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I Am Not Trying to Be Defiant, I Am Trying to Be Your Partner: How to Help Students Navigate Educational Institutions That Do Not Value Democratic Practice

Stephen Bloch-Schulman, maggie castor


Based on our experiences together, we advocate for a model of education through Democratic Practices. Using Iris Marion Young’s discussion of the limitation of the distributive paradigm, we argue that justice requires taking into account decision making procedures, specifically, in the form of a less hierarchized division of labor in the defining and executing of tasks. We argue that a model of education that is more just to the students must make use of, and work to develop, their abilities to do task-defining work. After articulating some ways this can happen in classrooms and the democratic thinking that makes this possible—and emerges from this work—we show how, having taken on an identity as one who can and should be included in task-defining work, students may become frustrated and angry in educational settings where this desire is forestalled and they are taken as defiant. Finally, we argue that, if students return to their faculty partner in this situation, together they can work to help the student through democratic thinking to understand the context in which this problem occurs, the student’s own values and how those matter, and, finally, to move towards task-defining and towards action. 

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Partnerships is sponsored by North Carolina Campus Compact, and hosted by the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. ISSN: 1944-1061
Creative Commons License