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  • Writer's pictureChaire UNESCO en démocratie, citoyenneté mondiale et éducation transformatoire

Announcing a new book: “It’s not education that scares me, it’s the educators…”: Is there still hope

We’re really pleased to share with everyone our new book, which brings together a cavalcade of ideas, experiences, thoughts and research from the past fifteen years. Many thanks to many friends and colleagues for their direct and indirect support and solidarity (and love)!!! To start, and the list is incomplete, we thank Antonia Darder and Peter McLaren for their wonderful texts in the form of, respectively, the Foreword and the Afterword (and they have both been a tremendous inspiration for a long time to both of us), we thank Chris Myers and his team at Myers Educational Press for their excellent work, and we thank all of the endorsers (Suzanne SooHoo, Pierre W. Orelus, William M. Reynolds, Marc Spooner, Juha Suoranta, Sheila Macrine, Four Arrows (Don Trent Jacobs), Douglas Fleming, and Raul Olmo Fregoso Bailon) for making the journey with us a truly joyous one!! There are others, and lots to say about the book but, for now, we’re just happy to share it with everyone.

Paul & Gina

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Carr, Paul R. & Thésée, Gina. (2019). “It’s not education that scares me, it’s the educators…”: Is there still hope for democracy in education, and education for democracy?. Gorham, ME: Myers Education Press.

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Back-cover description

Many people believe that “education” has a disproportionately negative effect on them and those close to them. With so much wealth, technological prowess, innovation, and economic development, why do we still have marginalization, social inequalities, conflict, mass incarceration and generational poverty? The connection to democracy, Education for Democracy (EfD) and social justice is, for Carr and Thésée, clear, and this volume interweaves a narrative within these themes based on a Freirian theoretical backdrop. This book presents a vision for transformative education and EfD, seeking to cultivate, stimulate and support political and media literacy, critical engagement and a re-conceptualization of what education is, and, importantly, how it can address entrenched, systemic and institutional problems that plague society. Based on over a decade of empirical research in a range of contexts and jurisdictions, the authors strive to link teaching and learning with agency, solidarity, action and transformative change within the conceptual framework of a critically-engaged EfD.

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Foreword: In Search Of Democratic Education

Antonia Darder

1. Introduction: Who’s Scared of the Classroom? And Can We Talk about It?

2. What’s So Wonderful about Democracy, and Where is the Link To Education?

3. Some Theoretical Voices That Underpin Our Approach To Democracy

4. The Mythology of Democracy and the Quest for a Way Out

5. On the Trail of Signs of Democracy in and around Education: Starting with a Synthesis

of the Research and Some Conceptual Thoughts

6. Connecting the Prospect of Democratizing Education with the Experiences of Educators:

What Is the Effect?

7. Transforming Educational Leadership without Social Justice? Critical Pedagogy and


8. Critically Engaged Democracy as a Practice of Resistance and Resilience against Tyranny

9. Some Proposals/Recommendations from Transformative Education

10. A Few More Thoughts on Democracy and Transformative Education

Afterword: If We Cannot Transform Democracy, Then the Paroxysm of Decay That Results

from the Disintegration of the Fairy-Tale Will Continue to Prolong Our Free Fall into

Infantile Helplessness

Peter McLaren

Notes on the Authors


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ADVANCE PRAISE FOR “It’s not education that scares me, it’s the educators . . .”

Carr and Thésée’s combined talents and life forces pierce our consciousness and awaken our democratic barometers with provocative questions and evoke an urgency to conduct a democratic audit and action plan. During these troubled times, as democracy seemingly sinks into dystopian Quick sand, they recommend concrete actions as pathways to a critical democratic life. They remind us that democracy is a continual state of reinvention and, therefore, call for us to reinvent democracy and ourselves by doing democracy. This newest rendition of their work is among the best of their joint gifts and is evidence of their becoming better together.

