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Cathy Davidson on Re-Designing Learning For Democracy

Cathy Davidson on Re-Designing Learning For Democracy

Cathy has a great new post on DML Central that thinks about the future of learning and our own democratic future, just in time for the 2013 DML Conference, Democratic Futures. Here's the beginning:

Ann Pendleton-Jullian, the architect and educational redesigner, notes that:  “Design has the capacity to shape contexts as frames for things to happen.”  My excitement at being part of the connected learning movement and the Digital Media and Learning initiative sponsored by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation is that, together, thousands of us are thinking and working and making in order to design new ecosystems for learning in which the democratic, egalitarian, and innovative can thrive and flourish.

If you think you hear a critique of the status quo in that sentence, you are correct.  I would argue that much of present formal education—in public schools and private schools too—systemically shapes the context for inequality.  The apparatus of end of year standardized testing, in particular, is based on a premise of a uniform, fair standard of judgment for all school kids.  Yet we know that test scores map with little variation onto material wealth.

Interested? Read the full article at


1 comment

You've described the dilemma well.  But let's not forget that according to the few reliable metrics that are out there (e.g., the National Assessment of Ed. Progress), public school performance has improved over the decades and the gap between black and white students has narrowed.  This has been accomplished in the face of the staggering growth in inequality that you describe.

So as we move forward, we should be cognizant of the inherent strengths of our public school system, despite its long-term demonization by elitists on both the left and the right.  Much of public education works well.  Dewey's notion of democratic education has been kept alive--miraculously.  Serious reformers need to keep that in mind as we seek ways to improve schools and reduce inequality.