CHAPTER THREE
DIMENSIONS OF
DEMOCRATIC PARTICIPATION

What structure of authority do democratic principles recommend for primary schools? Even if there were no principled limits on democratic authority, the answer to this question would not be obvious. We would still need to ask which democratic community—local, state, or national—should have authority over schools. Were democratic authority constrained to do whatever is right with regard to education, the answer would also be elusive. Who can be entrusted with implementing the right educational policies? Although we earlier imagined a Moralist Teachers' Union that implements all the correct educational policies, the MTU was not intended as an alias for either the NEA (National Education Association) or the AFT (American Federation of Teachers). The MTU was created to clarify an argument that democratic control is worth defending even if the educational policies it produces are not always wise.

Democratic control over primary schools is worth defending, but not if its results are repressive or discriminatory. We therefore are left with a variant of both questions concerning authority over primary schools. Which democratic community should determine what school policies? Who along with democratic communities should share control over what happens in primary schools? The first question requires us to consider the multiple levels of democratic authority over schools: we need to ask which educational policies are best determined at the local, which at the state or federal level. The second question requires us to consider the role of professional authority in upholding democratic principles. In answering these questions, another issue arises: what room, if any, remains for students to participate in shaping their own schooling? These three questions begin our inquiry into the distribution of educational authority within a large and complex democratic society.


LEVELS OF DEMOCRATIC CONTROL

Imagine a small and simple democratic city-state with no political subdivisions but substantial differences of opinion among its citizens on religious and political issues: something like a small, modern New Eng

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