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Home arrow Education arrow American public education and the responsibility of its citizens : supporting democracy in the age of accountability


How do we sustain and move toward the visions of stronger democracy, role responsibility, and publics that I have put forward here if neoliberalism, privatization, and other changes reshaping our schools and our culture are working so hard against them? In the presence of such antidemocratic counter-pressures, we must draw upon hope and the languages and practices of transformation to push us forward. In the midst of powerful talk about individuals’ rights, accountability, and economics, we must confidently and collectively assert the language of caring relationships, responsibility, and political life to shift the conversation and the focus.

We must affirm and fulfill our role responsibilities as citizens and act upon them to form publics, express our desires for schools, and affirm their legitimacy. Those responsibilities are best initially developed through the citizenship education of children that nurtures habits that enable flourishing democracy and public life. We should cultivate citizens through and for democracy and our public schools. As places of public formation and publicness, where children learn to be a part of democracy and learn to support institutions that underlie and perpetuate democracy, public schools are at the heart of a thriving democracy. Not only do public schools and democracy go hand-in-hand, so do the means and ends. If a lasting, vibrant democracy and strong public schools to support that democracy are the goals for which we strive, democratic educational practices and public work must be the means through which we achieve them.

Returning to the original accountability crisis that framed this book, I close by echoing Boyle and Burns, who say, “In our efforts to make public schools more accountable to the public we have lost sight of the notion that the public should be responsible to public schools and accountable to the ideals that public schools represent"69 Disrupting the faulty accountability crisis we face today by redirecting the burdens of action upon citizens via role responsibilities may simultaneously engage public work, increase the legitimacy of our schools, emphasize improved citizen development, and perhaps even provide solutions for some of our current educational shortcomings. It is in this effort and its hope for a flourishing democracy and public school future that I invite you to join us.

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