Public Engagement for Public Education: Joining Forces to Revitalize Democracy and Equalize Schools

Public Engagement for Public Education: Joining Forces to Revitalize Democracy and Equalize Schools

Public Engagement for Public Education: Joining Forces to Revitalize Democracy and Equalize Schools

Public Engagement for Public Education: Joining Forces to Revitalize Democracy and Equalize Schools

Excerpt

Whether left or right of the ideological spectrum, most observers tend to agree that public education works best when students, parents, and community members are engaged in improving the school system. There is however, a troubling aspect of public engagement in public education. Powerful and effective engagement is skewed by race, class, and immigrant status. While everyone wants high-quality education, some are able to advance this interest more effectively than others. Often, students and parents experience unequal opportunities for robust engagement. And frequently, school and elected officials respond to different constituencies differently. This problem of inequality in public engagement—what might be called the “engagement gap”—is critically important to the quality of education and civic life. We are interested in how it can be redressed. Hence, the essays in this volume consider how particular political and economic conditions create challenges and opportunities for previously marginalized students, parents, community members, and organizations to come together as powerful publics capable of improving schooling and revitalizing democracy.

What is public engagement? In our highly individualistic culture, it is important to differentiate public engagement from related terms such as political participation, parent involvement, or consumer choice. Public engagement cannot be reduced to individual acts such as voting, speaking with a teacher, or choosing a school. Public engagement emerges as parents, community members, and youth identify common educational problems and work together to address them. Public engagement both builds on and seeks to foster interdependence. Community members take public action as they recognize that the . . .

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