Democracy, Accountability, and Education
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CitationLevinson, Meira. 2011. Democracy, accountability, and education. Theory and Research in Education 9, no. 2: 125-144.
AbstractEducational standards, assessments, and accountability systems are of immense political moment around the world. But there is no developed theory exploring the role that these systems should play within a democratic polity in particular. On the one hand, well-designed standards are public goods, supported by assessment and accountability mechanisms. They have the potential to serve democratic goods in particular, such as transparency, equality, and public discourse. On the other hand, their very potential to advance systemic democratic goods signals a level of reach and power that threatens the achievement of these same democratic values along other dimensions. This is especially evident in the contemporary United States. Adults’ democratically legitimate control over education within a democracy may well undercut children’s legitimate claims to receiving an education that equips them for democracy. Because the latter should trump the former, democratic goods are best achieved through embedding very limited educational standards, assessments, and accountability measures within an educational system that selects, trains, and provides ongoing support to civically engaged and thoughtful educators. Under such circumstances, they may promote a virtuous circle that builds capacity, motivation, and public support for strong and effective civic education practices, while still offering the adult public a strong democratic voice in public schools.
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