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 teacherís 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 teachersí ability to enact democratic teaching, particularly in schools not meeting test score targets.
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