The importance of democratic education

Without it, we will continue to allow unhealthy scepticism about democracy to grow
A persistent concern exists about democracy’s failure to fulfil our expectations. While our votes are forceful ‘paper stones’, effective in getting rid of governments we dislike, they are powerless to give us effective, efficient, good governments. Why do we have to put up with corrupt rulers with criminal records — qualities that obstruct good governance? Why tolerate those who strive to do more good for themselves than for the people, who have neither vision nor wisdom? Why have mediocre politicians who shun contact with people with ability and talent?
Better, wiser governments
Some cynics may respond to this crisis of democracy by arguing the following: to achieve our national goals, we must assemble the best team to govern. Such a team cannot be elected by popular mandate but instead by those who have the intellectual wherewithal to select those fit for it. To such people, democracy — which is committed to the principle of one person, one vote, and which extends franchise to all regardless of ability — can never produce the best team.
What then is democratic education? Conceived broadly, it is a historically specific enterprise, determined by the inherited vocabulary of specific political languages and the terms of debates in a particular community. It is designed specifically to enable conversation on issues central to a particular community, to strive for agreement where possible and to live peacefully with disagreement where it is not. In short, it involves social and historical awareness and key democratic virtues. Many of these understandings and virtues can be inculcated by a good liberal arts education. The 2019 National Education Policy recognises this but alas insufficiently. And as far as I can tell from my skimpy reading, it has virtually nothing to say about how this relates to democracy. So, it appears relatively innocent of the more specific requirements of democratic education. Without proper democratic education, I am afraid we will continue to perpetuate bad democratic practices, allow unhealthy scepticism about democracy to grow and eventually imperil it.

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