The United States of America is set on democracy and democratic values of personal initiative, meaningful participation, and justice for all. Democratic schooling triggers the process of learning with these significant values of society. According to Apple and Beane (1995), liberal education perceives learners as active co-innovators of their erudition as opposed to being active recipients of knowledge. With the democratic system of education, young people exist as valued contributors in a vibrant learning environment. Democratic schooling begins with the belief that every person is unique and can develop an exclusive way of learning (Beane, 2016). By supporting personal ability in rural areas, liberal education helps learners in these regions understand themselves, become positive, engage with the surrounding world, and participate actively in the community.
Guided by the above points of view, democratic schooling can take numerous forms shaped by learners, educators, scientists, community, and other stakeholders within an educational setting. According to Beane (2016), these individuals can practice liberal education through the following ways. First, teachers can creatively engage students in the learning process. Even though they may work within a conventional education setting, they can still give students an opportunity and freedom to choose their way of learning (McLaren, 2015). These educators go beyond a conventional curriculum to establish an engaging experience that reflects the lives of the learners.
Second, schools can implement democratic education daily. They may apply practices such as shared decision-making, student-chosen internship, self-direct learning, and personalized project-based task (Terriquez, 2011). Third, democratic schooling can be established by strengthening leadership. School leaders act as a channel of communication between students and the administration. This approach gives students the opportunity to be part of decision-making and educational planning programs (Beane, 2016). Fourth, educators can develop applications that engage students in the identification of their learning plans. Also, the school administration can design programs that emphasize on preparing teachers for progressive and democratic education.
The common dominator of the above examples is the commitment to go outside the box of an education system dominated by teachers to enable the students to be enthusiastic and active learners. According to Apple and Beane (1995), democratic schooling allows students to improve their academic performance by learning in a free environment. Implementing it in a curriculum helps produce well-informed citizens who work towards building a vibrant, just and democratic society. It also contributes to making students enjoy learning in a free environment. Beane (2016) pinpointed that schooling in a participatory environment is not just for a few privileged individuals. As long as equality and justice are applied in the curriculum, liberal education automatically prevails. Further, the learning process ought to acquaint students with the skills required to build a just society. Studies have shown that educational environments allow equal participation of students and teachers in the decisions about learning and social lives increases student attendance, achievement, creativity, motivation, and determination in education.
This research aims to investigate the ways of establishing democratic education in schools located in rural areas. To achieve this aim, the study has the following objectives.
The primary objective of this research is to find out ways of establishing democratic schooling in rural area schools. The study also purposes to identify the importance of implementing democracy in rural schools. Further, the research intends to outline the effects liberal education has on students learning in rural areas.
The following research questions were formulated to aid in the study:
- What are the ways of establishing democratic education in schools located in rural areas?
- How is the implementation of democratic schooling important in rural areas?
- What is the impact of democratic education in learners studying in rural schools?
This research adopted a qualitative case study with elements of ethnography. According to Orr & Rogers (2011), qualitative studies are naturalistic, interpretative and employ a multi-methods approach in capturing first-hand information and experiences of the participants. The study used both primary and secondary data sources. The primary data was obtained through semi-structured interviews and a well-structured questionnaire that was administered to the school heads, the students, parents and the community of randomly selected schools within Robeson County, North Carolina. The secondary data collected through an extensive literature review. A mixture of purposive and convenience sampling methods was used to discover the school. The reason for selecting purposive sampling was to aid in identifying a school located in the rural community that had experienced various changes including the establishment of democracy.
Many schools in Robeson County, North Carolina, have employed the concept of democracy, and they acted as the best targets. Having experienced transformation, it was easy to find out from the staff, the students and other stakeholders how democracy was established in those schools(Eamon, 2014). The researchers chose the schools in Robeson County because of their reputation for having experienced dramatic changes within a few years after appointments of the new heads of the institutions. Data was then collected through the semi-structured interviews carried out with the school heads, the teachers and students. The researchers then held focus groups with the parents.
