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Related Words, Beliefs, Background

Worldview Theme #31:

                Education for Democracy

alphabetical listing: A to K 

  alphabetical listing, continued: L to Z
Contrast Worldview Themes #31 and #20B --   these themes involve orientations, beliefs or behavior that are (more or less) diametrically opposed!  

affirmative action -- in decision making related to offering jobs or extending other opportunities to individual applicants, preferentially favoring members of some minority group to make up for this group’s past, unjust exclusion from the chance to have certain employment, educational or other opportunities.

Bloom's Taxonomy of Educational Objectives, Cognitive Domain--a classification for the thinking-related objectives that educators have for students. At the bottom are those that involve lower level processes, beginning with memorizing facts without understanding.  Beyond this, many teachers seek to promote higher level thinking.  Accordingly their objectives may steadily move up this taxonomy to involve comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis and evaluation.

brainwashing -- a forcible indoctrination to persuade someone to give up certain beliefs, attitudes and practices in favor of those espoused by whomever is behind the brainwashing.

character education–according to the Character Education Partnership, it seeks to develop "ethical, responsible, and caring young people by modeling and teaching good character through emphasis on universal values."  Others broaden it to include fostering emotional intelligence, building social / conflict resolution skills,  promoting critical thinking, etc. 

citizenship -- membership in a local, state, or national community that brings with it certain rights, privileges (voting, etc), and protection (as mandated by laws), and can involve meeting certain duties (pledging allegiance, paying taxes, etc).  Being a good citizen is commonly thought to involve working for the betterment of the community.

civics -- broadly it can be thought of as a social science concerned with the rights and duties of citizens, but more narrowly it refers to these in the educational content of a particular political or cultural tradition.    

democracy -- government by the people, typically controlled by majority vote of the people as a whole, as opposed to government controlled by a particular class, group, or individual.  Democracies can be direct--where citizens' votes directly make decisions--or representative--where citizens elect individuals to politically lead and represent them in a legislature with those representatives casting votes on their behalf.  Direct democracy is the type practiced in Athens, Greece nearly 2500 years ago.  It is perhaps better suited for governing smaller institutions (communes, workplaces, communities, cities)--although ballot issues decided in recent California referendum elections provide an example of its large scale application. Use of referendums also illustrates that representative democracies sometimes allow the people to directly decide certain matters.  A democratic government where a constitution guarantees individual rights and civil liberties, along with providing a legal framework, is known as a liberal democracy.

democracy and science --the origins of both can be traced to ancient Greece, and both require social environments valuing honesty, reason, skeptical evaluation of new ideas, debate, and free inquiry.  One science writer (Watson Davis) way went so as far as proclaiming "the scientific way is the democratic way!"  Of course in deciding whether some scientific hypothesis is to be embraced, decisions are based not on polls where all votes count equally but rather on the verdict of those best qualified to judge how well the hypothesis fits the data!

democratic elitism -- the belief that, not all the people, but only “the best” (experts, the well educated, those who have proven themselves capable, etc) should be allowed to vote or otherwise determine important public matters. Example: A local school board composed of doctors, lawyers, university professors, bankers, business owners, etc. -- not farmers, factory workers, housewives, etc. -- determines the policies of a school district.

egalitarianism -- the belief that all human beings should have the same rights, opportunities and privileges.

emotional intelligence--a term first described by Mayer and Salovey in 1990, and popularized by Daniel Goleman in a 1995 book. Of interest to both psychological researchers, and the general public, its meaning is still evolving. According to Mayer, etal in a 2008 Annual Review of Psychology article, emotional intelligence concerns the ability to carry out accurate reasoning about emotions and the ability to use emotions and emotional knowledge to enhance thought."  Goleman's latest conception of emotional intelligence sees four abilities as contributing to it: the ability to 1) be aware of one's own emotions, 2) control those emotions, 3) sense, comprehend, and respond to other's emotions, and 4) help other's emotions develop in the context of a relationship.  Some feel that EQ (emotional intelligence quotient) is as important as IQ in predicting a student's future success.  The last decade has seen many schools mount efforts to help students build emotional intelligence. 

ethics -- the study of right and wrong in matters of conduct

freedom of the press / speech--something a government can grant its citizens and news / media organizations --believed to be a prerequisite for democracy.  Early in American history, Thomas Jefferson underscored the importance of a free press by saying, "Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter." More recently the United Nations enshrined this--along with freedom of speech--as a basic human right, proclaiming, "Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference, and impart information and ideas through any media regardless of frontiers"  

global education -- wholistic education that focuses on whole systems and emphasizes the interconnections and interdependencies that traditional, reductionist education often overlooks. It extends boundaries of concern, and strives to involve the whole person -- seen as a thinking, feeling, and doing creature.

government, branches of--in western democratic and other governments there typically are three: 1) the legislative, which often consists of elected representatives who make laws, 2) the executive, often including the head of the government, is responsible for enforcing laws and the daily functioning / administration of the state, 3) the judicial, typically consisting of courts, judges, etc., interprets the law and administers justice.  Ideally, a separation of powers gives each branch independence, while providing checks and balances against abuse.

human capital -- investment made in people, including improving their productive capabilities and health due to investments in job training, education or medical care.

illiterate -- inability to read and write due to lack of education, either because of lack of opportunity or motivation, not because of physical or mental defects.

justice -- implementing what is just, defined in various ways as being reasonable, proper, lawful, right, fair, deserved, merited, etc. For some, justice is intimately connected with fairness, a connection with three dimensions: equal treatment, the degree to which exercising freedom and liberty is to be allowed, and reward for contributing to the common good .

