Elijah Hawkes will be part of a presentation at an upcoming virtual conference, Reconstructing Democratic Education. The conference, sponsored by the Francis Parker School, is “an outgrowth of an ongoing symposium in the journal Schools: Studies in Education, published by the University of Chicago Press.” (conference website)


What is “democratic education”? From the conference website, “If the goal of democracy is to give people the opportunity to participate in the decisions that affect their lives, then democratic education is the means of developing the knowledge and skills that an active citizenry must have.”


Elijah is no stranger to this work, also addressed in his books and other writings, and in his work in convening a “Strong Schools in Polarized Times” dialogue series at UVEI. Recently he has written a review, soon to be published, of Educating for Democracy by Walter Feinberg; and at the conference he will be helping to facilitate a discussion about this book. 


We asked Elijah to share some of his thoughts on the book and any connections to our mission and work at UVEI. 


Elijah Hawkes: Education for Democracy is a short book, 150 pages, divided into nine chapters.  The early chapters illuminate what it means for Citizen to be the most important “office” in a democracy, and how self-reflection and moral discernment are essential habits or character traits of citizenship:


“Democracy is more than a formal set of rules and related institutions and offices; it is more than the merely prescribed official practices.  Democracy depends on understanding when a rule calls for a new interpretation, and democratic education involves developing the kind of disposition that is open to the formation of new interpretations when the older ones become dysfunctional.” (34)


With reference to Dewey’s assertion that democracy “has to be constantly discovered, and rediscovered, and remade and reorganized” (36), Feinberg posits the habit of “reflection” as an essential educational goal for democracy’s patriots and custodians.  In light of the work we do at UVEI with teachers and future school leaders, I really appreciate Feinberg’s emphasis on the importance of self-reflection.  He calls for it, and he models it in his own writing. 


Elijah’s book review will be published in the journal, Schools: Studies in Education, where he is a contributing editor.  He encourages the UVEI network of educators to check it out, and invites anyone interested in democratic education to attend the conference on Saturday, June 22 (11:00-2:30) or to get in touch with him directly at ehawkes@uvei.edu.


Reference: Walter Feinberg. Educating for Democracy. Cambridge University Press, New York, 2023. 165 pp. $29.99 (paper).

Image at top of page is taken from Restructuring Democratic Education conference invitation, Frances Parker School.

Elijah Hawkes is UVEI’s Director for School Leadership Programs, and is a former school principal.