1st Edition

Making Education Fit for Democracy
Closing the Gap

ISBN 9780367220372
Published October 1, 2020 by Routledge
216 Pages 26 B/W Illustrations

USD $32.95

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Book Description

Dewey wrote his celebrated book on Democracy and Education over a hundred years ago. Making Education Fit for Democracy asks why education has nevertheless failed to deliver such crucial support for democracy and how it should change to reflect ethical and social responsibilities. It seeks to shed light on what has gone wrong and how it can be put right.

Reforming an antiquated system of education should be a matter for public debate. This book is written not only for those currently involved in delivering education, but also for the general public. Arguing that education needs to be holistic, encouraging open-mindedness and developing a wide range of interests, it:

  • Highlights the role of education in supporting democracy
  • Promotes nurture in civilising values over mere information-giving
  • Puts exams and accountability into perspective
  • Seeks to bridge the gulf between schooling and life
  • Argues for the reform of the whole system of education
  • Seeks to use digital technology to personalise education

Touching upon several issues currently under debate, such as the rise of populism, the role of religion and narrow subject curriculum, this book will be of interest to all students studying education as well as those involved in teacher education.

Table of Contents


Part I. Challenging Modern Day Assumptions

Chapter 1. Does Democracy Deserve Its Accolade?

Chapter 2. What Do We Mean by Reason?

Chapter 3. Debate: Does It Have to Be Aggressive?

Chapter 4. Re-Thinking Values

Chapter 5. What to Do About Religion?

Part II. Education - The Need for Reform

Chapter 6. So, What Is Education?

Chapter 7. Exit Exams?

Chapter 8. Resolving the Curriculum Nightmare?

Chapter 9. What Is the Role of The Teacher?

Chapter 10. Fast Forward in The Digital Age?

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Brenda Watson is a retired educational consultant. Her teaching in schools covered History, Music, Philosophy and Religious Studies. She became Director of the Farmington Institute in Oxford and has published both books and in academic journals.


'At a time when schooling has become detached from its mission, Watson's book serves to remind us of the true purpose of education. This is a must read that forcefully puts the case for educating the young for democracy.' - Frank Furedi, social commentator and author, formerly Professor of Sociology at the University of Kent in Canterbury

'In a world of new and urgent challenges neither our education nor our democratic systems are fit for purpose. Achieving system change is a long and complex process and new ways of thinking are an important part of that process. In this cogent book, Brenda Watson draws on her considerable educational experience to encourage us to see that among the barriers to radical reform are the reliance on limited and often erroneous ideas about human nature and reality' - Matthew Taylor, Chief Executive of the RSA, formerly Chief Adviser on Political Strategy to the Prime Minister and Director of the Institute for Public Policy Research

'Democracy rests on fragile foundations, which must be constantly renewed for each generation. This important book incisively questions the assumptions about the basis of our society that underlie much contemporary education.' - Roger Trigg, Ian Ramsey Centre, University of Oxford, Emeritus Professor of Philosophy at the University of Warwick

'Brenda Watson‘s new book addresses the necessity for us to take a radical look at the way we deliver education and foster learning. This can be enabled by the massive developments currently happening in digital technology and AI. She addresses the difficult concepts of free will and consciousness and their relationships with learning, along with the huge potential for overhauling not only the system of our schools (and, incidentally, enabling teachers to deliver individualised learning rather than facts), but our political system, too. I am particularly heartened by the chapter on the curriculum. Many now mention the usefulness of music in facilitating all learning, but it is good to read a thorough analysis of its effects, ending with, ‘Perhaps the chief reason for serious music education is to share the sheer joy of music’. This, the most important reason for a comprehensive musical education, is so often neglected.' - Ralph Allwood MBE DMus for 26 years director of music at Eton College where he set up the Eton Choral Courses. He conducts Inner Voices, a choir for state school children in London

'It is over one hundred years since the publication of John Dewey’s Democracy and Education (1916), in which he argued that education has a crucial role in developing the personal virtues and commitments that undergird a properly functioning democratic society. That contemporary education has failed in this endeavour is painfully obvious. Brenda Watson’s book looks beyond the increasingly short-lived educational initiatives that are designed to resolve the problem and identifies where the true cause of our current educational malaise truly lies, namely, in the modern mind’s separation of facts from values and the moral relativism that results. It is one thing to identify the problem, it is another to resolve it. Watson does both in a book that all who support liberal education should read and act upon.' - L. Philip Barnes, Emeritus Reader in Religious and Theological Education, King’s College London

'In recent times schools have been held in the grip of measurement culture. Schools are judged publicly on a certain type of academic performance. Brenda Watson’s timely book reviews and reaffirms the crucial importance of a liberal, holistic education for all young people as we navigate a new world of artificial intelligence which changes the whole landscape. Watson obliges us to think afresh.' - Anthony Little, Headmaster of Eton College 2002 - 2015, Global Chief Education Officer of GEMS Education, and President of WLSA Shanghai Academy

'In the 1960s when I was studying for a Diploma in Education, questions such as those posed with such clarity and determination in Brenda Watson’s timely book were peripheral at best. There is little doubt that if Dr Watson’s carefully considered and keenly expressed thesis had been available, my own thoughts - and those communicated by my tutors - would have been significantly different. These questions need to be answered and this fascinating account should inspire the most serious discussion if education and democracy are to survive and prosper.' - Brian Kay, Musician, Broadcaster, Conductor and Former King’s Singer

‘In this timely study, Brenda Watson asks why education has failed to deliver support for democracy in the younger generation and how it should change to do so. Her ideas are presented in a clear accessible style; one that is irenic and seeks to overcome what are presumed by many to be contrary educational positions. This is an essential contribution not just on the subject of advancing democracy in schools but on the nature and form education should take in a democratic society. This is an important, readable and thought-provoking book.’ - L. Philip Barnes, King’s College London, Review for the British Journal of Educational Studies