  law: civil vs. criminal--the former refers to the means by which individual rights are protected, the latter with offenses that harm (or potentially could harm) the entire community. In civil cases the responsibility for demonstrating harm and seeking remedy lies with the individual affected; in criminal cases the state must pursue violators and seek remedy--which may be imprisonment.

law: private vs. public--the former involves relationships between individuals (including corporations), the latter with issues involving the state and welfare of society (including penal law, and regulatory statutes, etc.) 

learning domains--educational activities and associated objectives are sometimes categorized using three domains: 1) cognitive--relates to comprehending and intellectual processing of information and knowledge in forming concepts, having ideas, and having beliefs; 2) affective--relates to the emotions associated with learning experiences; 3) psychomotor--relates to the physical activity and motor skills component of learning. Very loosely these learning domains can be related to thinking, feeling, and doing.

liberal education--the Association of American Colleges and Universities describes this as "a philosophy of education that empowers individuals with broad knowledge and transferable skills, and a stronger sense of values, ethics, and civic engagement ... characterized by challenging encounters with important issues, and more a way of studying than a specific course or field of study"

lobbyist--a person paid to act on behalf of a particular corporation, union, organization, etc. in aggressively promoting their agenda to elected representatives or those in positions of power in governments.  In some democracies, (like the United States), lobbyists help funnel campaign contributions to politicians--which often subvert the will of the people critics charge.

local control of schools—the philosophy that the citizens of a community—including those whose taxes go to support the local school—should have the dominant say in what school policies are and what is taught.  Local citizens would exercise this control by electing school board members.  Typically, to one extent or another, authorities at higher levels of government (county, state, or national) may wrest such control away from the community where the school is located.

merit system / meritocracy -- a system in which people are promoted based on their merit, which generally refers to their education, expertise, qualifications, demonstrated ability to do the job, experience, etc -- rather than who they know, their membership in some favored group, etc. The term meritocracy can refer to either a society, government, or both. For some a meritocracy is a society in which each person’s status (in occupational, civic influence, social terms) is based on individual merit rather than political, economic, family or other factors. Others would carry the merit system way of doing things to logical extreme and put a meritorious elite in charge of running a government or managing a society.

military education and training--its goal is to prepare individuals for a life of military service. It can begin in private military schools where parents send their young children, become physically demanding in the basic training of new military recruits, and culminate as some become military officers at prestigious national military academies.

nature vs. nurture -- refers to the ongoing debate over the extent to which human behavior is largely innate / preprogrammed by our genetic heritage or is chiefly shaped by the environment in which we are raised, what we learn from it and from those who care for and teach us as we grow. Experimental support emphasizing the importance of heredity comes from studies of identical twins (sharing the same genes) raised apart, whereas ongoing studies of the brain -- in particular findings that show how the brain can “rewire” itself in response to environmental pressures (including head injury) -- illustrate that despite the complex, innate structure of the mind, the learning environment fundamentally shapes human behavior.

pluralism--a societal state in which people of diverse religious, racial, ethnic, and cultural backgrounds all live together, both preserving aspects of their heritage and traditions and living together under the same national government.

political campaign contributions--the money and favors that individuals and groups give to candidates running for political office. Supporters view this as people extending their free speech rights; critics charge that the contributions are an attempt to buy influence and that such money from a relatively few wealthy people can subvert the will of the majority of the people.

propaganda -- broadly speaking, information that is designed and disseminated as part of a concerted effort to influence what individuals believe or want, and manipulate public opinion and desires.

public education--basic education supported by governments (sometimes mandated) and paid for by government-levied taxes. In many countries (including the United States) such education is tuition-free, primary and secondary (K-12), promises equal opportunities regardless of race, religion, or ability, includes instruction in civics, and is structured to promote high standards and public accountability.   

public schools vs. religious schools -- the contrast here is between secular schools that are government supported , financed by taxpayers, and typically charge no tuition, vs. schools affiliated with some religion, which typically promote the religious beliefs of their sponsor, and charge students tuition.

separation of church and state -- refers to keeping separate institutions of government and religion, thereby minimizing or preventing the "meddling" of one institution in the affairs of the other. Adherents to this doctrine believe that it protects both freedom of religion and democratic principles. In a theocracy such separation can disappear.

social contract--its most important meaning refers to an agreement between the people and their rulers in which the  duties and rights of each are defined and constrained.  While rulers would say it serves to maintain order, the people point to it as establishing the principle that rulers have legitimacy only if they have the consent of those they govern.   

superstition -- a position or belief, often with roots in cultural or religious tradition, held despite what could be characterized (by someone not holding the belief) as lack of supporting justification or evidence

technology assessment -- a procedure that involves 1) collecting information about the technology and how it will be used in meeting specified objectives, 2) identifying impacts of its use in various areas (environmental, economic, social, political, etc), 3) assessing impacts and identifying tradeoffs, 4) formulating, then examining alternatives, with quantitative models and forecasts, 5) making recommendations including designating a preferred alternative that best meets objectives while minimizing impacts / other concerns , and 6) making plans for monitoring performance

theocracy -- government by those who claim to or are believed to be divinely inspired. In its most extreme forms, there is no separation of church and state.

values -- abstract qualities, principles, beliefs, or aspects of behavior that a person or a whole society holds in high regard after making value judgments.

vocational training -- education and training designed to give students specific job skills and help prepare them for a particular profession or career

voter turnout--the % of the eligible (voting age, adult)  population that actually votes in a nation's democratic elections.  Since those who don't vote have no say in the democratic process, this number says something about how much a nation's citizens value democracy.  In the United States, voter turnout in presidential elections has been around 50%.  In a few countries (like Australia) turnout approaches 100% since voting is compulsory.


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