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Turning public interests into private interests

Education, since the educational theory' of the Sophists, is a guarantee of education for anyone, and as such the foundation for a genuinely pluralistic democratic society (Jaeger, 1939; Sàfstrôm, 2018a,b, 2019). For Dewey (1916), it is through education that a diverse public life becomes verified as well as institutionalized, and as such guarantees the workings of a pluralist democracy. Such education cannot serve private interests organized through a market aggressively competing over schools, students and teachers as objects of economic value, since a pluralist democracy requires an education that works for the benefit of anyone, not someone at the expense of others.

The democratic principle in education, in other words, opposes an education understood as a reproduction of privilege. It is rather to be understood as a space and place in which it is possible to break with the reproduction of privilege of the rich and powerful: to break with the aristocratic principle in education which says that a privileged group in society has a natural right to rule others, regardless of how this privilege is defined (that is, even if understood as natural skills, talent and abilities; or just through brute political and economic power).

A school market necessarily operates within a capitalist order and state of mind in which the bottom line, interest in the public, is a source for the accumulation of economic profit. Private schooling within such a market ideology is not primarily to contribute to the multifaceted publicness of the public, but to draw economic profit out of the public, so to speak - to transform public concerns into individual economic interest, in competition with other self-serving individuals.

If this is the logic through which private education works when placed within a market ideology', then there are also consequences for how the customers operate within this market, as shown by Fejes & Dahlstedt (2018) through an example from Sweden, the country that has gone furthest in the marketization of the public school system, allowing profit without restriction for private owners. This has resulted in a rapid increase in the homogenization of student populations according to socio-economic class, and is one of the factors continuously feeding the rapidly increasing social inequality of Swedish society, in which “the growth in inequality between 1985 and the early 2010s was the largest among all OECD countries” (OECD, 2015), and which continues to increase the gap. Interestingly (since its ideology states that it increases diversity of options), such privatization of schooling tends to homogenize the population according to social class, rather than verifying the pluralism necessary for democracy to work.

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