–Suzanne SooHoo, Chapman University

Democracy and education are commonly used in public discourse. Yet these two grand words are often regrettably misunderstood. Paul and Gina’s timely book offers fresh and critical perspectives on democracy and education and what they can become, particularly for those who have been historically oppressed. Educators, policymakers, researchers, and avid readers genuinely interested in knowing or at least imagining what education for all might look like in a democratic society should not miss this amazing empirical work!

–Pierre W. Orelus, Fairfield University

In their book “It’s not Education that Scares me, it’s the Educators . . .”: Is There Still Hope for Democracy in Education, and Education for Democracy?, Paul R. Carr & Gina Thésée investigate and analyze the possibilities and hopes for a global transformative and democratic education. Any important transformative education must seriously tackle the notions of democracy, and that is insightfully done in this volume. In an historical milieu that is swirling in neoliberalism and a corporate-formulated curriculum in schools and universities, the courage to address those issues directly with suggestions for engaged, critical, transformative, democratic, and kind alternatives is a genuine asset to our thoughts as educators and researchers. This book helps maintain the stubborn persistence of the struggle for a more just, democratic, and caring world, and the education that ought to exist in it.

–William M. Reynolds, Georgia Southern University

With our fragile democracy under siege, fake news obfuscating truth at every turn, and a newly invigorated White supremacy on brazen display, this book—more than ever—is required reading. A critically engaged and participatory democracy is our only hope for resistance, resilience, and, ultimately, justice. By interrogating the very notions of democracy, citizenship, and education, as well as their complex and interdependent interplay, Paul R. Carr and Gina Thésée provide the vital scholarship needed to reclaim our democratic traditions under the ever-present threat of a descent

into full-blown fascism. This book will be a key tool in our present and future battlegrounds.

—Marc Spooner, University of Regina

“Generation after generation has amassed piles of knowledge and written piles of books,” cries a teacher in Bertolt Brecht’s play The Mother (1931). “And never have we seen such confusion,” he continues. How apt are these words, written almost a century ago, and how timely the topic of Professor Paul R. Carr and Professor Gina Thésée’s book on democracy and its links to education.

We desperately need to find the roots for democracy and democratic education anew, and that’s exactly what the authors are looking for.

—Juha Suoranta, Tampere University

Carr and Thésée’s book rightly argues that democracies are under siege. The promises of decades ago have descended into authoritarian if not totalitarian rule. Challenges to democracy have created a vacuum, giving rise to right-wing populist leaders and to violent extremists . . . creating a vicious circle of abuse and radicalization. Based on empirical research, the authors argue that to reclaim democracy and education for democracy, we must begin by developing transformative education tied to critically engaged democracy.

—Sheila Macrine, University of Massachusetts Dartmouth

Against all odds, Carr & Thésée have created a book that offers hope for the potential of democracy in education. Exhibiting a rare balance of critical scholarship, possibility, and readability, they show how teachers are responsible for the kind of transformative education required for authentic democracy and compassionate global citizenship. In re-imagining how the concept of democracy

must benefit “the people” and not just the ruling elite, many of their recommendations resonate with traditional Indigenous worldview precepts, such as: gaining environmental consciousness, embracing diversity, avoiding strict binaries, challenging hierarchical tyranny, promoting cultures of peace, and emphasizing the role of the feminine. The authors are careful to point out that educators must learn how to recognize and counter cultural and educational hegemony as well as colonization that continue to stifle such pursuits.

—Four Arrows (Don Trent Jacobs), Fielding Graduate University

The present volume is a great agencement (in the Deleuzian sense) of Paul and Gina’s long and significant work together. It’s exciting to see how they interrogate and reinterrogate the normative concepts and myths surrounding present-day democratic education processes through their empirical and conceptual work. It is also significant that they continue to do this with a host of “good and wonderful souls teaching around the world.” Paul and Gina (with their collaborators) represent some of our best organic intellectuals (in Gramsci’s sense) in our struggle to build “a (thicker) democratic transformation.”

