The Democratic Potential of Charter Schools

By Stacy Smith | Go to book overview

Chapter 3

Chartering Practices for
Democratic Participation

I. Pursuing a Critical Interpretive Ethnography
of Winthrop Academy

This segment of my investigation into charter schooling begins to step out of the realm of theory and into the concrete halls of school life. A case study of Winthrop Academy Charter School explores how the ideals of participatory democratic community become meaningful in everyday practice. The case study is intended to demonstrate how deliberate democratic principles can be used as critical yardsticks in two ways. First, the principles can be applied to the research process itself to inform the role of the researcher and the methodology for the study. Second, the principles can be applied to assessing whether public interests are being fulfilled within specific charter school practices. In addition, the case enriches our understandings of how deliberative democratic theory might be institutionalized in public charter schools in ways that maximize their democratic potential. Before describing Winthrop Academy and its experiences with civic education, I discuss the methodological orientation of the case study within the context of deliberative democratic theory.

Recall that the overall aim of this book is to explore the democratic potential of charter schools to cultivate strong educative communities that represent a variety of particular interests while simultaneously holding themselves accountable to shared public interests. Essentially, I am investigating how charter schools might both embody and prepare students for membership within pluralistic, participatory democratic associations that foster a sense of community. With this overarching goal in mind, I undertook a two-pronged agenda at the outset of the last chapter. First, I offered a theoretical framework to provide a normative vision for

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