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Teaching for Democracy in an Age of Corporatocracy

by Christine E. Sleeter - 2008

Background/Context: A challenge for teachers who support teaching for and about democracy is doing so while being pressed into directives rooted in corporatocracy, a political manifestation of neoliberalism. The accountability movement today, particularly No Child Left Behind, is rooted in much more firmly in corporatocracy than democracy. Democratically minded teachers face two tasks: negotiating increasingly undemocratic systems in order to find space for democratic teaching, and critically examining what democracy is, including gaps between its ideals and actual practice.

Purpose: This article explores the extent to which teachers can enact democratic practice in their classrooms in the current accountability context, and limits that context places on them.

Setting and Participants: Participants included two strong classroom teachers in California, both of whom were teaching English language learners from low-income backgrounds, in schools that did not meet Adequate Yearly Progress targets for 2003-2004.

Research Design and Data Collection: A case-study design was used for this study. Data included six hours of observation in each teacher’s classroom, an hour-long interview with each teacher, papers they had completed while they were students in my graduate courses, and their masters theses.

Conclusions: While the teachers were able to use standards strategically to enact a limited form of democratic teaching, both, particularly the teacher who had more experience with democratic teaching, felt thwarted by accountability pressures. I argue that, while democratically minded teachers can navigate accountability pressures up to a point, No Child Left Behind, rooted in corporatocracy, limits teachers’ ability to enact democratic teaching, particularly in schools not meeting test score targets.

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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 110 Number 1, 2008, p. 139-159
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 14562, Date Accessed: 7/31/2021 9:53:37 PM

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About the Author
  • Christine Sleeter
    California State University, Monterey Bay
    CHRISTINE E. SLEETER is Professor Emerita in the College of Professional Studies at California State University, Monterey Bay, where she formerly directed the Institute for Advanced Studies in Education. Her research and teaching focus on anti-racist multicultural education, teacher education, and multicultural curriculum. Her recent publications include Facing Accountability in Education: Democracy and Equity at Risk (Teachers College Press, 2007), Un-Standardizing Curriculum (Teachers College Press, 2005), “ Standardizing Knowledge in a Multicultural Society,” co-authored with J. Stillman and published in 2005 in Curriculum Inquiry, 35(1), 27–46, and “Working an Academically Rigorous Multicultural Program,” co-authored with Hughes, Meador, Whang, Rogers, Blackwell, Laughlin, & Peralta-Nash and published in 2006 in Equity & Excellence in Education, 38(4), 290–299.
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