—Douglas Fleming, University of Ottawa

In Latin America, we see two critical pedagogy makers reading out poetry with their hands (Gina) and with their courage (Paul). Here they come.... Lucio Cabañas would recommend this book for all of us as teachers from Mexico to Las Malvinas. / En Latinoamérica hay dos hacedores de pedagogía crítica leyendo poesía con sus manos (Gina) y con su coraje (Paul). Allí vienen.... Lucio Cabañas recomendaría este libro para todos nosotros como maestros desde México a Las Malvinas.

—Raul Olmo Fregoso Bailon, West Chester University

Carr and Thésée offer a variety of essays in this volume that skillfully problematize the hegemonic concept of democracy and deconstruct the various ways in which key unexamined myths about democracy have served as the foundation for authoritarian practices—practices that profoundly obstruct the democratization of schools and society. Through their careful and systematic interpretive and qualitative articulations of a variety of key pedagogical and political questions, the authors daringly and painstakingly provide critical insights into engaging contestations that must be tackled, challenged, and reinvented if democracy—as a transformative principle of collective resistance and action—is to be effectively mobilized in our educational praxis and beyond . . . .

Democratic education for critical citizenship is at the heart of this volume. It signals an embodied commitment to shattering the ideological contradictions and dichotomies created between teachers and students, between schools and communities, between theory and practice, in order to prepare our students to construct a world where those who are governed are understood as inseparable to those who govern. It calls for a more complex reading of democracy where we know that there are no guarantees and that democracy as a liberatory political process requires our ongoing and consistent civic participation, both locally and globally . . . .

The excellent arguments posited by Carr and Thésée in this outstanding volume unquestionably reinforce a thick participatory understanding of democracy, grounded upon a fundamental faith in people to govern ourselves and an unwavering belief that it is human beings who create society. And, as such, it is only through our ongoing critical human action that we can generate the political power to transform the despicable conditions of social and material exclusion. Most importantly, it is through collective human action that we can effectively counter treacherous attacks on democracy within schools and society and, by so doing, work in solidarity to usher into existence a more just and loving world—a world where humanizing cultures of liberation and resistance to oppression genuinely foster the empowerment of all people.

—Antonia Darder, Loyola Marymount University

Over time, the researchers were able to advance the methodological, analytical, comparative, and dissemination realms of their research topic in ways that exemplified the best of what I would call “border research,” as linguistic, cultural, political, and geographic boundaries were engaged through critical civic participation, bringing together an understanding of democracy in both its immanent and transcendent formations. Bolstered by a large body of empirical data as well as sophisticated conceptual and theoretical models, the work of Carr and Thésée has resulted in a robust and critical engagement with the way that democracy is conceptualized, understood, and practiced geopolitically and in specific instances and sites such as education. This enabled the researchers to fathom what it would take to realize what they call “a (thicker) democratic transformation.”

As the authors make clear, democracy is a crucial concept to guide our everyday engagement with the world because it forces us to acknowledge the broader macro-portrait of society, something that inevitably impinges on the individual actions of citizens and, moreover, is shaped by the concerns and priorities of various groups in society. The authors develop an important vision for educators where critical democracy plays a key role in relation to transformative leadership and offer important proposals for more engaged, critical, and meaningful transformative change in education.

The penultimate chapter consists of a manifesto of sorts, laying the foundations for teaching for an inclusive, vibrant, and fecund democracy. Here, Carr and Thésée lay out specific, granular recommendations in relation to pedagogy, curriculum, educational policy, institutional culture, epistemology, and leadership. Carr and Thésée have written a book that speaks directly to the crisis of democracy that we are facing today, as the prospect of fascism slouches ever forward under the banner of nationalism and security. The special virtue of this book is that it both embodies and emboldens the idea of compassion. It lacks the equivocation of so many of the books on democracy that sing the praises of democracy yet fail to challenge the neoliberal capitalism in which democracy continues to suppurate, and this is one of its great strengths. It is a book that shines with the yet-uncreated light of freedom that we carry in the connective tissue of our hearts, small flames of hope that still flinch in the face of tyranny but which nevertheless cannot be stamped out, so long as we remain ceaseless in our struggle for a democratic alternative to capitalist plutocracy.

—Peter McLaren, Chapman University

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