Democratic schools: critically exploring their significance for social justice for socioeconomically marginalised young people
‘Democratic schools’ have rarely been the subject of academic research, and yet their philosophy and practice may have much to contribute to mainstream education debates – particularly the question of how to promote social justice through education. Although most democratic schools are fee-paying and thus cater to a socioeconomically privileged demographic, there are a small number which work with socioeconomically marginalised students. These schools are of particular relevance to debates around the significance of radical alternative education for the progression of social justice. The study is based on the following set of research aims: -To explore the practice of a school which fits with internationally recognised definitions of ‘democratic education’ and which works primarily with socioeconomically marginalised students. – To explore the experiences of students (and practitioners) within that school. – To consider how the above practice and experiences relate to theories of social justice – what are the strengths and weaknesses of the school’s approaches when we understand social justice from a number of angles? – To consider whether a convincing alternative discourse can be found to the current trend towards traditionalism and conservatism in the education of socioeconomically marginalised young people. – To consider whether this discourse can be meaningfully translated into mainstream policy. The research will consist of an ethnographic study of a school in the US catering to the secondary age range (11-18). I aim to recruit one participant school from an initial list of seven which appear to be working either primarily or entirely with socioeconomically marginalised students. Data will be qualitative, derived from a combination of in-depth interviews with students and staff and ethnographic participant observation work, conducted over the course of around three months spent in the school.
6 – Education, Mind & Society