The researchers deemed interviews appropriate because they provided flexibility in coming up with in-depth discussions, posing questions, and conducting follow-ups to probe the situations. Besides, semi-structured interviews gave the respondents a chance to share their opinions freely. According to Levinson(2011), focus group discussion is one of the significant and cost-effective methods to interview a group of people at once. All the questions that the researchers posed to the participants focused on how the rural schools in Robeson County have changed in the past years buy succeeding in establishing democracy in the school. The researchers also used informal observations and documentary analysis for triangulation.
Documentary analysis consisted of viewing various records of the school such as leadership trends and teaching pedagogy (Johnson & Morris, 2010). The researchers also recorded the interviews and wrote the notes in the journals. The data was then transcribed from audio-tapes into written format and analyzed manually using qualitative data analysis techniques. These involved developing codes of meaning and organizing them into a sense of purpose(Lundahl & Olson, 2013). The researchers observed ethics throughout the study. Ethical considerations included obtaining permission from the school heads and protecting the identity of the school.
The purpose of this Literature review is to investigate ways in which democracy can be established in rural schools with a focus on Robeson County, North Carolina. The study begins by outlining the historical background of democracy in education. It will then highlight the concepts involved in establishing democratic schooling. Next, it will identify the features of democratic culture and democratic schools.
McLaren, (2015) posited that many schools in rural areas record poor performance due to lack of total freedom in both curriculum and non-curriculum activities. An excellent example of this underperformance is evident in Robeson County schools. Hinchcliffe (2018)argued that underperformance in these schools is because the schools are located in a low economy region. Most of these schools serve children from low-income families. While this may be true, Levinson (2011) disagreed with Beane's (2016) position, arguing that poverty does not contribute entirely to the poor performance of the children.
Historical Background of Democratic Education
The idea of establishing democratic schooling originated from a philosopher known as ''Plato and Socrates''(Alshurman, 2015). Other philosophers of the 18th century such as John Dewey and Jean-Jacques Rousseau supported Plato and Socrates' opinion in writing without further explanation. Rousseau believed in the so-called 'romantics' of education that aimed to enlighten all citizens to incorporate every person in society. Rousseau further came up with the idea of 'social contracting' to give equal rights and opportunities in society. He held the view that since everyone is part of the culture, there has to be a state of democracy in the community. Alshurman (2015)pointed out that Rousseau and Plato directed their efforts to policies and rules of education.
Although Plato inspired Rousseau, Rousseau's point of view seemed to oppose that of his counterpart. For instance, Plato held the notion that the primary objective of education is to identify the skills of every individual and help those individuals perfect on those skills to land in a specific profession(Alshurman, 2015). Therefore, Plato came up with the idea that each member of the society deserves the right to knowledge and access to information for the benefit of the person and the public. On the contrary, Rousseau believed in equality and suggested that education needs to be fair for all as it is useful in the formation of a developed society(Alshurman, 2015). Combining the thoughts of these Philosophers, one can see that their arguments both focused on democracy in education, but they expressed their points differently.
In the contemporary world, educators have found themselves in a tug-of-war between conventional government policies that emphasize on increased accountability of teachers and homogenous curricula, and pressure from democratic educationalists that fight for the inclusion of democracy in education. Educational theorists such as Parker (2003) heightened the need for instructors to advocate for democratic citizenship intentionally. To achieve this, Parker (2003) argued that teachers must organize their pedagogy, subject matter, and classrooms. Like democracy, democratic schools do not exist by chance.
In contrast, Friedrich, Jaastad, and Popkewitz (2010) had a different opinion. They argued that although organizing pedagogy, subject matter and classrooms are the driving forces towards achieving liberal education in rural schools, they require explicit efforts by teachers to institute arrangements and opportunities that will encourage democracy. According to Johnson and Morris (2010), these encouragements and opportunities involve two techniques: - creating democratic structures and procedures by which life in school is conducted and creating a curriculum that will give students experiences in liberal matters.
According to Billy (2018), the reason why children in Robeson County underperform is improper management of the school. In this case, Hinchcliffe (2018) believed that the administration overrun the school with nearly all powers given to the teachers. This act shows how the school boards and the students within Robeson County have been sidelined in various decisions. Indeed, an organized school makes effective decisions when the administration, the board, the parents, and students agree about a situation. This direction is the beginning of democracy and ac...
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