all, the views of all will be heard, participation in decision-making will be promoted, there will be wide consultation as seen in the process of encouraging public comment on drafts of the new constitution, and there will be open and transparent government and freedom of information. These characteristics of the new democracy suggest both publicness of procedure in government and a public of active citizens. Popular organisations, like unions, civic organisations and