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ERIC Number: EJ837423
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2008-Dec
Pages: 23
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: 54
ISSN: ISSN-1740-2743
The Critical Role of Discourse in Education for Democracy
Walsh, John
Journal for Critical Education Policy Studies, v6 n2 p54-76 Dec 2008
This paper is concerned with the empirical and theoretical literature that helped the author conceptualize educating for democracy as one social practice within social life. While empirical research on democratic education and theoretical literature exists, the author had not found any literature that examined the discursive production of ideology and hegemony in high school classes. The author begins with a review of empirical literature relevant to educating for democracy and establishing the need for additional analysis. The existing research literature overlooks the discursive aspects of educating for democracy. Examples of student discourse are used to demonstrate a discourse-related problem within the practice of educating for democracy. Discourse-related problems refer to the way that language is used to undermine the democratic purposes of the educational practice by sustaining hegemony and various ideologies. Second, the author explores the theoretical contributions of Marx (1976, 1978, 1988), Gramsci (2000), Chouliaraki and Fairclough (1999), and Fairclough (2003) to develop an understanding of ideology and hegemony and their discursive functions in social life. He focuses his examination on Marx's contributions toward an understanding of the ideological and hegemonic function of language. Marx's historical materialism provides a context in which the social structures that shape discourse can be understood. After establishing the primacy of material conditions in social life, through Marx, the author includes analysis of Gramsci (2000), and Fairclough (2003) to further explain the role of discourse in producing, sustaining, or transforming ideologies and hegemony. Third, the author explains the function of the discourse-related problem of educating for democracy in a classroom. Althusser's (2001) conception of schooling as the most important ideological State apparatus is explained and positioned within this study. In addition to Althusser's essay, the works of Dewey (1916/1944) and Freire (2003) are used to explain the author's understanding of how discursive problems operate in the practice of educating for democracy. The fourth section of the paper revisits Dewey (1916/1944) and Freire (2003) to explain possible ways past the discourse-related problem of educating for democracy; essential to this are their conceptions for educating for democracy and educating for critical consciousness. The author connects his understandings of Dewey and Freire to construct an overarching framework for his teaching in an attempt to provide an empowering and democratic experience for the students.
The Institute for Education Policy Studies. University of Northampton, School of Education, Boughton Green Road, Northampton NN2 7AL United Kingdom. Tel: +44-1273-270943; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Information Analyses; Journal Articles; Reports - Research
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A