Traditions of Democracy in Education

Part of the International Perspectives on Early Childhood Education and Development book series (CHILD, volume 24)


A central claim in this book is that over the last three decades, a dominant economic and market discourse has shaped ECEC policy and practice both in Aotearoa New Zealand and internationally. Problems and inequities emerging from this approach have run directly counter to aims for a socially just society where educational opportunities for all children and families are equitably realised. Helen Penn (2009, 2012, 2013) has been a constant and vociferous critic of education markets and for-profit ECEC and the problems when a quest for profits collides with the best interests of children and families. Following writers (e.g., Carr & Hartnett, 1996; Dahlberg, Moss & Pence, 1999; Moss & Petrie, 1997; Penn, 2012; Prout 2003) who ask critical questions about the kind of society these discourses sustain, this book turns to an alternative vision of a democratic society and the role that ECEC policy and practice might possibly play in promoting democratic values. Ideas for an alternative vision are analysed within an overarching frame of democracy, going back to Athenian origins of democracy and including recent writers on meanings and traditions of democracy in education. I take core ideas from John Dewey (1915) that democracy is something that has to be made and remade by each generation and of the capacity of education to build democratic society rather than reproduce society. Henri Giroux (1992) takes these ideas further in emphasising social criticism and struggle in his definition of democracy, while Michael Apple (2005) emphasises a commitment to “thick” collective forms of democracy. A section on democracy in Aotearoa New Zealand’s educational traditions and history harks back to 1939, after the great depression, when Aotearoa New Zealand’s Prime Minister Peter Fraser in a speech penned by Clarence Beeby the future Director General of Education famously pronounced on a vision of education as a public good and a right of the child citizen, of schools as public institutions and a public responsibility (May, 2003). Not encompassed within this vision was ECEC, which has never in Aotearoa New Zealand been treated as a public responsibility or child’s right. I use these arguments to discuss core characteristics of policy and practice for an ECEC system founded on democratic values and to set a framing for analysis in subsequent chapters. These set a scene for the book’s conclusion, which examines what conditions might be needed for an integrated and democratic ECEC system in Aotearoa New Zealand and countries that share a market approach to ECEC provision.


Future General Managers Athenian Origins Citizen Children UN Convention On The Rights Of The Child (UNCROC) Free Early Childhood Education 
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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of EducationThe University of WaikatoHamiltonNew Zealand

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