Evidence and Ethics in Democratic Education

Many civic educators favor the inclusion of issue discussions in the school curriculum, but we don't know enough about what students learn through such discussions, how discussions should be structured to maximize appropriate civic outcomes, and whether or not participation in the discussions has long-term effects on students’ participation in the political world.

Further, democratic education is essentially normative—the creation of a particular civic disposition. So lying beneath the surface of this research are philosophical problems that are rarely addressed within empirical studies.

Philosophers of education have argued for macro-level principles like the aims of social studies education or the development of autonomy, but they do not often consider the micro-level trade-offs that arise when teaching in the world as it is.

This project addresses the disconnection between empirical research in democratic education and the philosophical reasoning that is necessary if research is to inform practice and policy making. Hess is taking findings from a recently completed study about deliberation and democratic outcomes and is inviting a team of philosophers and political scientists to respond to the normative questions that emerged from the data. She will use interdisciplinary deliberation as a tool for understanding the ethical questions associated with deliberation. The ideas that emerge from the sessions will result in a book that will present the findings from the study alongside analysis of the normative questions practitioners ought to consider when engaging students in these types of discussions.


Completed on July 31, 2010