With a growing attention to democracy education as a contribution to prevent different manifestations of societal tensions, it is critical that we deepen our understandings of the concept. Current perceptions of democratic education are predominated by deliberative models of democracy aims at encouraging the discussion of controversial issues in classroom (e.g. Hess, 2009; Koch 1981). Consequently democracy is mainly seen as a medium for promoting and creating possibilities of political participation of the individual in the public debate and at elections (Schou, 2018). However, these deliberative conceptions of democracy tend to curtail conflict for the sake om consensus (Lo, 2017) and can potentially fail to make room for inappropriate or non-mainstream voices and expand the gap between “us” and “them”.
Drawing on the work of Mouffe (1999; 2000) and Lo (2017), we suggest agonistic deliberation as a complementary approach to democracy education, that with its emphasis on both conflict and conciliation may help students to recognize “the other”, that is, those who you consider as fundamentally different from yourself. Thereby the students may learn to understand disagreements as well struggles as inherent and inavoidable in a pluralistic democracy. Pluralistic being defined as the coexistence of diverse and competing ideological systems (Berlin, 1997).
In this paper we will present the experiences from a recent project where both deliberative and agonistic approaches to democracy are presented, discussed and put into action. Our experiences from the project reveals that predominating perceptions democracy as well as activities initiated by teachers and pedagogues mainly refer to deliberative models of democracy education. The aim of this paper is to qualify further, what it takes to develop a democratic school-class culture that includes agonistic approaches.
The results have implications for both researh, policy and practice levels with its emphasis on deepening the understanding of democracy an discussing benefits of diverse approaches to democracy education. In broader perspectives, the expected outcome is to qualify further, what it takes to create a vibrant democratic school culture with the potential of preventing “us” and “them” polarization.
Original languageEnglish
Publication dateSept 2018
Publication statusUnpublished - Sept 2018
EventECER 2018: Inclusion and Exclusion, Resources for Educational Research? - Free University Bolzano, Bolzano, Italy
Duration: 4 Sept 20187 Sept 2018


ConferenceECER 2018
LocationFree University Bolzano
Internet address


  • learning, educational science and teaching

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