Science education and democratic participation: An uneasy congruence?

  • Levinson R
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Abstract

Contemporary policy statements from government and reforms to science curricula in schools emphasise the importance of educating a scientifically literate public for democratic participation in science and technology. While such an aspiration is seemingly uncontentious and appears consistent with progressive educational thinking, the reality of democratic participation is problematic. I propose four frameworks for describing democratic participation in schools. The first two - deficit and deliberative democracy - fulfil a limited role for democratic participation. 'Science education as praxis' and 'science education for conflict and dissent' present more radical programmes but reflect tensions with the dominant discourse of scientific literacy and citizenship as reflected in school curricula. To operationalise aspects of democratic participation, teachers need to make explicit the role of scientific knowledge and decision-making within each framework. While radical change is likely to meet with resistance, this process will in turn generate new discourses about the problems and opportunities of democratic participation. © 2010 Taylor & Francis.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Citizenship
  • Democracy
  • Participation
  • Science education
  • Scientific literacy

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Authors

  • R Levinson

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